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Learn to implement modular contracting and agile development in your government organization.

Modular contracting and agile development

Below, you’ll find a collection of resources to help you understand what modular contracting is, how to implement modular contracting in your organization, and how modular contracting can enable agile development. There are presentations and white papers, but a majority of these are real RFPs, quality assurance surveillance plans, questions and answers, vendor prototype challenge solicitations, evaluation factors, statements of work, and more.

Some were created by 18F, and some are documents 18F made in collaboration with our partners. We hope that as more agencies use modular contracts, agile vendor pools, and develop software using agile methodologies, they’ll submit (via pull request, please!) their own documents for inclusion in this guide.

These documents are from various organizations using various approaches to solve their problems. None of these documents represent the “ideal” process, but we hope that you can use these real-world examples as templates and modify them as needed. Similarly, this collection doesn’t contain everything you need to know. Some of these documents even contain comments pointing out areas that could be improved, or areas where more thought is needed. We wanted to be transparent with you and show the thought process behind what you read here. But, it’s a good place to start to help your organization move from waterfall and monolithic approaches to modular contracting.

As you begin, you may have questions. We’ve answered some frequently asked questions about agile development, modular procurement, open source, and Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) software to address some common concerns.


Product strategy

  • United States Digital Service: Digital Services Playbook. Too many of our digital services projects do not work well, are delivered late, or are over budget. To increase the success rate of these projects, the U.S. government needs a new approach. The United States Digital Service created a playbook of 13 key “plays” drawn from successful practices from the private sector and government that, if followed together, will help government build effective digital services.
  • The Twelve-Factor App. This is a list of 12 different “factors” that an organization should employ when building a software as a service application. Employing these 12 factors will help minimize time and cost for new developers joining the project, offer maximum portability between environments, be deployable on modern cloud platforms, enable continuous deployment for maximum agility, and can scale up without significant changes.

Presentations

  • Modular Contracting. An 18F presentation that explains and makes the case for modular contracting, and explains the procurement and development process under a modular contracting model.

  • Qualified Vendor Pool. An 18F presentation that explains the high-level rationale and process for creating and using Qualified Vendor Pools.

  • Strangler Pattern. An 18F presentation explaining a software development technique called the Strangler (or Encapsulation) Pattern, an approach for gradually migrating organizations off legacy systems, avoiding “big bang” deployments, and drastically decreasing how long it takes end users to begin using the new system.

  • Agile and Scrum for New Teams. A presentation that accompanies a day-long 18F “Introduction to Agile and Scrum” workshop.

  • Human-Centered Design and Agile. An 18F presentation introducing human-centered design and how it relates to agile software development.

  • Organizational and Team Structure. An 18F presentation describing how organizations and teams are structured when working in an agile environment.

White papers and case studies

  • GSA’s Guide to Modular Contracting. A white paper by GSA’s Office of Government-wide Policy to assist federal agencies in employing modular contracting techniques for their major information technology development efforts. It provides useful information on the application of modular contracting techniques, and it should be used in conjunction with federal and agency regulations and directives.

  • Legacy Application Strangulation Case Studies. A series of case studies about applications of the strangler pattern.

RFP documents

Agile Vendor Pool

Prototype challenge

  • Mississippi Vendor Challenge. When evaluating who should be awarded a spot on their Agile Vendor Pool, Mississippi followed in 18F and California’s footsteps by asking vendors to prove their abilities, not just write about them. “Prose” responses to the RFP were limited to a few hundred words, and a majority of the evaluation was based on the quality of a prototype each vendor submitted in response to a challenge.

  • Mississippi Vendor Prototype Evaluation Notes. These are some thoughts about what to look for when evaluating a prototype. It’s important to have an experienced developer in the given technology perform the evaluations. While this list is a nice guideline, it is not a checklist and is not exhaustive or complete. A proficient developer should be part of the evaluation panel, and they should be able to judge whether the code is high enough quality or not.

Vendor pool evaluation and post award

Task orders to the vendor pool