The world is flat and Agile is for every project.

False (seriously, not true) and false (kind of). 

Agile came about because a group of technical developers wanted to a better way to communicate technical information – providing better customer connection and reducing formal protocols for documenting work. The Agile Manifesto states: the highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. Commercial organizations quickly adopted Agile to improve product quality and increase to market speed. Amazon was an early example – moving from a 6-month update release to updates provided every 5 minutes!

Federal agencies are now embracing Agile development to avoid massive project failures plaguing key programs. For example, an agency wasted $100M+ developing a new case management system. They scrapped three versions before implementing Agile to provide incremental releases. Now their case management system is updated with features and fixes every month or so. The user population is pleased and they remain engaged in continuous process improvement. No more big bang (or no-bang) approach there.

But, I thought everything was moving to Agile. Well, maybe…

Now, the Federal government must discover how to apply Agile within their inherently non-agile management, budgeting, and reporting frameworks. Government agencies are required to follow highly structured System Development Lifecycle (SDLC) methodologies that tie into investment planning and control. These SDLCs have hundreds of artifacts and dozens of gate reviews. Worse yet, these complicated SDLC’s drive procurements, contract deliverables, and IT budgets. Ouch.

As hopeless as it seems for the Feds, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Agency SDLCs typically have entry points for ‘alternative processes’ – implementing Agile development while remaining SDLC compliant. Alternative processes move the needle from strict sequential process toward Agile, reaching hybrid projects at the midpoint. A hybrid project may use the early phases of the SDLC to define the high-level project objectives and then use Agile to incrementally deliver system functionality, as defined by the users.

So, where is everyone heading? Agile is gradually seeping into Federal contracting and acquisition shops. Federal, commercial, and state organizations are adopting Agile projects, slowly but surely. Unbelievably, the TechFAR Handbook provides Executive Office guidance for acquisition of Agile projects. Maybe the world is not as flat as we thought.

Sorry flat worlders, Agile is here to stay – permeating all types of projects as the old guard fades away. Based on current adoption trends, Agile will become the standard for strategic planning and tactical execution.

To learn more about how Edwards’ ECHO framework tracks and reports metrics across traditional, hybrid, and Agile projects, click here.


Edward (Ned) Merrill joined Edwards in 2014 as Vice President of Solutions and Director of Proposals. In this position, Ned is directly responsible for solutioning across the Edwards’ four Strategic Business Units and proposal activities. He is accountable for Lean/Agile management, as well as the development and implementation of the Edwards’ Agile Portfolio Methodology.