Trent Hone: That integrates users into the process so we can gain the tacit knowledge you only get from being embedded at each step. If you put things in a requirements document, or if it's communicated verbally, there are a lot of pieces that get lost. These are concepts that have been part of the agile process and effective software development for a long time, but we found a way to relate them directly to DoD.
ICF: This notion of thinking about the end result from the start and staying customer-focused was one of the things that really stands out in the paper. Say we’re developing a piece of software that does X, with Y mission objective tied to it—who might the end user be and how might they be folded in?
Trent Hone: Say the Air Force needs a piece of software to find the right plane for a mission. You need to factor in the right amount of fuel, the correct sensors, internal room for people and supplies, etc., and maybe there’s a new kind of plane, or the mission parameters change. In researching the paper, I was impressed with the Air Force’s willingness to take members of the software team to the base so they can sit with the operators and learn directly about the desired outcomes, the environment it’ll be used in, who will be using it and how, and the challenges they’re facing. Those members of the software team can make the changes there and then because of the effective infrastructure in the DevOps pipeline, the Air Force can have the new software in a matter of hours or days rather than weeks or months, and the software team can receive immediate feedback.
One of the things I've enjoyed about working at ICF is that we're already cognizant of all this in the software work that we do. Not only are we making sure the feedback loop is rapid so we have an effective pipeline and new code can be created quickly, but we're also bringing in the user perspective through human-centered design. It’s not that we're at the limits of potential success, of course, but we are in the right regions for this kind of work. It’s not just different for difference’s sake, or just strictly more effective, it’s a much smarter use of time, talent, and computing resources.
Read the full paper here .