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 SEI Agile Research 

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The Software Engineering Institute conducts research into adoption of agile methods in Department of Defense acquisition, addressing opportunities, risks, barriers, and enablers.  This research is the foundation for the Agile for Government Summit Executive Forum Breakfast program.  Its research findings, while oriented to the issues facing DoD, are just as applicable to the whole of government, whose agencies and departments face the same issues in developing information capabilities as does DoD.

The Research
As part of its mission to provide practical guidance to working software acquisition professionals, the SEI investigates acquisition and development approaches that are coming in to use in the DoD. Since 2009, our Agile Adoption project has been studying the use of Agile software development approaches, common now in industry, within the DoD and other regulated environments. These are methods characterized by close collaboration between customers and developers, frequent incremental deliveries of software, and evolution of requirements and designs as more is learned about the system and its intended use.

SEI also sponsors and coordinates the SEI Agile Collaboration Group. It is composed of government and industry professionals who give feedback on its work and periodically meet to discuss various topics related to Agile adoption in the DoD and federal organizations. (To apply to join the Agile Collaboration Group, please send email to Mary Ann Lapham, [email protected])

Reports on Agile Methods

Considerations for Using Agile in DoD Acquisition
Technical Note CMU/SEI-2010-TN-002)
Published April 2010

This report addressed the questions: can Agile be used in the DoD environment? If so, how? Lessons learned from actual DoD programs that have employed and are employing Agile are provided as well as information gleaned from the myriad articles and books available on Agile. While this report does not pretend to cover every paper or thought published about Agile in the DoD world, it provides an overview of some challenges in using Agile; an overview of how some programs have addressed these challenges; and some additional recommendations on dealing with these challenges.

Agile Methods: Selected DoD Management and Acquisition Concerns
Published October 2011
Technical Note CMU/SEI-2011-TN-002

This technical note (TN), the second in an SEI series on Agile in the DoD, addresses some of the key issues that either must be understood to ease the adoption of Agile or are seen as potential barriers to adoption of Agile in the DoD acquisition context. These topics were introduced in the first TN of the series, Considerations for Using Agile in DoD Acquisition (CMU/SEI-2010-TN-002). For this TN, the SEI gathered more data from users of Agile methods in the DoD and delved deeper into the existing body of knowledge about Agile before addressing them. Topics considered here include: why DoD is interested in Agile methods; what it means to be Agile in the DoD; managing and contracting for Agile programs; technical milestone reviews in a DoD Agile acquisition context; estimating in a DoD Agile acquisition context; and moving toward adopting Agile practices.

Parallel Worlds: Agile and Waterfall Differences and Similarities
Published October 2013
Technical Note CMU/SEI-2013-TN-021

This technical note (TN) is part of the Software Engineering Institute’s series on Agile in the Department of Defense (DoD). It primarily addresses what at first seems a small issue on the road to Agile adoption—the confusion of terms. However, this is a much larger issue, as ineffective communications among and between stakeholders is often cited as a significant stumbling block on any project. Confusion over simple terms is a needless hurdle.

Many terms and concepts used by Agile practitioners seem to confound those working in the DoD’s Traditional World of waterfall-based environment, and vice versa. The goal of this paper is to assemble terms and concepts from both environments to show both the similarities (of which there are many) and differences (of which there are also many).

A comprehensive cross dictionary was beyond the scope of this work; the authors strove to select from those terms most commonly encountered when considering Agile adoption. Therefore, the authors selected terms based on suggestions from both inside and outside the SEI, but deliberately limited themselves to 25 terms from each environment.

These documents can be downloaded from the SEI Research page

Download/View/Print a compendium of SEI Agile Research documents.

Background from the SEI Agile Training Course Description
Agile development methods have existed for many years, and, in fact, are based on concepts that have been around for decades. Agile achieved its greatest success in small- to mid-sized, commercial applications. There has been limited documented usage in the DoD/government arena.

In recent years, Agile matured and personnel became skilled in applying Agile; some DoD contractors started to build internal Agile capabilities and use Agile on DoD programs. Some DoD acquisition pro-grams proposed and used Agile processes, attempting to take advantage of contractor capabilities, but without (as yet) any formal DoD guidance, templates, or best practices.

Given this backdrop, can Agile produce a better product developed within cost and schedule parameters? If barriers interfere with the DoD adopting Agile, how can they be addressed?

Research into whether Agile can benefit the DoD resulted in a resounding, but qualified, Yes. Agile is another tool that can provide both tactical and strategic benefits. The tactical benefits of lower cost within schedule and increasing quality are important; however, the strategic benefits of being responsive and being able to adjust to the current situation more rapidly might be of even greater value.

To find out how SEI Agile research can help your agency, contact Mary Ann Lapham ([email protected]).

Learn more about what the Software Engineering Institute offers by visiting their web site.

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