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Agile is an iterative approach to software delivery that builds and delivers software incrementally from the start of a project instead of trying to deliver it all at once near the end.

In the case of an Agile lifecycle, requirements and solutions evolve though collaboration among self-organizing teams and project sponsors to encourage rapid and flexible response to change. Agile relies on small batches of work and fast learning cycles, instead of specifying extensive big-batch requirements up front. Programs need to extend this thinking beyond the software they are building, to the development and acquisition processes themselves.

More, better, faster. Those are the keys to the U.S. maintaining its technical and military lead over potential opponents around the world. But the U.S. lead is threatened as other nations approach parity. To stay ahead, the Department of Defense (DoD) has had to speed up acquisition and become nimbler in acquiring new technology—particularly advanced, high-quality, high-capability software systems.

The SEI has helped the DoD adopt and adapt a key response to this challenge: the Agile approach to creating software. When implemented properly, Agile can deliver higher quality and more capable software in a shorter period of time than traditional software development methods and processes. Agile simplifies software development, eliminates unnecessary hurdles, and enables maximum flexibility, quality, and user involvement. It delivers “performance at the speed of relevance.”

Helping Reap Agile’s Benefits

The SEI has studied Agile continuously for more than a decade. We’ve learned that selecting one branded methodology as a prescription for all settings leads to failures. However, Agile does work at scale in large software projects and small. We’ve developed techniques for integrating Agile in government programs and the DoD acquisition environment. The SEI has helped government programs learn to use assessment tools, such as the Readiness and Fit Analysis to help assure programs enjoy a successful engagement with Agile principles and culture.

The SEI has an extensive toolkit to help the government learn about Agile and Lean concepts, and to navigate the cultural changes inherent in Agile adoption. Our toolkit includes:

  • readiness assessment
  • risk assessment
  • tailored training
  • embedded advisors
  • Agile methods coaching
  • program start-up workshops

As one of the most significant areas of opportunity for the DoD today, the SEI also studies the interplay between Agile and the discipline of DevSecOps. The culture of enablement that comes from a DevSecOps mindset provides a rich operating environment for Lean and Agile concepts.

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Our Vision for the Future of Agile

We expect the perceived boundary between the concepts of Agile and DevSecOps to disappear as DoD organizations pursue their goals for delivering software-reliant capabilities at the speed of relevance.

Value Stream Mapping, a well-known set of concepts deriving from the Lean Manufacturing body of knowledge, is emerging as a powerful way to focus application of Lean, Agile, and DevSecOps. Further adaptation of these concepts will be required to achieve broader utility in software-centric programs. The SEI is actively pursuing this vision with a number of early adopting programs in the DoD.

We see a future where Lean, Agile, and DevSecOps perspectives become ingrained in the way software-centric work is performed—as engineering principles, rather than labels for the pursuit of individual branded methodologies.

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