Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Rishi Bhargava, Xenia von Wedel, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White

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
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation; Alan Williamson, Principal...
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 ...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, drew together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established compa...
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
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.
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2017 New York. The 20th Cloud Expo and 7th @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Internet to enable us all to im...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
"At ROHA we develop an app called Catcha. It was developed after we spent a year meeting with, talking to, interacting with senior citizens watching them use their smartphones and talking to them about how they use their smartphones so we could get to know their smartphone behavior," explained Dave Woods, Chief Innovation Officer at ROHA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
We are always online. We access our data, our finances, work, and various services on the Internet. But we live in a congested world of information in which the roads were built two decades ago. The quest for better, faster Internet routing has been around for a decade, but nobody solved this problem. We’ve seen band-aid approaches like CDNs that attack a niche's slice of static content part of the Internet, but that’s it. It does not address the dynamic services-based Internet of today. It does...
"ReadyTalk is an audio and web video conferencing provider. We've really come to embrace WebRTC as the platform for our future of technology," explained Dan Cunningham, CTO of ReadyTalk, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
Unsecured IoT devices were used to launch crippling DDOS attacks in October 2016, targeting services such as Twitter, Spotify, and GitHub. Subsequent testimony to Congress about potential attacks on office buildings, schools, and hospitals raised the possibility for the IoT to harm and even kill people. What should be done? Does the government need to intervene? This panel at @ThingExpo New York brings together leading IoT and security experts to discuss this very serious topic.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided 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 sett...