Barack Obama Told Us to Do Agile Software Development – How’s It Going?

Back in late 2008, President Barack Obama and his Chief of Staff put together a new world order for government agencies to do Agile. To be 100% honest with you, I’ve been sincerely waiting to see how its been fairing.

Since I don’t work at the FBI and the Veterans Affairs, I’ve only been able to wait patiently and follow news reports of our new government doing Agile. We wrote a bit about the Veterans Affairs before, but a recent article we read let us know a little bit more.

What is funny to us is that the FBI and Veterans Affairs didn’t ask to be guinea pigs to test Agile. Reviewers gave the Veterans Affairs Department and the FBI credit for good intentions but also said their ability to fully embrace the many facets of Agile development fell short.

“The GAO report said that although the Agile process has given VA added flexibility and helped it complete early phases on schedule, the department has experienced reduced functionality and schedule delays for later phases. Meanwhile, a review of the FBI’s plan to use an agile approach to complete the remainder of its troubled Sentinel case management system turned up several weaknesses.” – Federal Computer Week

Uh oh. Looks like a case of poor implementation. The good news is that the reviewers said that it wouldn’t be too hard to fix.

Good luck there guys. With all the issues the President if facing these days. Let’s hope Agile software development can rise to the top as a success during Obama’s tenure.

[HT: FederalComputerWeek]

Author: peter

Peter Saddington is an Organizational Scientist and Certified Scrum Trainer. You can find him at

12 thoughts on “Barack Obama Told Us to Do Agile Software Development – How’s It Going?”

  1. “[..] FBI won’t sufficiently empower the agile development team [..] cling to a centralized authority model and a predetermined fixed-time, fixed-scope approach [..] plans included a scrum team at least twice the recommended size, a separate quality assurance process [..] little evidence that the end-user community would be continuously involved.”

    I wonder why they failed…

  2. In October of this year, at the PMI North American Congress, I watched (and listened) as Vivek Kundra, the Federal CIO, say “agile” over and over again in his keynote. I’m paraphrasing but basically he said that “we” must be more agile. We must leverage agile concepts and principles on our projects. Now, that was to a general PMI audience.

    Fast forward to December 9 of this year. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) hosted a forum on Information Technology Management Reform at the White House. Again, the Federal CIO talked about leveraging “Agile” practices. He talked about delivering more value in shorter iterations and a moving toward collaboration and away from silos.

    I think it’s pretty damn sad that it takes the President of the United States, OMB, or the Federal CIO to apply muscle to programs and insist they stop doing things the old fashion way (if it’s not working). But then again, I don’t usually associate value with the Federal Government. Federal programs are way too big and way too slow.

    If we want this to work (better), I propose we take a Darwinian approach that will kill off the wasteful programs quickly while nurturing the efficient ones. While working with Federal projects, I’ve witnessed a strange sense of entitlement. Visit a Federal Agency on September 30th of each year and you’d be amazed at the wasteful spending. They believe, to ensure their budget will be equal or greater than the year before, they must spend every single dollar in their budget.

    The change begins there.

    1. Nicely put. Let the strongest programs survive. What about like a “Survivor-type” style approach. Put programs to the test through giving them ZERO funding or all the same amount… see what happens then. Who can bootstrap with the least amount of funding?

  3. “The GAO report said that although the agile process has given VA added flexibility and helped it complete early phases on schedule, the department has experienced reduced functionality and schedule delays for later phases.”

    I’m leaning towards a lack of skill or intelectual capital here; the low hanging fruit was only delivered on time/budget, but the real work is having trouble getting any traction. Agile doesn’t magically fill in the gaps where skills don’t exist or fix team cultural problems.

    At least they’re starting the journey, looking for improvement.


    1. Thanks for the comment. You’re exactly right. Agile isn’t a silver bullet. You can’t just take Agile out of a jar and spread it on a project. It doesn’t work. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the future for Agile in the government!

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