Supporting Modular Development


As outlined in the 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management4, Federal agencies have traditionally taken a multi-year “grand design” approach for developing, modernizing, and enhancing investments in IT. This approach is grounded in the common notion that responsible development necessitates a full detailing of requirements before work can start. Although a seemingly reasonable assumption, practical evidence and private sector experience has shown that large and complex IT implementations often encounter cost and schedule overruns, as the painstaking process of requirements gathering too frequently takes years to complete.

To help resolve these issues, modular approaches should be used in the development of IT investments, allowing agencies to implement significant capabilities for investments through the use of modular solutions that can be defined, developed, and deployed within months instead of several years.

Open Technology Development Roadmap


As emerging capabilities are tracked and assessed, DoD’s design and acquisition methods are ill-suited to keep pace with accelerating shifts in technology, particularly software and information technology.  Consequently, DoD finds itself behind the curve in software, leading to upward- spiraling information technology (IT) costs, obsolescent systems, and the loss of agility for commanders on the ground.

In the private sector, changes in design methodologies for software development are enabling enormous gains in productivity and efficiency. Individuals and companies are able to leverage open technology platforms to rapidly deploy new solutions and capabilities to improve their competitive advantage.  These open technology platforms may be open source or proprietary software applications with open standards and published interfaces that allow the rapid development of new capabilities by third parties without coordination agreements.

Building A 21St Century Platform To Better Serve The American People


Mission drives agencies, and the need to deliver better services to customers at a lower cost:

  • Whether an agency is supporting the warfighter overseas
  • A teacher seeking classroom resources, or
  • A family figuring out how to pay for college tuition
  • Is pushing every level of government to look for new more efficient and cost effective solutions

Today’s amazing mix of cloud computing, ever-smarter mobile devices, and collaboration tools is changing the consumer landscape and bleeding into government as both an opportunity and a challenge.  New expectations require the Federal Government to be ready to deliver and receive digital information and services anytime, anywhere and on any device.  It must do so safely, securely, and with fewer resources.  To build for the future, the Federal Government needs a Digital Strategy that embraces the opportunity to innovate more with less, and enables entrepreneurs to better leverage government data to improve the quality of services it provides to the American people.

Open Technology Development: Lessons Learned for Military Software


“The United States cannot retreat behind a Maginot Line of firewalls or it will risk being overrun. Cyberwarfare is like maneuver warfare, in that speed and agility matter most.”

William J. Lynn III. 

NSF Report on Support for Cloud Computing


The Cloud Computing model offers the promise of massive cost savings combined with increased IT agility.  It is considered critical that government and industry begin adoption of this technology in response to difficult economic constraints.  However, cloud computing technology challenges many traditional approaches to datacenter and enterprise design and management.  Cloud computing is currently being used; however, security, interoperability, and portability are cited as major barriers to broader adoption.

Effective Practices and Federal Challenges in Applying Agile Methods


GAO identified 32 practices and approaches as effective for applying Agile software development methods to IT projects.  The practices generally align with five key software development project management activities: strategic planning, organizational commitment and collaboration, preparation, execution, and evaluation.  Officials who have used Agile methods on federal projects generally agreed that these practices are effective.  Specifically, each practice was used and found effective by officials from at least one agency, and ten practices were used and found effective by officials from all five agencies. 

Agile Methods: Selected DoD Management and Acquisition Concerns


In the commercial software development world, a potpourri of methods that explicitly address the need for getting valued capabilities to customers sooner have been in use formally for over 10 years.  Prior to that, they were used as “lightweight” methodologies for over 30 years and some of the practices have been around since the 1950s.  These methods generally are termed “Agile methods.”

Agile methods are usually a set of practices. Most Agile methods are comprised of practices that compensate for each other.  For example, minimal documentation is compensated for by practices like information radiators; no code reviews is compensated for by pair programming; and minimal documented requirements is compensated for by test-driven development. Chosen piecemeal, Agile practices can leave large gaps and introduce risks.  Selecting an established method brings in a set of compensating practices, and reduces risk. 

Handbook for Implementing Agile in DOD I.T. Acquisition


The ability to rapidly produce and deploy information technology (IT) based capabilities in the United States Department of Defense (DOD) that meet the ever-evolving needs of the Warfighter is a challenging endeavor. DOD acquisition projects typically follow a highly structured, top- down, step-by-step process, based on the assumption that an end state is known.  Unfortunately, this is rarely the case in modern IT projects. Long development cycles and rapidly changing requirements make it difficult to properly identify the end state of an IT system at the onset of the project.

Agile development is an industry accepted software development practice that is now beginning to emerge in Government programs.  This report includes background information on Agile principles and methodologies from peer-reviewed industry and academic materials, MITRE technical reports, as well as interviews with members of DOD Programs that have implemented Agile development methodologies.  This report describes how Agile development principles can be applied to an IT systems engineering effort, and explains how an Agile methodology could be used to benefit DOD Government acquisition and development programs.  This report is intended to be used as a guidebook, to provide specific recommendations regarding the implementation of an Agile methodology. 

Provided here under the freely distributable, open license agreement of the author.

Social Collaboration for Health Care Exchange


The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is the government agency tasked with delivering the Public Health Care Exchanges as mandated in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The mandate set a timeline that was aggressive, with little guidance on the final structure for these exchanges. Development of the exchanges had to occur simultaneous with the refining of the exchanges actual regulations.  The various contributors involved needed to gain from each others efforts to maintain consistency and adherence to regulations.

The largest issue at hand for CMS was being able to coordinate each U.S. States’ final solution in a short timeframe, and allow each State, and their respective contractors, to leverage each other’s efforts.  CMS required a collaboration and knowledge–base platform that teams could work in, which provided the following:

  • Secure work environments
  • Collaboration and Socialization
  • Role based Access and Permissions
  • Automation and Workflow
  • Project Management
  • Document Management

Steel Thread selected the Drupal open source collaboration solution and developed the CMS collaboration site in less than 90 days.  This effort was subsequently turned over to CMS prime contractor QSSI (Prime Contractor) for support and implementation.