Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Nate Vickery, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Jeev Trika

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo

Open Source Cloud: Article

Building Government 2.0 Through Collaborative Software Development

Community-driven collaborative development builds better software in shorter timeframes

If there were ever two concepts that are representative of where we are today in technology, they would have to be Government 2.0 and Community. Unfortunately, they are also two of the most overused and over-hyped phrases in our technology vocabulary.

Government 2.0 is a general term referring to a new level of transparency and agility within the Federal space. It has many components, including public-facing efforts like re-launching whitehouse.gov with open source technology such as Drupal (a content management system). However, Government 2.0 also has an inward-facing component relating to how software and systems are designed, built, and managed.

Community, in the context of software development, is the use of collaborative development tools and processes to enable shared use, drive the re-use of code, and expedite discussions and cooperation among all project stakeholders, regardless of their geographical location.

No longer just empty buzzwords, these concepts, utilized by open source communities and projects such as Linux, Apache and Subversion, are driving tremendous value when applied to internal government development efforts. Specifically, community-driven collaborative development builds better software in shorter timeframes, allowing agencies to do more with less.

Forge.mil - A Template for Government Collaboration
Forge.mil is a project initiated by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the cross-services IT arm for the US Department of Defense (DoD). It's designed to:

  1. Create more agile processes for new software development
  2. Decrease the time it takes to produce new software
  3. Enable a culture of cross-command, open collaboration
  4. Provide a repository for code/idea re-use

The system provides integrated collaboration tools such as source code control, defect and requirements tracking, wiki pages, document management and discussion forums.

One of the most outstanding things about Forge.mil is that it resides inside of the .mil network, but could very well usher in a new era for software development, acquisition and vendor collaboration for all federal agencies. In a nutshell, this project is about building the equivalent of an open source community inside of the .mil domain, so that participants (DoD contractors, vendors, etc.) can utilize a collaborative approach and toolset for their future projects.

Forge.mil was built using the same open, collaborative approaches it is enabling for the DoD. As a result, the initial capability for the system was launched in just 180 days, a quantum leap in efficiency improvement within the defense space. This caught the attention of other government agencies in both the military and civilian arenas, and these groups are now asking how they can participate or build their own "forges" to replicate this success.

Government 2.0 Through Successive Approximations
The early successes of Forge.mil, data.gov, and apps.gov, have inspired questions such as: "When will we know that we've reached Government 2.0, and how long is that going to take?"

That begs the question of exactly what constitutes Government 2.0 and sets an unrealistic expectation of a finite process that has a clear beginning and end.

Clearly, any effort designed to fundamentally change such things as technology acquisition, transparency, or collaboration within the government will not be a "forklift revolution," but an ongoing process that is constantly reviewed.

The Forge.mil team realized early on that a key to its success would be the notion of "successive approximations." The Forge.mil community managers continue to treat their effort as a continuous process, not a finite deliverable. It is critical that the larger government community adopt this same approach, as attempting to build out all parts of what Government 2.0 could, or should, be right away would be expensive and doomed to a lackluster reception by those in the community who need it most. The DoD has been tasked by Congress with developing a new technology acquisition plan, and early drafts seem to correctly recognize a need for "course corrections" or "approximations" as they move toward building a more participative technology infrastructure for government.

Community Building - Government 2.0 Style
One of the best examples of federal cultural change is how IT and other software support systems are developed and fielded in the Forge.mil effort at the DoD. A large change in the culture being engendered is shared (and in many cases, "open within the DoD") collaboration. There are approximations within this cultural change effort aimed at getting people used to stepping outside of their development silos, looking for and building reusable components, and accepting contributions from qualified members of the department outside of their immediate project team.

Some of the hurdles faced in building out government communities are already known:

First, unlike a lot of other systems in government, software communities are not static - what a system is today is not what it will be in the future. Software requirements are difficult to fix months in advance - they should be more fluid, responding to the needs and requirements of the users/warfighters in the field. That's what government software development communities need to accomplish with their capabilities: an agility of development, test, certification, and deployment that lets agencies develop and field systems in a much more efficient fashion.

Second, technical specialists want to know when, or if, a government site could be stood up to allow collaboration between the Federal space and the greater open source world. The main caution is to understand that the culture would have to shift to get the various Federal IT stakeholders, especially project managers, to embrace such an effort, especially around things like acquisition policy and information assurance.

