DHS's Margie Graves puts agile first

A software-development technique that forgoes the rigors of conventional processes in favor of nimbleness is gaining increased popularity in government.

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If you follow federal IT, you are probably familiar with “cloud first” and “mobile first.” But how about “agile first”?

Margie Graves, deputy CIO at the Homeland Security Department, used the term at the Federal Mobile Computing Summit on Jan. 23. The event is organized by Mobilegov.

The Government Accountability Office has encouraged agile approaches, and in July 2012 released guidance on best practices, with the notion that agile will enhance the federal government’s development and adoption of IT.

The idea is that instead of lengthy initiatives, projects are broken into smaller increments, saving both money and time. Graves said that DHS is making an effort to ensure that the department considers agile first for every application it develops. “It’s not applicable to everything, but it should be the first thing you consider,” she said.

Some of DHS’ major programs are now being migrated over from the traditional methodology to agile, which requires a different way of thinking. For example, she said, testing and aspects of security need to be done differently.

“You can’t be working through your use cases when you have to go back and do a six-week testing cycle – it doesn’t work,” Graves said. “All of the processes centered around development you have to change in order to support agile.”

Graves’ endorsement of agile methods echoes that of DHS CIO Richard Spires. Speaking at a conference last year, Spires advocated agile development and highlighted its benefits.

“I am very big on agile or modular development,” he said at the May, 15 2012 event. “We are really pushing agile. I have half a dozen agile projects going on today.”

Graves won a Federal 100 award in 2012 for her work helping DHS move to cloud computing.

NEXT STORY: FedRAMP ramps up

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