Failure.

We’ve all been there, and it’s not usually something to cheer about. It's “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” after all, as ABC’s Wide World of Sports famously intoned.

But is failure always negative? Not necessarily. When time is a precious commodity, as it always is when serving critical national security missions, being able to make adjustments early on can be invaluable.

 

NJVC’s software services practice creates solutions that help national security customers efficiently and effectively achieve mission outcomes and better integrate complex enterprises, with service offerings in:

  • Agile processes
  • Application modernization
  • Enterprise applications
  • Enterprise services enablement
  • Mission applications
  • Mobile applications

 

Consider the traditional development cycle. It often requires months and sometimes years to review, re-review, document, secure funding authorization, complete certification and accreditation, conduct alpha, beta, and pilot testing, and move into production. Even if you have the time to complete the process, what makes it to production may already be outdated. This poses a serious risk when your agency's mission requires staying ahead of the latest global threats.

So what happens when you don’t have the luxury of great swaths of time to make your customer's request a reality? Let’s find out when a production dilemma occurs.

Imagine we aren't talking about software, but rather a custom bicycle fabrication business. A potential customer approaches you with an idea for a bike they want to ride in the Tour de France. You’re excited (and terrified!), because your work could mean the difference between nabbing the yellow jersey and defeat. The kicker? The competition is in four weeks! Impossible, you think as your dreams of making a global splash fade before your eyes. Then you remember a software developer friend of yours talking about this great new process he and his co-workers use to radically cut production time and increase customer satisfaction: Agile. You swallow hard and agree to get it done, hoping your friend can train you up quickly.

Fortunately, your friend is equal to the task. You learn that working within an Agile framework means you break the fabrication into parts and assign these tasks to individuals or teams. The frame, the handlebars, the brakes, etc., will be in development at the same time, and your client gets to see each component as it is built.

They can tweak the design at any time, which means you can fix it at that point, instead of waiting until the end. You don’t have to put the entire bike together and find out it’s not what they wanted at all.

So you go for it.

Sure enough, when you meet with your customer a few days later, he looks at what you’ve done so far and decides the mechanical gear shifters will not cut it. He now wants to make the switch to electronic shifting, which impacts multiple other components that are still in the process of being fabricated. Failure—even though it’s not your fault. But now you know what your client really wants, and you have plenty of time to fix it. The other folks working on their components can now adapt them to the new gear shifters, saving time and money.

This Agile stuff really works, you think, and pencil your client in for further meetings at one, two and three weeks out.

Four weeks later, voilà! Your client’s bike is ready. He’s thrilled, you’re thrilled, and although he doesn’t win the Tour de France, you know you’ve hit upon a winning strategy. At each of those meetings, there was something the client wanted to change, something he didn’t like, but you were able to make adjustments as needed, saving significantly in time and money. Failures happened, and you improved because of them.

The same holds true when Agile principles are applied to problems of much greater significance.

On a global scale, software applications are being developed to counter the threats of terrorists and extremists. Unfortunately, the standard U.S. government application development cycle lags far behind how quickly these groups adopt new technologies, roughly 14 months behind.

The solution? Agile and its routine course corrections.

Failing fast means not only time and money saved, but the safety and lives of possibly millions of people, both on our native soil and abroad. Geospatial mapping, situational awareness, navigation and communication apps that support the war fighter or first responders can be developed in record time when failure is embraced and used as a springboard for improved functionality and design.
 
So is failure always a bad thing? Not at all. When used to glean valuable information and streamline processes, it paves the way to victory.