In today’s digital economy, commercial IT solutions are emerging at a faster rate than ever as the result of modern practices and methodologies, such as agile software development. Companies now have more choices, thanks to the open source communities, cloud computing, application development platforms and subscription-based business models.
These approaches are now more like renting than investing and allow the choice of the best solution available and then quickly upgrade or replace it at lower cost when it is no longer applicable. This phenomenon is the key enabler of rapid innovation in many industries, from retail to financial services to transportation.
Unfortunately, the pace of change in federal government IT has not kept up with private industry. Fortunately, several of the private sector’s practices could be used by government program and acquisition offices, as well as contractors, to accelerate IT modernization, and achieve better outcomes within one year instead of five.
Figure 1: IT solution modernization life cycle in one fiscal year
The three major groups crucial to IT program success are program office staff, acquisition office staff, and contractors. To cut an IT modernization effort from five years to one:
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The tools and frameworks that will allow government agencies to accelerate the IT modernization process are shown below in Figure 2.
Figure 2: IT Modernization technologies, tools and frameworks to accelerate IT modernization
Program office staff should use the following frameworks and methods to achieve faster and better outcomes:
It is in the best interest of the agency for the acquisition office to make the process shorter and more effective with a minimum risk of protest by adopting innovative acquisition methods such as:
Focusing on industry best practices and working on smaller independent contracts with prioritized requirement backlogs will strengthen the contractor’s chance of successful delivery. Here are the tools and frameworks for a contractor to consider:
Figure 3: Comparison of Agile to Waterfall method on speed of system improvement.
When an agency adopts these tools and frameworks from acquisition through development and embeds them in the underlying technology architecture, federal agencies will be able to enter a new world of continuous upgrades, rather than a model that says “sorry, but you’ll have to wait until the next five-year upgrade cycle starts before we can adopt that improved technology.” The improvements will ensure lower cost, higher user satisfaction, and a better ability to meet their missions. Furthermore, they will no longer need to start planning five-years ahead for the next upgrade immediately after awarding an IT contract.
Pawin Chawanasunthornpot is an enterprise architect at REI Systems.