The U.S. government is pushing for a more modular process for IT development. Instead of large, multi-year IT projects, the U.S. CIO, Steven VanRoekel, is advocating for projects that can be completed in three to six months (or multiple projects of that duration). VanRoekel’s report, “Contracting Guidance to Support Modular Development,” recommends the use of a more “Agile” development process. This process aims to improve manageability, reduce risk, and support rapid delivery of workable solutions.
Intuitively, this process makes sense. If implemented, it could lead to cost and time savings. It is well known that large IT projects fail more than smaller projects. One study found that large IT projects are, on average, 27 percent over budget and take 55 percent longer to complete than planned. Another study revealed that large IT projects are 20 times more likely to fail than large projects in other sectors.
If large projects fail more, then it makes sense to create smaller projects, or a series of smaller projects, to help with contractor accountability.
At Forum One, we already practice an Agile development process. We also use Agile paired with Lean User Experience and have found success in using them for many of our web projects. Instead of creating a detailed document with every last requirement for the entire system up-front, Agile development pushes for the creation of IT projects in short, manageable chunks. We show our clients new, working code every two weeks. If it does not meet their expectations, we can make corrections early.
This process improves communication and helps ensure that the project is meeting expectations. It also allows for mid-course corrections – either to better match client needs or to address new needs that crop up during the development process.