Ask technical questions of agencies
Budget requests for custom software often feature non-technical people making a technical proposal to other non-technical people. This process doesn’t lend itself to asking key questions, such as many of those found throughout this handbook. It is important to ask all of those difficult technical questions, and to insist on getting the right answers (see Appendix A for sample questions and answers).
It is no kindness to fund a project that is going to fail. If the agency doesn’t know exactly what they want to buy, they’re not going to get it.
- The agency will rely on the U.S. Digital Service’s Digital Services Playbook
- If building a website, the agency will direct the vendor to use the United States Web Design System (USWDS)
- The agency will adhere to the Defense Innovation Board’s "Ten Commandments of Software"
- The agency has read this handbook
- The rules and questions found in the Defense Innovation Board’s "Detecting Agile BS" guide have been applied to and asked of the agency, and their answers are satisfactory
- What exactly does the agency want to buy? Why? Who will benefit?
- Which parts of the system will be custom? Which will be actual (not customized) COTS? How much will those updates cost? What will be done when a commercial component ends production — e.g., if the database company goes out of business?
- Who are the end users of your system? Have you talked to them? What do they want?
- Are you prepared for when changes need to be made?
- How much will it cost to move to a new system?
- What are you doing to avoid paying expensive change fees in the future?