How firm fixed price (FFP) rubs against agile

the rub

Firm-Fixed-Price” Ceiling Prices places an undue and unfair risk on the Contractor by shifting the burden to the Contractor. This is the rub with agile development and software development in general because when Customers hire agile Contractors, they expect Contractors to be flexible and agile enough to deal with their changing and evolving requirements.

Three Simple Truths of Agile

With agile development, there are three simple truths:

  1. It is impossible to know or gather all requirements and details in the beginning of a project
  2. Requirements and details are guaranteed to change throughout the course of the project
  3. We will never have enough time or money to do everything we want

Agile Coaching the Client

Part of our job as agile developers is to be an Agile Coach to our clients. We have to state these 3 simple truths in the beginning – in fact in our proposal.  And, we need to constantly remind them throughout the entire length of the project and contract.

Secondly, the only way the client can have it both ways, i.e., firm fixed price AND agile, which implies the ability to change requirements as they evolve is to recognize that there are 3 variables to project management (Cost, Scope, Definition of Done) and ONLY ONE of those variables can be fixed.  If price is fixed then Scope and Definition of Done must be flexible.

This also has to be stated in our assumptions and we need to remind them throughout the lifetime of the contract.

This has proven successful for me and Agileana and over time, the client starts to repeat my words back to me and remind me of these truths.  That is how I know they are getting it and I have done my job with agile coaching the client as well as my developers.

Even my developers push back to me when I test and give feedback on the user experience, “but we did it according to the wire frames,” they say.  True, but with agile, we have to embrace the feedback from our users after they get to test the product and if they tell us that something doesn’t seem right or make sense, we have to be flexible enough to accept that feedback and improve the UX.

Agile is a new way of doing business to the government and the TECH FAR is a new approach to procuring technology.

The government is seeking younger, modern, progressive, new-to-government contractors and I think there is definitely a rub between the way old schoolers have been doing it and the way new schoolers want it to be done.

We have to be flexible, which is what the government describes as agile.