How to streamline software development while strengthening security in federal agencies

In every industry, software is essential to success. Federal agencies rely on in-house application development to create software that enables them to improve i...

In every industry, software is essential to success. Federal agencies rely on in-house application development to create software that enables them to improve internal operations and serve constituencies more effectively. Even if they take advantage of commercial off-the-shelf software, they still need customization to link programs together or meet unique regulatory requirements.

But application development can be a slow, costly and resource-intensive undertaking. Development teams try to automate and accelerate the process through modern methodologies such as DevSecOps, which aims to coordinate the activities of the development, security and operations functions.

The concept’s promise exceeds the reality in government, however. A primary reason is that developers work with a vast array of messaging apps, project management solutions, monitoring tools, code repositories, QA and testing products, and other technologies. Many of these resources don’t integrate well, and all have to be orchestrated across multiple people and projects.

In fact, the fragmentation of these tools is a significant barrier to streamlined productivity. These point solutions prevent developers from moving quickly and effectively, at times costing them a full workday of productivity due to the need to context switch, according to a recent developer survey.

This breeds constantly delayed projects, perennially exceeded budgets, confusion within and among teams, and lack of transparency for executive decision-makers. Even worse, the project output often fails to squarely hit the target.

But there’s a way to bring together technologies and people to circumvent traditional development roadblocks and achieve better project outcomes. The key is to get a handle on what we can call the “Three C’s” of application development: capabilities, chronology and collaboration.


Developers use a wide variety of technology tools to do their jobs. Other stakeholders, such as executive decision-makers and line-of-business employees, use traditional solutions like enterprise email and project management software. When literally hundreds of technology resources get used in a single project, the byproducts can include crossed wires, frustration and inefficiency.

The answer isn’t to abandon the tools people are accustomed to. Instead, make all tools accessible to all team members in a single, unified collaboration platform. Such a “command center” lets everyone see all the communication, timelines and workflows for every team and every project, all in the appropriate context. In fact, the vast majority of developers seek this sort of consolidation, according to a recent survey by GitLab.

That way, there’s significantly less time wasted digging through folders and email threads trying to find misplaced information. Just as important, everyone involved is always on the same page. Fortunately, the technology to achieve this orchestration exists today.


Every project has a timeline, but project activities involve multiple overlapping chronologies. Communication takes place in real time, in a few hours, or over several days. Project milestones such as stakeholder reviews occur over days or weeks. The overall project has daily or weekly interim deadlines, culminating in an end date, usually measured in months. And strategic planning extends over months or longer.

It’s imperative to equip team members with the right communication and project management tools for the right timescales. You’d never use a Kanban board for real-time communication or use instant messaging for project planning. Yet too often, teams don’t use the right technology capabilities for the right project chronologies.

Just as important, you should document process steps and workflows so that you can establish best practices and achieve repeatable processes. That can go a long way to streamlining activities such as releasing software, resolving system outages, and remediating cybersecurity breaches. Share these best practices with all stakeholders so they know which capabilities to leverage for which chronologies.


Finally, agency development projects involve many groups of contributors, from IT and security staff to external contractors to organizational leaders. Some are technology-focused, some are responsible for operations, and some think strategically. All have differing priorities. Yet all need to remain aligned for the project to succeed.

To achieve that goal, everyone needs visibility into which people are involved in the project and their respective roles and responsibilities. They need to know who’s accountable for taking which actions at which times, and who’s overseeing which resources. And they all need access to the right data and content to make their own contribution to the project’s success.

Visibility into who’s doing what encourages collaboration, because people know whom to ask about a given aspect of a project. It also promotes better understanding of each team member’s challenges and constraints. That helps to keep teams synchronized, efficient and productive.

A single, unified collaboration platform breaks down the information and technology walls that limit the success of development projects. It’s one reason investment in collaboration software surged 28% in 2021, the fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth, IDC reports.

In fact, a collaboration platform can go beyond a given project to span organizational silos and promote true digital transformation. By getting all stakeholders on the same screen and working in the same direction, you can make development happen faster and more cost-efficiently. You can also help ensure that both your teams and your IT resources are contributing in an optimal way to achieving agency goals.

Ian Tien is co-founder and CEO of Mattermost.



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