Mobile will drive Agile adoption in government

Guest post by Lewis Carr,

Senior Director, HP Software Market Development

 

As many of you know, we’re coming up on our 4th annual HP Software Government event, April 2nd in Washington DC at the Ronald Regan building.  One of the many hats I wear is managing the selection of breakout tracks and session topics for this event. 

 

If you haven’t registered for the event yet, this is your chance.

 

For this year’s event we are doing something a little different. We’re performing a bit of A/B testing (marketing speak for when you have two different offerings simultaneously to determine which provides you the best results).   We are keeping our traditional single-speaker sessions, which are focused on our customers and partners talking about their projects. We are  also going to have a few panel discussions—almost half of them around Application Delivery Management.

 

Each panel will have a combination of government and industry experts, ranging from management to hands on practitioners.  I’m looking forward to two panels in particular on Agile Delivery and BYOD (many people think this stands for “Bring Your Own Disaster”, but I digress). 

 

These panels they aren’t entirely unrelated – at least from what I’ve seen in the commercial world and specifically in the way of presentations from our customers at HP Discover in Barcelona last December.  Multi-channel services, those that extend out to mobile devices, are all the rage. There is some reluctance in Federal IT shops to allow employees to use their own devices for work-related apps and data, there is absolutely no question that government service delivery is increasingly extending to mobile devices. 

 

I’m assuming all of you know the security nightmares created by mobile devices: 9/10 application security breaches are now mobile-platform related with 84 percent of all breaches are application software related in general.  Additionally, the rapid change in features and functionality of mobile apps, and even the underlying platforms – hardware and software—make project and change management very difficult if you adhere to past practices.

 

Application lifecycle management for mobile apps is very different from typical application portfolios:

  • The time to build and deploy them is shorter than an upgrade to your SAP environment 

  • There’s far more of them

  • The cost of each of them on average is lower

  • You are more likely than ever to have several groups creating them that you may be completely unaware of 

Traditional project management, waterfall methodologies, requirements, testing against those requirements, release cycles, etc. are poorly suited for a mobile app portfolio.

 

What would happen if you were to take a large budget, apply it to a serial-phased waterfall program to extend a broad array of functions from a Windows fat client to the major mobile platforms (iOS, Android, etc.) and release this new app around the end of fiscal year – just in time the Christmas mobile device release cycle?  Smile, you’ve just been impacted by the “consumerization of IT”.  Your chances of not having bugs in your deployed code are about as likely as you going through your entire life without a cold.  And, these bugs will cost your organization dearly.

 

Based on NIST studies we know that the cost of find a fault goes up almost exponentially as we move from finding it during development, call the cost associated with discovery at this point of origination X.  Let’s assume you don’t find the fault during code development and instead you find it at the point of test and verification of that particular code module – at which point the cost is 5X.  Perhaps you find it during integration – now we’re at 15X or you’re fated to find faults the typical way they’re uncovered – by your users in production – reverse jackpot, you get a 30X cost increase. 

 

The good news is that most mobile apps are either extensions of existing apps, or are small, standalone apps that serve a dedicated function.  The culture surrounding app development for these apps tends to be one of small but rapid iterations to features and functionality. This attitude lends itself to an agile approach.  Using your traditional big project, big budget, waterfall approaches is really the proverbial square peg in around hole when it comes to mobile app lifecycle management.  Instead of Waterfall you’ll definitely want to consider going Agile.

 

Agile is all about building small teams that are focused on taking several bit-sized projects and running them in parallel. This is an attempt to achieve increased velocity – speed of new releases – yet at the same time improve quality by more thoroughly testing smaller code bases.  There are of course some core tenants that you must apply with Agile. You should begin with cultural changes within your organization. These changes can include small teams that meet daily, use of a common toolset, creating tighter connections between formerly siloed groups within the Applications department, making sure all team members are open and honest in daily meetings, etc.

 

There is also a need to automate as much of the testing, integration, and release phases as possible.  Not everything will be automated, so it is important to know what to test manually and how to go about it. 

There is also a need to try and get ahead of curve through more virtualization.

 

This includes:

  • The resources you will be leveraging such as external networks and systems or internal existing applications

  • Data warehouses that you may be extending out to a mobile device to the mobile devices themselves (so you don’t get the Christmas surprise). 

Of course there is far more detail and hopefully interesting discussion on each of the points not to mention additional areas of conversation.  I suppose this is a long-winded way of saying I’m looking forward to these panels at the HP Government Summit.  Register today to reserve your seat and make sure you learn how government agencies can best face the challenges of mobile.

 

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