Successfully Creating Value Added Documentation Using Agile Software Development in Heavily Regulated Environments
When technology supports heavily regulated industries, comprehensive documentation is viewed as a critical IT deliverable that provides evidence of compliance, assists in maintaining continuity of operations, and demonstrates transparency to key stakeholders. However, requirements for comprehensive documentation can present a major challenge for adoption of Agile principles because they require resources to be diverted from the Agile team’s primary focus: delivering software that achieves end user adoption. Does this mean that Agile methodologies are incompatible with IT development, engineering, and integration in heavily regulated environments? ZapThink Take At ZapThink, we don’t think so. While the Agile Manifesto specifically states that working software should be valued over comprehensive documentation, it doesn’t claim that documentation is not useful, and it certainly doesn’t suggest that documentation should be completely removed from an Agile team’s standard process. At ZapThink, we interpret “working software over comprehensive documentation” as guidance for Agile teams to…

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Agile 2015: Key Takeaways
Last week, we attended Agile 2015, an annual conference organized by the Agile Alliance “dedicated to furthering Agile principles and providing a venue for people and ideas to flourish.” In 2013 and 2014, we had the pleasure of speaking at the annual conference and sharing our ideas about Agile in the Federal IT space. This year, we were fortunate to attend the conference for a third time and participate in the conference’s first ever track aimed specifically at promoting ideas and sharing experiences related to Agile in the government. Building on our excitement from last week, we wanted to share some of our main takeaways from the conference regarding Agile in the government. Takeaway #1: The Digital Services Playbook and TechFAR have changed the conversation on Agile’s viability in the Federal IT space. We’ve been excitedly championing the…

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Can Agile Really Work in Heavily Regulated IT Environments?
For the past several decades, Waterfall has been the leading software development methodology in heavily regulated IT environments. However, Waterfall’s popularity has declined in recent years as heavily regulated industries have increased acceptance of Agile software development practices. For example, the Federal government has released a number of recent publications and policy initiatives encouraging the use of Agile development practices and is establishing a new contract vehicle for Agile delivery services 1. The gradual emergence of Agile methodologies is encouraging for IT service providers looking for opportunities to leverage iterative development and delivery strategies to propel heavily regulated IT industries to the next level of efficiency. Waterfall vs. Agile There are a number of reasons that the government and other heavily regulated industries, such as health care, life sciences, energy and utilities, are shifting to Agile software development practices, but the major reason is likely the very low success…

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