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FCW : June 30, 2014
project, but they allow an agency to buy a not-to-exceed amount of services to achieve a product vision. • Performance-based acquisition techniques also can help by allowing purchasers to focus on achieving a func- tional outcome rather than on complex requirements and strict adherence to a project plan. Agencies can have ven- dors propose performance work statements against a perfor- mance-based statement of objec- tives, thereby permitting them to apply their experience and ingenu- ity and incorporate lessons learned throughout the production cycle. Ongoing involvement by all members of a carefully construct- ed integrated product team (IPT) is perhaps the key determinant of successful agile development acquisition. At a minimum, team members should include: • A product owner who repre- sents the government organization that needs the software, and who has executive-level decision-mak- ing authority and daily availability for the project. • A CIO's representative who is able to enumerate the legacy soft- ware, security and IT policy con- straints on the project and think through technical and infrastruc- ture challenges to delivering soft- ware in small increments. • Users who describe the desired outcome and help test prototypes. • A contracting of cer's representative who provides technical direction and input and performance monitoring. • Contracting professionals who plan and enact the acqui- sition strategy, administer the contract, and participate in software release, testing and acceptance. • A contractor development team whose motivation and success are intertwined with those of the agency team members. As acquisition planning begins, team members and their supervisors should sign an IPT charter to guarantee the team will be continuously available to work on the project through completion. Losing or swapping out members of the original team can prove deadly to the agile approach because it requires much more trust and collaboration than conventional contracting. Not every agency or contracting organization is ready to undertake agile development. It requires certain cultural attributes and full commitment from the entire enterprise. Successful agile development teams: • Share information. Teams must have free access to current software code and other information about the IT environment. If an agency is hierarchical, stovepiped and information-hoarding, it has seri- ous work to do before going agile. • Use a team-based approach. Collaborative cross-functional teams fully supported by agency and program leaders are the sine qua non of agile development. If the agency does not respect team commitments, managers do not support them or team members cannot get the authority to make decisions, the environment is not ripe for agile. • Contract efficiently. Agile development requires an effec- tive contracting organization. If third parties often second-guess, challenge or reverse buyers' plans, processes and contracts, leaders will not be able to act quickly or decisively enough to support an agile approach. Agile development, like other innovative IT strategies such as cloud computing and shared ser- vices, requires taking calculated risks. In the current low- trust, oversight-laden, protest-prone federal environment, it can be dif cult for contracting professionals to feel comfort- able being creative and taking the necessary risks. Congress, oversight agencies, political appointees, the media and the rest of us must develop an appetite for allow- ing federal buyers and program managers to take smart, limited risks if we truly want technology projects that deliver --- or over-deliver --- and come in on schedule and within budget. ■ Kymm McCabe is CEO of ASI Government, which provides support, research, education, news and tools to more than 45,000 federal acquisition professionals at 130 agencies. For more guidance on adopting agile, see the recent ASI Government advisory, "Enabling Acquisition Success for Agile Development," at is.gd/ASI_agile. June 30, 2014 FCW.COM 25 Not every agency or contracting organization is ready to undertake agile development. It requires certain cultural attributes and full commitment from the entire enterprise.
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June 15, 2014