Agile development gets low priority in federal IT

Agile development is a much lower priority for federal information technology professionals than for those in private industry, according to a new survey.

Agile is an iterative model of software development in which work can be done quickly in small increments. It is being applied in agencies including the Defense department, General Services Administration and Veterans Affairs department.

However, the April 19 survey by Serena Software suggests that agile development is limited in popularity at this time.

Only 22 percent of federal IT professionals said agile development was a priority, in comparison to 52 percent of private sector IT professionals, Serena reported. Agile development ranked in seventh place out of nine priorities for government, and ranked in second place for the private sector.

Serena interviewed 225 federal civilian and defense agency IT professionals at a user conference in March. Nearly half of the respondents were IT application developers.

A possible explanation for the disparity is that agile, while generally faster than other models of application development, may be perceived as offering less traceability, said David Hurwitz, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Serena, said in an interview.

The gap might be due to the “federal government’s emphasis on traceability and audit-ability,” Hurwitz said.

The survey also suggested that the Barack Obama administration’s “cloud first” strategy may not be getting much traction.

Only 19 percent of the federal IT professionals listed cloud as a priority. The interest in cloud also was low in the private sector, where only 21 percent said it was a priority.

The top priorities for the federal IT professionals surveyed were to adopt standard methodologies for application development, listed by 62 percent; deliver applications faster, listed by 57 percent; and automate development processes, listed by 49 percent.

Federal IT application developers work with many tools that do not mesh well together, complicating the process, Hurwitz said.

Developers generally have tools for managing and registering code and for capturing and tracking requirements, but often the tools “do not talk to each other,” he added.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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