Thoughts on the United Airlines Incident
by Brian Derfer, CTO, Agile Six Applications, Inc.

By now readers have almost certainly heard of United Airlines and the Chicago Police forcibly removing a passenger, Dr. Dao, from a United Airlines flight in order to accommodate United crew members who needed to be transported to Louisville. Here are a few thoughts that I have had as I think about this incident from the perspective of a software developer:
This is not about rights Framing the issue as a matter of rights completely misses the point, in my opinion. It seems pretty clear that United has the legal right to remove passengers to accommodate their employees. On the flip-side, travelers have the right to choose other airlines in the future, and stock-holders have the right to buy or sell United Airlines stock. To me the issue is whether removing Dr. Dao and the other passengers was a decision that was a) ethical, and b) served the best interests of the passengers and United Airlines. Is …

A Discussion of Agile Program Procurement

Having managed dozens of projects over a period of 20 years, it is the opinion of the author that a there are two basic realities that must be embraced to fully benefit from Agile:

“Something has to give” - Planning is important, but all successful projects leverage opportunities for elasticity, collaboration and resilience. “Sharing is caring” - Sharing objectives and risk between a vendor and a client usually facilitate “win/win” relationships leading to great software.

We believe that the best way for the Government and vendors to appropriately share risk under an Agile Development framework is to move away from a Fixed Firm Price/ Fixed Firm Scope system altogether, and instead move towards a model where Government buys fixed capacity in advance from a company (i.e. a team of a fixed size) and then assigns that team with tasks as projects arise.

Read more in our new white paper  - A Discussion of Agile ProgramProcurement. 

Check out our new Agile Risk Management Framework - White Paper by Brian Derfer

Agile processes like Scrum, XP, SAFe, and Kanban have proven to be very effective at delivering software in a more collaborative, transparent, and predictable fashion than traditional waterfall processes. However, Agile practices, by themselves, are not sufficient to address the risks that impact most medium-to-large software projects, and in particular are often not well suited to delivering on federal government projects, which often have a structure - such as fixed scope and delivery timelines - that is not easily or naturally accommodated by Agile. To fill the gap between what Agile does well at the team level, and the risk management requirements of medium-to-large projects, we have developed the Agile Risk Management (ARM) Framework.
PLAY 3 Make it simple and intuitive"Using a government service shouldn’t be stressful, confusing, or daunting. It’s our job to build services that are simple and intuitive enough that users succeed the first time, unaided." - CIO Playbook
Take a moment and consider your favorite apps,  the ones you rely on every day.  My favorite apps all have a few things in common, they are simple, they get things done, they live on my mobile devices and I don't need to squint to use them.   Truly great applications are built around the user and around their life space.  

Dozens of books have been written about the topic of user experience, yet few things are neglected more often than user-centric design.  Most failed apps fail here.  The focus of application design is not simply to please the eye but to be usable and usable means functional.  

As I have stated many times, the arbitrator of functionality is the user.   If you release an app without their feedback, it most often will not su…

Address the whole experience, from start to finish.

"We need to understand the different ways people will interact with our services, including the actions they take online, through a mobile application, on a phone, or in person. Every encounter — whether it's online or offline — should move the user closer towards their goal." - CIO Playbook

Continuing my series on the USDS Digital Playbook:

Play 2: Address the whole experience, from start to finish
I recently had the opportunity to work with the most amazing user experience professionals on an abbreviated project (a 36-hour "code fest").  We designed, deployed and submitted three applications for consideration by the GSA in pursuit of a coveted spot on their new Agile Services  Delivery BPA.

Together with two of our key capability partners Three Wire Systems and Fermata Creative, I am very proud to report that we won a spot on this innovative new delivery contract!  I think a key factor of our win was that we embraced the playbook, and rule two i…

Understanding what people need

"We must begin digital projects by exploring and pinpointing the needs of the people who will use the service, and the ways the service will fit into their lives. Whether the users are members of the public or government employees, policy makers must include real people in their design process from the beginning. The needs of people — not constraints of government structures or silos — should inform technical and design decisions. We need to continually test the products we build with real people to keep us honest about what is important." - CIO Digital Playbook 
The principals at Agile Six (Ernie, Brian, Edward and I), decided to jump out of rather stable and lucrative jobs to start a company in the service of Veterans.  We saw a hole and we felt an obligation to fill it.   As a team, we are immensely inspired by the USDS and the CIO Playbook because in them we find support and advocacy for ideas we have been espousing for the last several years in the face of many critics.…