Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Jyoti Bansal

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
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Val...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, 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 your speaking proposal ...
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 across the USA and Europe, we work with a variety of customers from emerging startups to Fortune 1000 companies.
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Analytic. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. 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 June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
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...
The age of Digital Disruption is evolving into the next era – Digital Cohesion, an age in which applications securely self-assemble and deliver predictive services that continuously adapt to user behavior. Information from devices, sensors and applications around us will drive services seamlessly across mobile and fixed devices/infrastructure. This evolution is happening now in software defined services and secure networking. Four key drivers – Performance, Economics, Interoperability and Trust ...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Most Influential ‘Smart Cities - IIoT' Account and @BigDataExpo has been named fourteenth by Right Relevance (RR), which provides curated information and intelligence on approximately 50,000 topics. In addition, Right Relevance provides an Insights offering that combines the above Topics and Influencers information with real time conversations to provide actionable intelligence with visualizations to enable decision making. The Insights service is applicable to eve...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.