Start small and continuously improve. When you are building or buying government technology, start small and get a working Minimum Viable Product (MVP) into people's hands as early as possible, test with users frequently, and make continuous improvements based on feedback.
Governments must change the way they design, build, and deploy technology projects. Companies in the private sector have long gone away from using a 'waterfall' development process, a linear process starting with requirements and ending with deployment, to using an iterative approach (also called lean or agile), based on shorter development cycles and continuous improvement based on user feedback.
High-profile technology challenges like the launch of healthcare.gov have highlighted why an iterative approach must be applied towards government technology projects. Instead of scoping all possible requirements at the start of a project, focus on shipping a functional “minimum viable product” (MVP) that solves a core user need as soon as possible. Then, continue to build, test and revise based on user feedback.
Code for America works with local governments to build digital services using an iterative approach. We've seen first hand the importance of testing ideas rapidly, and how starting small and addressing core user needs, can make a big impact on how people experience government services.
Practice Iterative Development
We're publishing a set of guides, tools and resources for governments that want to start practicing iterative development.
- How to: Write a RFP that allows for iterative development: If you are contracting out your development work, find out how to stucture your Request for Proposal to allow for iterative development.
- Tool: Github, an open source code platform: Use github to work in the open, track issues, catalog features and bugs, and keep track of versions.
- 2015 Summit Video: Ade Adewunmi: The Strategy is Delivery
- 2015 Summit Video: Aaron Ogle: Building Phila.go in the open and iteratively
- 2014 Summit Workshop: Denver Peak Academy
- Read: Towards a More Agile Government: Ben Balter makes a case for rebooting federal IT procurement.
- Watch: How to run an Agile project in Government: Robert Reed from 18f gives an overview of Agile software development, specifically from a program manager or CIO’s perspective.
- Watch: Lean Analytics & Local Government: Alasdair Croll: How an iterative, measured approach to change can yield better results faster in local government.
- Handbook: Agile Government: The Agile Government Leadership Project developed this handbook to help governments learn and adopt Agile development practices.
- Service Manual: Agile Development at Gov.UK: Gov.UK's Government Service Design Manual lays out what agile is, why it works and how to do it.
- How to: Open Source in Government: Open Source evangelist Ben Balter Curates a collaborative resource for government employees looking to participate in the open source community