A number of predictions are being made about the direction of government IT for 2011. The Obama administration is taking a look at the effectiveness of the “grand design approach.” These costly, massive IT projects aim for sweeping reinvention of agency computer systems and business processes. Unfortunately, these large-scale projects are frequently plagued by cost overruns and schedule delays.

Government watchdogs say there are two critical elements that will make or break the effort to end the grand-design era: the ability to embrace agile development techniques and the creation of a well-trained acquisition and project management corps to oversee the new rapid delivery style.

Nearly 20 years ago, the General Services Administration advocated that government avoid giant, multiyear IT modernization projects and instead deliver new systems in small chunks and solicit user feedback to identify problems early and facilitate frequent course corrections. Few government agencies have taken that advice, but tighter IT budgets in the foreseeable future may cause them to re-think the idea.

In addition, OMB is calling for a number of IT Acquisition reforms including increased training for government IT program managers and increased oversight of IT products with better defined milestones and the use of agile development.

Over the last 10 years, Partnet has been the major developer of the Defense Logistics Agency’s DOD EMALL. Partnet has stressed the importance of agile development within the DOD EMALL program. The DOD EMALL PMO has an outstanding record of continual system improvement over the system life cycle.  Due to the use of agile development, projects have been able to stay within a tightly controlled budget and on schedule.  We hope the rest of the government will embrace the use of agile development as recommended by OMB.