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Behind the Buy #5: Managing and Delivering Digital Services for Agile Software Development

In the fifth episode of the Behind the Buy podcast, OFPP Administrator Anne Rung interviews Chris Cairns, a former founding member of a private equity company and now Managing Director of the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) 18F Consulting.

Author’s Note: The "Behind the Buy" podcast features audio stories told by members of the Federal acquisition workforce who have successfully executed best practice IT contracting strategies from the TechFAR and Digital Services Playbook to help their agency meet its mission.

In the fifth episode of the Behind the Buy podcast, OFPP Administrator Anne Rung interviews Chris Cairns, a former founding member of a private equity company and now Managing Director of the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) 18F Consulting. The GSA’s 18F Consulting team provides hands-on consulting services to Federal leaders and helps Federal agencies use modern approaches to managing and delivering digital services. Chris draws on his private sector and government experiences to describe the important role of a project manager in leading a successful agile software development project.

Chris describes the key strengths of an agile project manager, including a strong vision for the project’s end product, expertise in the software industry, and the ability to balance the needs of both the users and the agency’s mission interest. Chris also emphasizes that technical expertise, while not required in a project manager, can help a project manager to prioritize requirements.

The project manager also needs to apply and reinforce the basic principles of agile software development—an iterative, adaptive approach that utilizes cross-functional teams as opposed to one that is sequential and inflexible. This includes delivering working software every couple of weeks instead of every couple of months; ensuring that the product reflects the needs of the end user, prioritizing the development of features based on whether they are delivering value; and supporting a flexible approach to project management and structure.

From selecting the best leaders to motivating a talented team, Chris offers listeners advice on the best approaches to managing and delivering digital services for agile software development projects both within and outside the Government.

Check out episode #5 of Behind the Buy to learn more.

  • The Digital Services Playbook outlines key "plays" drawn from private and public-sector best practices to help Federal agencies deliver services that work well for users and require less time and money to develop and operate.
  • The TechFAR Handbook explains how agencies can execute key plays in the Playbook in ways consistent with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which governs how the Government buys goods and services from the private sector.

About Behind the Buy:

To share best practices from tools like the Playbook and TechFAR, members of the Federal acquisition community recommended we use more innovative communication channels. The workforce wanted an interactive way to send and receive solutions that enhance the value of IT procurements for customers and taxpayers.  Those suggestions led to the creation of the Behind the Buy audio series, or podcast, a human-centered design approach that allows procurement and program offices to listen and learn about innovative IT contracting strategies while carrying on their daily work responsibilities.

Both the Playbook and TechFAR are edited on GitHub, where they serve as living documents that can be shared and shaped by digital experts across the country.  If you have a “Playbook or TechFAR-related” experience, let us know! We’d like to hear about your success story and take the Federal community Behind the Buy

Anne Rung is the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget.