Using a Kanban Process Can Lower Budget Risk for Government Projects

Traditional fixed price projects using a waterfall methodology take months, if not years, to plan. In some cases, by the time the project is finished, the original business need has changed. The project deliverable has become obsolete. Government agencies can take better advantage of modern technology, with lower budget risk, by using fixed price contracts for software development using a kanban process.

Common management methods can be too rigid or too vague

Despite this potential for agility, procurement and oversight process often hinder software projects, especially in government. Traditional fixed price projects using a waterfall methodology take too long to plan. Some government agencies have resorted to using time and materials contracts to address the need for flexibility. This flexibility, however, increases the government’s management workload and risk of exceeding the project budget. In today’s environment of constrained budgets and gossip about failed IT projects, open-ended time and materials contracts introduce a risk that many agency leaders are not willing to bear. Management processes in government simply haven’t kept up with the rapid pace of solutions that today’s technology can bring.

Kanban introduces a new management option to consider

In recent years, software development teams across the world have begun using a process management methodology, adapted from lean manufacturing, called kanban. A kanban process can take many forms. Most implementations visualize the development workflow using columns to represent stages of development and cards to represent units of work. Kanban rules limit the amount of work in progress to keep developers focused and productive. Project managers rigorously monitor the workflow metrics to identify process improvement opportunities. Instead of organizing work into waterfall-style “big bang” releases, or agile Scrum-style sprints, a kanban process has teams release finished work (and take on new work) in a continuous flow. To learn more about kanban, check out resources here, here, and here.

Service Level Agreements can be the deliverable

When procuring software development services using a kanban process, government agencies could establish time and materials contracts, or fixed price contracts governed by service level agreements (SLAs). Kanban’s heavy emphasis on workflow metrics offer a number of options for building SLAs to measure accomplishments. This enables the government the flexibility to change what is being worked on while still ensuring a consistent velocity and quality of work.

Consider if Kanban is a good fit for your next software project

SLA-based, fixed price contracts for kanban-style software development give agency leaders maximum flexibility to direct work according to today’s priorities, not last quarter’s, all without risking budget overruns. If your government agency isn’t satisfied with waiting years to deliver on new mission priorities, executive mandates, and other critical initiatives, think about how a kanban process might help.

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