FBI Sentinel Programme Saved by Agile?
FBI Sentinel Programme Saved by Agile?
Two attempts were made to create a new case management system for FBI agents to use in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombings. The first project ,‘VCF’, was canned in 2005 with a $170m write-off.
A second attempt at building the system, now called ‘Sentinel’, was attempted, again following the waterfall lifecycle described in the FBI’s ‘Life Cycle Management Directive’. This time even more design would occur up-front with a comprehensive blueprint for the future IT environment and a fixed specification at the beginning with a variable budget. The committed budget was a staggering $425m, which included $120m for the FBI’s Sentinel Program Office, which would oversee implementation.
Soon after starting, the project started to slip, so the new CIO, Chad Fulgham, who had joined in 2008 tried to gain clarity over the project by requiring the supplier (Lockheed Martin) to deliver in incremental phases. However the only part of 4 of the planned 18 workflows had gone live with usability, performance, and quality problems. Finally, in 2010 Fulgham decided to stop the project when estimates showed that Sentinel would cost at least an additional $351m to complete on top of the $405m already spent, and would take another 6 years. Confidence in the system was so low that the use of the few functions actually delivered was officially optional. Between July and August 2010 only 132 new forms were generated in the Sentinel system – less than 1% of the 14,831 documents entered into the ACS in the same time period.
In September 2010 Fulgham announced that he would take direct management of the development and use the Scrum method. He removed all Lockheed Martin personnel from development work on the project and started to directly supervise the sub-contractors.
The number of development staff was reduced from over 125 to just 55, and progress started to be made.
The work was now organized into 670 ‘user stories’ to be developed over 21 sprints – each 2 weeks long. These user stories were documented in the Sentinel Product Backlog mapped to the original Systems Requirements Specification. Each story was allocated a number of “story points” based on the difficulty of the work associated with each. At the start of each sprint the development team identifies which stories will be developed during each sprint. And at the end of each two week regardless of whether all work is complete, the development team must test and demonstrate the system. Only those stories that passed those tests were claimed to have been completed.
Delivery has been hampered by a suspension of all system changes around the tenth anniversary of 9/11 last year, and there are still concerns about its performance and availability until the standard five-year refresh of computer hardware is completed.
According to plans Sentinel now should be ready to use, and the proof (or not) of this new agile approach is about to be made public…
Brian Wernham is author of “Agile Project Management for Government” to be published by Maitland and Strong on 31st July 2012. (Pre-order at www.maitland-and-strong.com or www.maitland-and-strong.co.uk)
Wernham, Brian (2012): Agile Project Management for Government. Leadership Skills for Implementation of Large-scale Public Sector Projects in Months, Not Years. New York, London: Maitland and Strong www.maitland-and-strong.com
OIG (2002): An Investigation of the Belated Production of Documents in the Oklahoma City Bombing Case. March 19, 2002. http://www.justice.gov/oig/special/0203/report.pdf, updated on 14/03/2002.
OIG (2006a): Sentinel Audit I: The FBI’s Pre-Acquisition Planning for and Controls Over the Sentinel Case Management System. March 2006, Report 06-14. http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/FBI/a0614/final.pdf, updated on 3/10/2006.
OIG (2006b): Sentinel Audit II: Status of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Case Management System. December 2006, Report 07-03. http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/FBI/a0703/final.pdf, updated on 30/11/2006.
OIG (2007): Sentinel Audit III: Status of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Case Management System, Audit Report 07-40. August 2007, Report 07-40. http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/FBI/a0740/final.pdf, updated on 29/08/2007.
OIG (2008): Sentinel Audit IV: Status of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Case Management System. December 2008, Report 09-05. http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/FBI/a0905/final.pdf, updated on 1/05/2009.
OIG (2009): Sentinel Audit V: Status of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Case Management System. November 2009, Report 10-03 Redacted. http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/FBI/a1003_redacted.pdf, updated on 11/09/2009.
OIG (2010a): Sentinel Audit VII: Status of the FBI’s Implementation of the Sentinel Project. October 2010, Report 11-01, updated on 15/10/2010.
OIG (2010b): Sentinel Audit VI: Status of the FBI’s Implementation of the Sentinel Project. March 2010, Report 10-22. http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/FBI/a1022.pdf, updated on 30/03/2010.
OIG (2011): Sentinel Audit VIII: Status of the FBI’s Implementation of the Sentinel Project. December 2011, Report 12-08. US OIG. http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/2011/a1208.pdf, updated on 22/12/2011.
© Brian Wernham 2012 CC BY-NC-ND