XChange SLED Speaker: Agile Software Development Is Making Waves In State Government

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States have increasingly embraced Agile software development to boost flexibility, improve customer satisfaction and incorporate more stakeholders earlier in the process, according to an industry expert.

Agile development has hit an inflection point, with 81 percent of state CIOs planning to boost their usage of iterative programming methodologies, according to Doug Robinson, the executive director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). Only a third of states have been using Agile development for more than three years, and 19 percent haven't even entered the space yet.

"We're seeing a lot of excitement in the CIO world to be able to deliver projects on time and within budget using some type of agile methodology," Robinson said hosted XChange SLED 2017, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company.

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Agile methodology promises to keep a state's line-of-business expertise engaged throughout the development process thanks to continuous iteration, Robinson said. That's a big break from traditional engagements, Robinson said, where the technologists come up with a solution and spend six months building a platform, only to be told by the business side that it isn't what they're looking for.  

The developers and business leaders typically come together every one to two weeks in an Agile project to deliver functionality and code, or conduct reviews, Robinson said. Agile has particularly caught on in the health and human services space, NASCIO found.

Since 2015, Robinson said he has increasingly seen more coordination, fewer ad-hoc initiatives, and a greater level of maturity when it comes to agile projects. A few state CIOs have even designated someone in their offices to lead Agile and other iterative development efforts, Robinson said.   

These efforts have paid dividends, Robinson said, with 98 percent of CIOs saying agile developing is effective within state government, and 96 percent of CIOs indicating that Agile does a better job of engaging customers as compared with other methodologies.

"There's a much high level of satisfaction and interest in this than I expected," said Robinson, noting that many states in the past have gotten black eyes around project delivery. "We're going to see more widespread use."

But states today are still getting their feet wet when it comes to Agile development, Robinson said. Nearly 60 percent turn to Agile for less than 20 projects across their entire ecosystem, Robinson said, and more than half of state CIOs are still blending Agile with other methodologies.

"There's still some cultural resistance to change," Robinson said. "There's a lack of interest in moving and shifting gears."  

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