Is Agile Really Compatible with Government Projects and Programs?

Is Agile Really Compatible with Government Projects and Programs?

The answer is yes, if the conditions are just right. The trouble is that Agile was originally designed for software development, an environment where any change, pivot, or backstepping that may be required, would only impact labor costs and deadlines.

Agile can be very useful in situations other than software development if it has been fully tailored for the application. But, because of the inherent rules, regulations, procedures, and documentation demands of federal government projects and programs, ‘pure Agile’ is not a good fit.

Given the potential benefits that Agile can provide if implemented correctly, many government agencies are tailoring their Agile approaches so that they can seize these benefits while still operating within government guidelines

Here are some excellent examples of tailored Agile applications in government that involve web development, instructional design tools, and systems development projects:

  • In The Next Generation of IT Human Resource Systems for the Federal Government, An Iterative Approach, The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) explains how it has adapted Agile have for IT HR.
  • The System for Award Management ( was developed using an Agile framework so that the development team could easily implement improvements and capabilities during implementation and beyond.
  • The CIO General Services Administration (GSA) Enterprise Architecture Policy introduces ten key overarching Agile architecture guiding principles that should be kept in mind at every step of every stage in the process when developing enterprise architecture.
  • At the Department of Agriculture, 2020, Presidential Innovation Fellow, Melissa Keene, led the Agile development process of, which provides an authenticated portal where farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners can access online self-service applications, educational materials, engagement opportunities, and business tools.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published Agile Developer Guidance that provides information on the origin of Agile, its use in the acquisition, frameworks, performance measurement, backlogs, and other elements.
  • Project Management Services is a Treasury Department product that provides end-to-end guidance for the Agile project management process. It is highlighted as one of many Enterprise Content Management (ECM) products at Treasury.
  • In Agile Development and Delivery for Information Technology, the Department of Homeland Security specifies that Agile is the preferred developmental approach for information technology (IT) programs and projects.
  • The National Park Service offers an Agile Instructional Design hands-on workshop and other resources to help current or aspiring content contributors of its Common Learning Portal document ideas, design effective learning resources, and evaluate content for missed opportunities, while optimizing time and effort.
  • The Department of Homeland Security awarded nine vendors with a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) for Services for Enabling Agile Delivery (SEAD) or hands-on enterprise, process, and technical Agile coaching services, as well as design, and modern development techniques to improve the knowledge and expertise of Agile principles and practices.

Do you think that you might need to learn more about Agile? In Agile in the Federal Government, Desired Outcomes, Challenges, and Risks, Management Concepts Subject Matter Expert and Instructor, Paul Lohnes explains how each of the perceived advantages of Agile can be realized in federal government projects and programs.

If you are looking for training, we offer a dozen Agile courses. A popular course that prepares students to apply Agile is Agile Project Management for the Federal Environment (6010). This 3-day course covers what Agile offers, how to modify it for government work, project planning, execution, management, and closing.

Written by:
Natalie Komitsky
Project & Program Management
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