Software Intensive Projects
In light of the Software Intensive Projects (SIP) initiative, the SIP Task Force outcomes and the Agency's lead role on two of the improvement measures, there is a need for the Agency and NATO stakeholders to better understand Innovative Software Engineering methodologies.
The first of these key principles states the need to deliver earlier and more often. This principle is aimed at changing the culture from one that is focused typically on a single delivery at the end of the development phase to a new model with multiple deliveries during development, leading to an ultimate version that supports the full set of requirements.
The second key principle states the need for Incremental and Iterative Development and Testing. This principle embraces the concept of incremental and iterative delivery, aiming to provide better outcomes than trying to deploy large complex IT network systems in one 'big bang'.
The Agile methodology clearly supports the previously mentioned principles. It does this by allowing the scope of the project to be adjusted if risks materialize while sticking to time and budget. This contrasts with classical project management techniques, which endeavour to deliver 100% of the scope, but then typically go over budget and deliver late in the process. This approach does require strong management and prioritization of requirements, but it allows the requirements to adapt as the project progresses, in particular removing requirements that become obsolescent as users innovate in how they use the early versions of the system.
The Agile approach offers tangible benefits to the different stakeholders of software intensive NATO projects:
- Operational users: Frequent, incremental deliveries are defined up-front. Capabilities are never delivered late, although not all functionality is provided at once. Operational users play an active and continuous role in both the governance and the development and testing of the capability. Changes in scope are embraced rather than rejected.
- Allied Command Transformation (ACT): Transformational capabilities get delivered sooner. Requirements from ACT remain focused on user needs and are provided at a higher level of abstraction, increasing the speed at which ACT can initiate capability delivery projects.
- Investment Committee (IC) and NATO Office of Resources (NOR): By definition, projects are delivered on time and on budget. Financial expenditure estimates are greatly improved. Regular incremental deliveries of capability allow the IC/NOR to monitor progress through partial (e.g. annual) JFAI inspections. Agency performance is monitored through the scope delivered (an outcome) rather than money spent (an input). Type B Cost Estimates and invitation for bid documentation are simplified and made fit for purpose, shortening approval timelines.
- Industry: Risk to industry is reduced as it has greater flexibility in proposing solutions to user requirements, and through the prioritization of requirements it now has an explicit mechanism for handling project risks. (The current fixed-scope, fixed-cost, fixed-time and fixed-quality approach to NATO Security Investment Programme projects is unrealistic and simply leads to cost overruns and contractual disputes). Requirements are clearer due to continual user engagement.
- NCI Agency: Project delays and cost overruns are significantly reduced or eliminated. Capabilities are delivered earlier. Financial forecasting is improved. User engagement is improved. Risks are reduced and identified earlier. Software deployment timelines are known in advance and ease scheduling issues for the CSUs. Overall the approach meets the NCI Agency General Manager's vision to "...earn customer confidence through agility, innovation and by delivering coherent and cost-effective solutions".
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