DHS raises the deflector shields

By Adrian Lane

All you IT professionals out there who want to divert attention, give your execs a warm and fuzzy feeling that you’re saving money and making your user experience better, just do what the DHS did. Margaret Graves, DHS deputy CIO, pulled a page from Star Trek and flummoxed Congress with some technobabble. From Network World:

At a hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security on Tuesday, a DHS IT official gave lawmakers an overview of agile development methodologies, one of the tools that the department is using to fix its IT project management. Agile came up after US Rep Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), a former staffer in Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s office who won that seat after Giffords resigned, asked what DHS was doing to ensure that its IT systems met user needs. Margaret Graves, DHS deputy CIO, said the department is using agile methodologies to create user stories to help shape the systems. In agile development, user stories can be short and informal descriptions of some of the functions users would like to see.

She blinded him with science! Throw out a ‘solution’ that sounds good, which lots of people “in the know” approve of but which is too esoteric or complex for most critics to understand. In this case it’s Agile development on Cloud resources tuned by User Stories. It’s a red herring trifecta! I’d be a hypocrite if I said I have not used IT judo before. It works! It always worked on Star Trek. Get in trouble and just re-phase the shield generators and send out a broad spectrum particle beam to detect cloaked vessels. It just so happens the technique works in real life too.

All kidding aside, Agile is a great development process – the approach forces simplification of grand projects into simple tasks. And it intrinsically offers the benefit that you are always working on the most important part of the project – or at least a portion that can be delivered within the coming sprint. But Agile pushes a lot of the burden of successful implementation onto the project manager. PMs take more control over product and service enhancements, really steering the course of development through prioritization. But if your product management already sucks, you will still fall off the tracks with Agile. You’ll just do it faster. Dare I say faster than an anti-matter explosion from a warp core breach. And if you don’t understand what that means, fear not – neither does US Representative Ron Barber (D-AZ). Chalk one up for Ms. Graves of the DHS.

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