The Social Security Administration (SSA) has failed to implement key practices and appropriate controls to manage its agile software development projects, the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a new report.

SSA agreed with most of the corrective measures proposed by the OIG report, and faces a 60-day deadline to come up with an action plan that addresses the OIG recommendations.

Agile software development is used widely in government and industry, and emphasizes iterative approaches to project management and software development that deliver results in smaller and more frequent increments.

The new audit report from the agency OIG looks at how SSA has implemented agile software development, and finds that SSA has not met some of the requirements laid out by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“There were instances where SSA did not meet the Agile principle of early and continuous delivery of valuable software to customers. Also, SSA did not ensure data the Agile project management tool provided were reliable,” the OIG audit says.

“Further, SSA needed to improve Agile training at the team and executive levels,” the audit says. “Finally, we identified opportunities for SSA to improve its decision making, gain efficiencies, and better position staff for success using the Agile development methodology,” it says.

The OIG audit lists 12 recommendations that it says will help put SSA back on track for meeting OMB requirements:

  • Select and adopt an Agile scaling framework that defines roles and establishes minimum and recommended practices and documentation;
  • Leverage strategic-level portfolio planning capabilities, like those of VersionOne;
  • Revise Agile development guidance to require implementation of and controls over key best practices, including those we described;
  • Strengthen its controls to more effectively enforce implementation of the updated Agile guidance among projects and teams;
  • Ensure its system environment, architecture, and design support incremental delivery to production;
  • Revise policies and procedures to require incremental delivery of systems to users whenever possible;
  • Prioritize the incremental replacement and retirement of costly legacy systems and/or those approaching end-of-life for vendor support;
  • Develop, document, implement, and enforce additional VersionOne standards informed by best practices, including those we identified;
  • Create a standard centralized set of reports at the program and portfolio level;
  • Evaluate its Agile training content and requirements to ensure team members can apply;
  • Institute a program of technical practice coaching and bolster the required knowledge and experience necessary to take on the role of Agile coach; and
  • Institute a program of executive-level Agile coaching.
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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.