Agile Used in the Government – Veterans Affairs Success?

We recently read about the Department of Veterans Affairs using Agile to build their education claims system. But we seem to have found two conflicting pieces of information in the news brief.

“Development costs for the Veterans Affairs Department’s automated system for processing education benefits claims under the 2008 GI Bill have more than doubled from original estimates, according to figures in a new report from the Government Accountability Office.”

The claims system was supposed to be finished this month at the tune of $95 million buck-a-roos. BUT! The project is running behind schedule and the total costs have soared to $207.1 million. The project will subsequently run through the fiscal year of 2011.

They claim to use an Agile-approach.

Interestingly enough, the Veterans Affairs CIO, Roger Baker responded to the late release as a “stunning and unpredicted success” in the over-budget and late deployment of the claims solution this month. He also stated that the system is “flawless” in its functionality and questioned whether the auditors even understood Agile software development.

The auditors found that while Agile development helped the VA roll early features of the system quickly, they faulted the department for not setting measurable goals (Demonstration of product issue?) or common standards of completed work (Sounds like a definition of “done” issue). GAO also said deficiencies in testing hindered the department’s ability to identify critical system defects.

While we have no way of knowing the specifics, it sounds like this particular government contract using Agile development didn’t utilize other lean methods or Agile practices into account.

There is no ONE-AGILE-APPROACH. Agile is a framework, a starting point. Other lean practices or processes and controls must be utilized in tandem with Agile.

For those who work for the government, I’m sure you can attest to these issues.


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