Given these challenges, the question remains, "How do you build a collaborative development community?" There are two components to this answer: culture change and collaborative development tools built for distributed teams. It is important to note that you can't have one without the other. Instructions to work collaboratively without the right resources will not gain traction. Similarly, a strategy based strictly on deploying a new set of tools without the associated culture change management/shepherding will not work. This is where community managers come in to tie the tools to the culture, make necessary adjustments in processes, and to be the ‘glue' between the people and the technology.

The good news is that there are pockets of somewhat frustrated, but extremely passionate open source / open collaboration champions in the federal world. Those are the people that keep the momentum going, and software development community managers have to give them as much care and feeding as possible, since they are paddling upstream against a very strong cultural current.

Future Directions
Other government agencies, such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), have already begun collaborative software development efforts similar to Forge.mil. Given the intense interest that the DoD has received, it seems likely that other military and civilian agencies will begin participating in similar efforts. Hopefully, there will be some coalescing around Forge.mil on the defense side, and a proposed Forge.gov for the civilian agencies.

The true value of better internal government collaboration is clear if you ask Forge.mil's executive sponsor (General Cartwright, Vice Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff) what he thinks is the most important aspect of the system. He'll tell you that it isn't delivering new tools just for the sake of wrapping up bad processes in new skins. Instead, he wants to see Forge.mil push the edge of the comfort zone with regard to how software and systems development is currently done in the DoD. His support and mandate is helping that team work hard to make this a reality, and it provides a great model of how to build Government 2.0 internally for other agencies.

More Stories By Emily W. Salus

Emily W. Salus, Director of Marketing at CollabNet, focuses on marketing operations, including nurture programs and strategy, lead scoring, revenue analytics, and lead processing. She has over 20 years of experience in B2B marketing, including developing and implementing marketing programs, project management, writing and editing. In addition to several years as a consultant, Emily has held marketing communications roles at CNET (now CBS Interactive) and Lithium Technologies, was Marketing Manager at Sleepycat Software (now Oracle Corp.), and was Eastern Regional Advertising Sales Manager at Linux Journal.

More Stories By Guy Martin

Guy Martin is a Senior Strategic Business/Community Consultant at CollabNet. In addition to helping customers build collaborative communities using Open Source best practices, he provides high-level strategic guidance in the cultural & organizational changes necessary to best take advantage of CollabNet's Agile ALM tools. He has nearly 20 years of experience in software engineering, technical marketing, and community management, and is a Certified Scrum Master (CSM). Prior to CollabNet, he helped develop collaborative communities for Motorola and Sun Microsystems.

Mr. Martin was awarded a Federal 100 award in 2010 by Federal Computer Week for his work on the Forge.mil project. He holds a BS in Computer Science from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit y...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will discuss the vast to...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu, a leading provider of cloud hosting solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to foc...
SYS-CON Events announced today the How to Create Angular 2 Clients for the Cloud Workshop, being held June 7, 2016, in conjunction with 18th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified. Now it’s a component-based well-performing framework. The immersive one-day workshop led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? How do you coordinate the diverse moving parts that must come together when developing your IoT product? What are the key challenges addressed by Data as a Service? How does cloud computing underlie and connect the notions of Digital and DevOps What is the impact of the API economy? What is the business imperative for Cognitive Computing? Get all these questions and hundreds more like them answered at the 18th Cloud Expo...
Customer experience has become a competitive differentiator for companies, and it’s imperative that brands seamlessly connect the customer journey across all platforms. With the continued explosion of IoT, join us for a look at how to build a winning digital foundation in the connected era – today and in the future. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Nguyen, Group Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how to successfully leverage mobile, rapidly deploy content, capture real-time d...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 24Notion has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. 24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to con...
The demand for organizations to expand their infrastructure to multiple IT environments like the cloud, on-premise, mobile, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. As this hybrid infrastructure increases, the challenge to monitor the security of these systems increases in volume and complexity. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty, Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, will show how properly configured and managed security architecture can...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT's direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Buildi...
SYS-CON Events announced today BZ Media LLC has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. BZ Media LLC is a high-tech media company that produces technical conferences and expositions, and publishes a magazine, newsletters and websites in the software development, SharePoint, mobile development and Commercial Drone markets.
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...