FBI’s Sentinel Project: 5 Lessons Learned [?] by John Foley.
John writes of lessons learned from the Sentinel Project, which replaces the $170 million disaster, Virtual Case File system.
Lessons you need to avoid applying to your information management projects, whether you use topic maps or no.
2. Agile development gets things done. The next big shift in strategy was Fulgham’s decision in September 2010 to wrest control of the project from prime contractor Lockheed Martin and use agile development to accelerate software deliverables. The thinking was that a hands-on, incremental approach would be faster because functionality would be developed, and adjustments made, in two-week “sprints.” The FBI missed its target date for finishing that work–September 2011–but it credits the agile methodology with ultimately getting the job done.
Missing a start date by ten (10) months does not count as a success for most projects. Moreover, note how they define “success:”
this week’s announcement that Sentinel, as of July 1, became available to all FBI employees is a major achievement.
Available to all FBI employees? I would think using it by all FBI employees would be the measure of success. Yes?
Can you think a success measure other than use by employees?
3. Commercial software plays an important role. Sentinel is based in part on commercial software, a fact that’s often overlooked because of all the custom coding and systems integration involved. Under the hood are EMC’s Documentum document management software, Oracle databases, IBM’s WebSphere middleware, Microsoft’s SharePoint, and Entrust’s PKI technology. Critics who say that Sentinel would have gone more smoothly if only it had been based on off-the-shelf software seem unaware that, in fact, it is.
Commercial software? Sounds like a software Frankenstein to me. I wonder if they simply bought software based on the political clout of the vendors and then wired it together? What it sounds like. Do you have access to the system documentation? That could prove to be an interesting read.
I can imagine legacy systems wired together with these components but if you are building a clean system, why the cut-n-paste from different vendors?
4. Agile development is cheaper, too. Sentinel came in under its $451 million budget. The caveat is that the FBI’s original cost estimate for Sentinel was $425 million, but that was before Fulgham and Johnson took over, and they stayed within the budget they were given. The Inspector General might quibble with how the FBI accounts for the total project cost, having pointed out in the past that its tally didn’t reflect the agency’s staff costs. But the FBI wasn’t forced to go to Congress with its hand out. Agile development wasn’t only faster, but also cheaper.
Right, let’s simply lie to the prospective client about the true cost of development for a project. Their staff, who already have full time duties, can just tough it out and give us the review/feedback that we need to build a working system. Right.
This is true for IT projects in general but topic map projects in particular. Clients will have to resource the project properly from the beginning, not just with your time but the time of its staff and subject matter experts.
A good topic map, read a useful topic map, is going to reflect contributions from the client’s staff. You need to make the case to decision makers that the staff contributions are just as important as their present day to day tasks.
BTW, if agile development oh so useful, people would be using it. Like C, Java, C++.
Do you see marketing pieces for C, Java, C++?
Successful approaches/languages are used, not advertised.