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GCN : July 2013
creativity and constant adjustment, said Peter Eichorn, director of technology at NIC Inc. Architects with NIC and the Texas Department of Public Safety mapped out the technical architecture of a new vehicle safety inspection system, putting it on a whiteboard where they could look at relationships with other disciplines already in place such as service-oriented architecture. Not much can be done in the first two-week sprint, but focusing on the architecture upfront gave the team guiding principles and a way to put the solution in a box. The team now had a foundation where they could say, "We have to play within this space, let's not get out of the box." 4 Deploy automated testing tools. USPS deployed software development automation tools to improve development practices as the agency adopted agile. This allowed developers to do code review on a daily basis, looking for security defects or coding issues and integrating these tasks into the agile process, Edgar said. Automation testing tools also give feedback to developers and testers during the development cycle. Rather than waiting until you have written 100,000 lines of code and are at system test stage, automated tools correct issues during the sprint cycle instead of at the end of the project, Edgar said. 5 Take a comprehensive approach. The most important thing is to take a comprehensive approach, to think about this from the architecture and product level, said Bob Monahan, business unit director at Dynamic Research Corp., an information services provider. Agencies using agile must develop a product roadmap to understand all of the teams' functional needs and business expectations. The roadmap has to be continually updated. Let that drive your development. The tasks that can't be done right away should be kept in a good product backlog folder. "In the end, this is a long- winded way of saying, 'Don't sacrifice the design at the altar of expediency.' Agile doesn't mean fast. Look it up. It just means agile," Monahan said. --- Rutrell Yasin GCN JULY 2013 • GCN.COM 21 ing with Texas DPS. Program managers also didn't want each process to be enveloped into individ- ual, long-term steps where each one had to be checked off before moving onto to the next process, Hutchins noted. The DPS and NIC teams adopted an agile methodology and tools to make the process more iterative and incremental, developing the new solution through re- peated cycles and in smaller portions in order to meet the August deadline. Agile development is a group of soft- ware development methods based on an incremental approach, in which require- ments and solutions evolve through col- laboration between self-organizing teams. Agile involves adaptive planning as well as a "time-boxed," iterative approach to pro- mote rapid and flexible response to devel- opment changes. Both small and large agencies are feel- ing the lure of agile. The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs is looking to modern- ize its Passport and Visa systems and has turned to Data Computer Corporation of America, whose development team will apply agile software development tools and service-oriented architectures to de- liver replicable, integrated solutions. DCCA will use agile for the design ef- fort, which, while not pioneering, is a less common use of agile, said Carolyn Row- land, senior program director for DCCA. However, agile is well-suited for this task because the development effort in- volves a mixture of subject matter experts -- architecture designers and security ex- perts, for instance -- who have to work to- gether to build the high-level design that will serve as a foundation for everything that will come after it. POCKET TESTING Many federal agencies are applying agile in pocket test pilots, and small teams are starting to experiment with the method- ology, said Tim Hoechst, CTO of Agilex, an information services company special- izing in agile development. A small num- ber of large organizations are trying to understand how to scale the use of agile throughout the enterprise. However, whether or not their organi- zations are applying agile development for IT projects, most managers realize that agile is the direction they need to move to- ward, he said. The U.S. Postal Service is one such large WORK