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Does Government 2.0 mean a move to the Extreme? [Extreme Programming]


November 17, 2010

Doug Hadden, VP Products

Web 2.0 is about the continuous beta. Iteration. Constant tweaking. This seems to go against the typical project governance and enterprise architecture disciplines practiced by governments.

More agile development methods like extreme programming can be effective for the continuous beta. While considering methdology, risk management and IT governance for my upcoming seminar at the Financial Management Institute (FMI) in Gatineau – it occured to me that government might be ready for the extreme. Or, other forms of agile development.

Here’s a first draft on why this makes sense, with some generalizations that may not be true in all cases:


Traditional IT Projects

Government 2.0


Proprietary back-office systems with proprietary standards

Generally open standards, well-accepted, following Web Services standards


Large proprietary objects

Small components, often replaceable

Enterprise architecture


Moderate if self-hosted, negligible if hosted on cloud




Programming focus

Functional completeness


Technical capacity required



Government presence

Out of Network

In Network

Reputational risks/reward

Moderate to medium high


Expected results

Generally predictable

Can have many unexpected outcomes

Governance structure

Mostly top-down and formal

Bottom-up with governance structures built into the software (i.e. peer review, moderation etc.)

Control paradigm

Central control

Give up control to the periphery

Thinking paradigm

Conventional “open-loop” thinking

Systems “closed-loop” thinking, design thinking

Design paradigm

Considerable design prior to implementation

Feedback loops built in

Security concerns

Security of transactional data, privacy


My analysis suggests that more agile implementation methods are likely to generate quicker success in Government 2.0 than traditional governance methods. My experience is that agile development can present problems when software architectural design or significant extensibility is required. However, these techiques are very effective for project development, adapting existing software and experimentations. Some benefits of these methodologies include:

  • Short iterations to ensure meeting changing needs and user feedback
  • Focus on creating the interface wireframe, so solidifies usability quickly
  • Small improvements over time give quick wins rather than the traditional roll-out of complex new feature sets and usability changes

It stands to reason that this approach can enhance tools used for Government 2.0:

  • Open source and commercial tools enable configuration and customization from changing templates to adding functionality like rich text editors
  • Use of existing social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or Ning
  • Ability to add widgets and embed content without programming
  • Integration standards such as RSS feeds and Web Services enables integration of data across applications
  • General ease of deployment to mobile platforms
  • Ability to monitor or beta changes to see usage through analytics
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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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