OMB promotes agile IT development in new guidance

Lengthy, drawn-out federal IT projects could soon be rare. The Office of Management and Budget has unveiled new framework that will encourage agencies to abandon multiyear IT development methods for a more agile approach.

U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel and Joe Jordan, administrator for federal procurement policy, announced the Contracting Guidance to Support Modular IT Development on June 14 on the OMBlog.

For too long, the OMB officials wrote, federal IT has been marred with runaway IT projects that squandered billions of dollars and lagged behind schedule. Even by the time some of these initiatives were rolled out, they were often over budget or had become obsolete.

“In many cases, these failures can be traced back to lengthy acquisition and IT development efforts that aimed to deliver massive new systems over years, rather than providing new functionality in an incremental manner – as the private sector does,” VanRoekel and Jordan wrote.

The idea is not without its critics, however. In an earlier FCW article on the topic, several readers expressed skepticism.

One, commenting under the name "Old Sarge," wrote, "Sorry, agile is just hacking by developers with no parental oversight."

Another, commenting with no name, wrote, "I have a great idea. Let's throw away decades of software engineering theory and do so at the expense of taxpayers. The principles of agile development make sense if you are only interested in the short term results."

The new blueprint lays out how departments, including acquisition, finance and IT, as a program management team can break investments into more manageable pieces. This more nimble approach would save money and speed up the process of an IT project following a contract award. Additionally, agile development would also allow agencies a better way to hold contractors accountable for keeping projects on track and delivering solutions.

Also, by breaking investments into smaller chunks, agencies may be able to spur more competition, resulting in better value for the citizens, VanRoekel and Jordan suggested.

“Changing agency culture to regularly take advantage of modular principles will take work, but the payback – in the form of improved investment manageability and budget feasibility, lower risk, more responsive contracts and reduced time to value – is well worth the effort,” they wrote.


About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.


  • Congress
    U.S. Capitol (Photo by M DOGAN / Shutterstock)

    Funding bill clears Congress, heads for president's desk

    The $1.3 trillion spending package passed the House of Representatives on March 22 and the Senate in the early hours of March 23. President Trump is expected to sign the bill, securing government funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2018.

  • 2018 Fed 100

    The 2018 Federal 100

    This year's Fed 100 winners show just how much committed and talented individuals can accomplish in federal IT. Read their profiles to learn more!

  • Census
    How tech can save money for 2020 census

    Trump campaign taps census question as a fund-raising tool

    A fundraising email for the Trump-Pence reelection campaign is trying to get supporters behind a controversial change to the census -- asking respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.