VA's Scheduling System Revamp Will Be Big Test Of Agency's Agile Approach

Jack Moore | | August 29, 2014

The last attempt by the Department of Veterans Affairs to update the system used by hundreds of VA facilities nationwide to schedule and manage veterans’ medical appointments was one of those failed IT projects that have come to hog the spotlight in the age.  In 2009, after eight years of development and costing $167 million, VA canceled that program after it failed to deliver the promised capability.  VA this week announced it would kick off the search for a full replacement system beginning next month.

And even amid the scandal over the agency’s handling of patient times -- stemming in no small part from the archaic system VA had been saddled with -- agency IT officials are bullish failure won’t be an option this time.  That’s because since the failure of that last attempt, VA has been taking a new approach to modernizing its legacy IT systems. Rather than building massive, monolithic systems with development lead times stretching into years, the agency is breaking big projects into smaller pieces and making sure they can deliver functionality in the short term.

It’s called agile, or modular, development. Five years ago, VA began pushing project managers to deliver key parts of projects in six months or less. If a project couldn’t meet those deadlines, it faced the chopping block...