In the middle of a lot of partisan twaddle Michael Barone hints at the kernel of a good idea:
Government was reasonably good at replicating the bureaucratic processes of large corporations in the industrial age. But it’s not very good — it’s often downright incompetent — at replicating the IT processes of firms such as Walmart and Amazon.
I wish there were more there about why Amazon’s systems work better but there isn’t.
I can only speculate. Amazon wasn’t an enormous giant when it started. It started fairly small and its systems have evolved over time. They have been subjected to continuing, ongoing change.
The way that federal projects are funded and let precludes such a process.
I think there’s probably room for a lot more analysis of how modern system development could be managed in the context of 21st century government but, unfortunately, you won’t find that in Mr. Barone’s article.
Again, I can only speculate. I think a network model rather than the hierarchical model would be more effective. I think that bringing the development closer to the stakeholders rather than removing it to the confines of Washington, DC would also help. Agile development just won’t work in the severely top-down federal government and today’s environment in which every failure is trumpeted from the rooftops isn’t helpful, either.
I’m reminded of Churchill’s remark that success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. That’s as good a definition of agile development strategies as any I’ve heard but I’m skeptical that our government could work that way.