Making it easier for US federal government projects to run more agile, if not “cloud native.”
18F is fun the watch if you’re interested in transforming to cloud. In this FAQ about cloud.gov, their Cloud Foundry service, they talk about how they help speed up the slow meatware process of compliance:
A typical agency process to demonstrate compliance with FISMA and gain an ATO requires generation of a gigantic, copy-pasted document enumerating the full design of the system. We document all of the federally-required controls in every section of the cloud.gov platform in a software-friendly way. This enables us to generate different documents suitable to different contexts: human-readable, gap analysis, spreadsheet matrix, web page visualization, etc.
Any app deployed on cloud.gov will be able to leverage these “parts-included” descriptions to make generating their own documentation much easier; they only need to supply information about what their system adds on top of the PaaS. For more information, you can watch the recent DigitalGov University video on “Handling FISMA Faster and Better.”
There’s a few interesting things here:
- They automate as much of the process as possible, doing the copy and pasting for you. Now, this should make you question needing to do all that meatware work in the first place but…
- If you can’t beat the meatware process problem, join it and try to automate it. There’s probably some value in there, and even for the parts where there is no value, it might be a waste of effort to fight it (versus other ways to spend your resources of time and favors). 3. And, as I mention on my cloud strategy piece on dealing with legacy IT, perhaps by doing all this you can expose how silly it is and eliminate it.
(If you like this line of thinking, check out my webinar on Dec 1st in dealing with legacy IT in your cloud strategy.)
“One of the things that as I’m looking across government is that we all think that in every agency we have such unique, special situations, and yet, every single time you go to another agency, they have that same unique, special situation,” she said. “Really opening that conversation and saying, we’re not all that unique and we are facing common elements and common practices and challenges… those are the things that we’re really trying to change the mindset of.”
What organization could be larger than the US Federal government? Not only that, the chance to transform how software is done in the government has perhaps one of the largest possible impacts of transforming any “IT department.” In this episode, Matt and Coté talk with Diego Lapiduz who works in the GSA’s 18F organization helping government agencies develop their software in new, more agile and cloud-driven ways. We discuss the background of 18F and the broader government initiatives to transform how software is done and also walk through some of the learnings 18F has had in trying to make such a huge transformation.
Show-notes and Links
- Hiring is the biggest problem around government processes.
- To build empathy and different teams working together, try to tackle a common goal.
- Building credibly by demonstrating that your method works.
- The Ugly Baby Problem – winning over people who think they’re already doing it right.
- Measuring success.
- 18F in github. github.com/18F and 18f.gsa.gov.
- Examples of project: NotAlone.gov, The College Score Card.
- Explaining “failing fast” in government. People start to understand it as they have more experience.
- How open source is helpful here, how non-government folks get involved and contribute to the open source projects.
- Diego’s recent talk at the Cloud Foundry Summit 2014.
- As more background on IT change in the government, check out this overview from Mikey Dickerson at OSCON 2015.
- Diego Lapiduz: @dlapiduz
- Matt Curry: @mattjcurry
- Coté: @cote, cote.io
Doing an RFP via a project in github instead of a Word doc.