Everyone seems to be talking about agile development. State agencies and their federal partners are rapidly moving away from “big-bang” software development projects, toward an incremental or modular approach. This is largely in response to the high number of failed IT projects, and increased public scrutiny around the associated costs of those failures.

The industry is waking up to the reality that the majority of failed projects were delivered based on a waterfall, or linear, implementation methodology – challenging the status quo. The reasons IT projects fail are numerous, and states are faced with additional complexities inherent in delivering citizen services. Resources are scare due to competing priorities and a skilled but aging workforce.

State agencies are dependent upon legacy IT systems to manage and meet increasingly complex program needs. Additionally, the promise of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies has not been fully realized, as these so called plug-and-play systems often require far more customization to meet requirements than either the agencies or their vendors had ever expected.

As the traditional, “big bang” waterfall approach has demonstrated it can often be a path to failure before the project has even begun, this paper observes that some state agencies are making a compelling case for agile and experiencing significant benefits. Success will be dependent on agency investments in training, stakeholder engagement and communication and resource planning around agile methodology.