“The budget cycle takes two years.”
Vivek brings up so many great points in this piece, but one I’ve been thinking about a lot is the cycle time of government software development.
Our office space at Code for America is the old Moto Development Group office. (We lobbied Cisco to give us the space for our program, and they generously agreed.) Last May, Cisco bought Moto for an undisclosed sum in order to build up their talent in their consumer products division, the cornerstone of which was the Flip camera (which Moto had helped design). By the following April, Cisco had shut down the division and all of the former Motos who’d occupied our office were out of jobs. 11 months from acquisition to shut down.
What happened? Things just changed too fast. People don’t need a Flip camera because they have awesome video on their phones. This isn’t a knock on Cisco for not seeing that coming, it’s about the dizzying speed of technology in the world today. Except in government. Where CIOs need two years to even budget for a project that is expected to last dozens of years.
There’s no sense in this, and there’s no win for the American public in it.
A decades-old methodology for managing software development projects and other government programs isn’t serving the public good. We need to find the political will to change things, or resign ourselves to continue wasting tons of public money.