The Digital Government Imperative: Agile Government

Government agencies – and constituents – are excited about the prospect of digital government – but how can government fulfill the promise of digital if it does not first become agile itself? Digital government is all about optimizing and transforming government services, which requires government to adopt a new approach to software development – an agile approach.

In a recent webinar on the Future of Digital Public Service, Lisa Schlosser, Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of E-Government and Information Technology, Office of Management and Budget, had five specific thoughts pertaining to digital government, which all directly or indirectly apply to government being able to become agile:

1. Soon, our workforce will be entirely digital natives

People will soon be born into a digital world, with no knowledge of how things are, or used to be. We need to make sure we are prepared for the workforce of tomorrow. My interpretation is that Lisa is saying the workforce of tomorrow will not wait years for a software solution to be developed. An agile approach is what they will grow up with and naturally adopt.

2. Government is working under a time imperative to deliver digital public services

Where it used to crawl, walk, then run, now it should be run, run, run. No more big bang, big failure projects – instead build fast, deliver fast, find out results fast, fix fast, and ensure business value fast.

3. The traditional waterfall methodology for software development needs to fade away with agile software development taking its place

The success of adopting agile vs. traditional waterfall is huge. Think agile from the beginning and think agile throughout.

4. By using application programming interfaces (APIs)

With APIs, you can open up data, share data and be able to let others use government data in a way that drives innovation and is meaningful to them.

5. Innovation leaders are needed to help fulfill the promise of digital government

Both from within the public sector as well as private sector partnerships, including helping government to adopt agile development best practices. We are all change agents.

In the most recent Washington Technology Insider Report, “The Government Customer Perspective”, the top two reasons why government technology projects struggle and/or fail are both related to change: over-promising on capabilities and execution; and changing requirements and scope. This report emphasizes the need for an agile development approach that embraces change. In the State of Maine, it used to take over 18 months to get a priority change order executed using a waterfall approach to software development. Since Maine has adopted an agile approach, what used to take weeks to measure is now measured in mere hours.

According to the Federal Government’s Digital Government strategy, digital is a disruptive strategy that will be focused on outcomes and driven by the data. Any strategy that is disruptive will by its very nature require much change – change that will need to be responded to quickly and efficiently. In my new e-book “Agile Government: The Digital Government Imperative,” I explain why an agile approach to software development is the lower risk, higher reward strategy for government transformation – transformation to a digital government.

At our PegaWORLD user conference, taking place June 8-10 at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Md., there will be several public sector sessions focusing on agility and transformation in government. Monday, June 8 is officially Government Day and we have a limited number of complimentary passes available. If you’re interested in one of these passes, e-mail


NEW Download the Agile Government: The Digital Government Imperative eBook and explore how to gain the level of agility required to achieve true government transformation.