Critical Read

Agencies and Agile: How to make it work

Agile Development

What: A primer -- the latest in the IBM Center for the Business of Government's "Using Technology Series" -- that offers executives a high-level explanation of how Agile development works and why more agencies should explore it.   

Why: Agile development is the default for most Silicon Valley tech firms, but the approach -- which emphasizes iterative and collaborative coding over detailed requirements, documentation and "final release" deliverables -- is often at odds with government regulations, procurement processes and agency cultures. This report, which builds on previous IBM Center research and the Government Accountability Office's 2012 study of Agile within agencies, identifies 10 critical success factors -- and also notes situations where popular Agile methods alone may not be sufficient.  

Verbatim:  "Acquiring Agile solution delivery with partners requires more than adding a bullet such as 'The contractor will use an Agile method' to the standard ... RFP template that contains traditional phases, gates, deliverables, and roles and responsibilities.  

"Agile requires a change in how work is procured, executed, and monitored. Proposal and contract language needs to be adapted to enable partners to deliver with lighter deliverables, fixed resources, fixed time, and variable scope. Mission leadership and subject matter experts (from both parties, government and contractors) must be committed to participate directly in the Agile approach." 

Full Report:

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of, Schneider also helped launch the political site in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times,, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.


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