IT & Networks

Agencies are clumsy in shift to agile development, says GAO

WASHINGTON ― Deficiencies in management, certification and organizing were found in a Government Accountability Office review of federal agencies’ moves to eschew traditional IT development in favor of agile methods.

The GAO recently conducted an overview of 24 federal agencies’ use of incremental development in IT implementation and investment, taking a look at their IT investment data, challenges and use of certification information. The study also included how well chief information officer’s were doing with regard to certifying incremental development policies

“Incremental development” ― a form of agile development ― in this context refers to the strategy that each successive IT software builds upon the previous version with the addition of user-visible functionality.

Federal agencies reported that their CIOs had certified 62 percent of major information technology software development investments as adequately using incremental development for fiscal 2017, as required by the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA). However, thanks to agency error, some of those responses were incorrectly reported.

Twenty-one of 24 agencies under GAO review found that a number of elements hindered their ability to fulfill their IT development mission. These included inefficient governance processes, procurement delays and organizational changes associated with the transitions in software development methodology.

Furthermore, only four of the reviewed agencies had clearly defined policies for incremental development in IT investment. Eleven had threadbare policies with no details as to their process and nine had no policies whatsoever. The Office of Management and Budget’s fiscal 2018 capital planning guidance also did not establish how agency CIOs will specifically showcase compliance with FITARA’s incremental provisions.

The GAO’s intent in conducting this review was to ensure that as few governmentwide IT management issues occurred as possible.

GAO made 19 recommendations to 17 agencies, three of which were about accuracy improvement and 16 focusing on the need to update or establish certification policies.

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