We write a lot about what the government is doing with Agile, especially the UK. With DSDM in it’s back pocket, and Agile methods taught to University students, it would make sense that Agile-reform will take over and help businesses succeed. But that doesn’t mean they have always worked in the past…
The Public Administration Committee of the Parliament of the UK recently posted a scathing report about how the UK government has done in regards to IT work. Call it a report card for the UK Government and IT. The published report was ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 18 July 2011. It’s definitely worth a read… if you need something to put you to sleep tonight. But I like to read this stuff because that’s what I love to do.
Essentially the government is: dumb, pays more for IT work than anyone else, wastes money, and allows IT contractors to sell them $100 paper clips…
The IfG identified three main barriers to using agile working methods in Government:
- Governance issues. The current approval process looks for a detailed specification as a sign that a project has been properly thought out, but such specifications are not normally produced for Agile development as the specification is expected to change as the project develops;
- Commercial processes. A preference for fixed price contracts to deliver a particular solution reinforces the tendency for both sides to demand a high level of detail up-front;
- Cultural issues. A reluctance to delegate and assign high levels of responsibility at lower levels of the organisation, in addition to a more general wariness of change from inside Government.
The report tells us the Government is keen to introduce Agile methods but commercial process, cultural and governance issues stand in the way. Maybe breaking some boundaries and using agile techniques would help to avoid costly failures. In addition, it seems, that a greater use of Agile development is likely to necessitate behavior changes within Government. As agile methodology requires increased participation from the business to provide feedback on different iterations of the solution, departments will need to release their staff, particularly senior staff with overall responsibility of the project, to allow them to participate in these exercises.
“Agile development is a powerful tool to enhance the effectiveness and improve the outcomes of Government change programmes. We welcome the Government’s enthusiasm and willingness to experiment with this method. The Government should be careful not to dismiss the very real barriers in the existing system that could prevent the wider use of agile development. We therefore invite the Government to outline in its response how it will adapt its existing programme model to enable agile development to work as envisaged and how new flagship programmes will utilise improved approaches to help ensure their successful delivery.” – House of Commons
Ouch. Well, keep on trucking UK!