Critical Decision Factors for Agile on Federal IT Projects

By Troy Mueller, ScD

Federal IT executives often pursue industry trends to improve the performance of IT projects. Identifying the factors that influence the selection of the optimal software development approach will contribute to an improved decision-making process.

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Agile software development methodologies are replacing the traditional waterfall model as the accepted model in industry and government (Larman & Basili, 2003). Federal information technology (IT) executives often pursue the latest trends in commercial industry with the intent to improve the performance of government IT projects. Constraints specific to the government context such as budget, acquisition, and operations processes can limit adoption of emerging approaches or models. A three-round Delphi study yielded 21 factors that influence the decision to employ Agile development methods on federal IT projects. The survey panel included federal employees and contractor IT experts with experience in one or a combination of the following roles; executive sponsor, program manager, chief engineer/lead technical authority, user representative/lead business authority, or consultant/advisor. The top five factors influencing the choice to employ Agile development methods were 1) Culture, 2) Executive sponsor involvement/support, 3) User involvement, 4) Agency/component leadership, and 5) Change management. Federal IT executives should considers these factors to ensure an informed decision on whether to employ Agile. ‚Äč