Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, William Schmarzo, Elizabeth White, Kevin Benedict

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
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Consumers increasingly expect their electronic "things" to be connected to smart phones, tablets and the Internet. When that thing happens to be a medical device, the risks and benefits of connectivity must be carefully weighed. Once the decision is made that connecting the device is beneficial, medical device manufacturers must design their products to maintain patient safety and prevent compromised personal health information in the face of cybersecurity threats. In his session at @ThingsExpo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
Because IoT devices are deployed in mission-critical environments more than ever before, it’s increasingly imperative they be truly smart. IoT sensors simply stockpiling data isn’t useful. IoT must be artificially and naturally intelligent in order to provide more value In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Engineering System Architect at Greenwave Systems, will discuss how IoT artificial intelligence (AI) can be carried out via edge analytics and machine learning techn...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, will examine the regulations and provide insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence a...
In the enterprise today, connected IoT devices are everywhere – both inside and outside corporate environments. The need to identify, manage, control and secure a quickly growing web of connections and outside devices is making the already challenging task of security even more important, and onerous. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Rich Boyer, CISO and Chief Architect for Security at NTT i3, discussed new ways of thinking and the approaches needed to address the emerging challenges of security i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera offers a radically new approach to data management, where innovative software makes data infrastructure invisible, elastic and able to perform at the highest level. It eliminates hardware lock-in and gives IT organizations the choice to source x86 server nodes, with business model option...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, discussed the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insights from the vast t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Elastifile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Elastifile Cloud File System (ECFS) is software-defined data infrastructure designed for seamless and efficient management of dynamic workloads across heterogeneous environments. Elastifile provides the architecture needed to optimize your hybrid cloud environment, by facilitating efficient...