Perseverance, the IRS, and Partnering

If you never know failure,. you will never know success.

Posted by Tracy Bannon on Wednesday, September 29, 2021

#StraightTalk4Gov and sharing of experience stories is a passion for me. I’ve been thinking about the importance of learn fast/fail fast whether yesterday or earlier. We have a responsibility to share the stories that highlight culture building, organizational change, policy bending, and perseverance

A few years ago I had the opportunity to collaborate with Aaron Francensconi, Amin Qazi, Rupesh Kumar and others at the IRS on adopting agile principles and growing a DevOps practice. Like many government agencies, there were many different attempts to “do DevOps” without clearly defining the flow of value and the risks to address. Some of the earliest initiatives created integrated toolchains by teams separate from the software delivery teams.

As happen sometimes, especially with government organizations, the contracting for the “pipeline engineering” was parceled out and separate from the delivery teams. The value this brought was actually in the learning: pipelines need to be built in conjunction with the delivery teams who will use them.

Even those teams eager to leverage the pre-selected DevOps tools were very concerned in the adoption process. The majority of the software was not net new or greenfield. That meant changing processes and retrofitting the software delivery approach to use the DevOps tools and in some instances, complete refactoring or rewriting of existing capabilities.

Adoption, even with enablement from a center of excellence could have wide ranging contracting challenges, scheduling, and training needs. The fears of the project teams were well founded. Existing contracts and schedules did not include additional resources for adopting DevOps principles and capabilities for work in flight.

Many different tool vendors and organizations were in the mix especially considering the massive software and software intensive solutions needed to power the IRS software ecosystem. Added complexity atop this growing challenge were the existing integrations and the huge number of pre-existing tools and tool-chains.

Given priorities, I was refocused on another federal government program and the IRS team continued forward. Of course, one always keeps an eye on efforts they were a part of to learn how they morph and change. What’s the straight talk on how the IRS moved the needle on DevOps? Patience, perseverance, and meeting project teams where they are. Initial efforts were siloed and the adoption was low at best. By working through contract cycles, working collaboratively, and having a shared vision, the effort began to take shape!

The IRS also needed to overcome an overly diverse tool chest and identify a unifying CI/CD platform offering that could be tailored to IRS needs. The IRS chose Cloudbees CI. The IRS along with many system integrators, vendors, and their platform partners, Cloudbees, have a pretty remarkable story to tell. Read more about the approach and the impact of informed partnering can make here:

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