I’m just finishing up my first week at MITH. What a smart, friendly group to be a part of, and with such exciting prospects for future work. Riding along the Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch trails to and from campus certainly helps. Let’s just say I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join MITH, and will be writing more about the work as I learn more, and get to work.

But I already have a question, that I’m hoping you can help me with.

I’ve been out of academia for over ten years. In my time away I’ve focused on my role as an agile software developer – increasingly with a lower case “a”. Working directly with the users of software (stakeholders, customers, etc), and getting the software into their hands as early as possible to inform the next iteration of work has been very rewarding. I’ve seen it work again, and again, and I suspect you have too on your own projects.

What I’m wondering is if you know of any tips, books, articles, etc on how to apply these agile practices in the context of grant funded projects. I’m still re-aquainting myself with how grants are tracked, and reported, but it seems to me that they seem to often encourage fairly detailed schedules of work, and cost estimates based on time spent on particular tasks, which (from 10,000 ft) reminds me a bit of the waterfall.

Who usually acts as the product owner in grant drive software development projects? How easy is it to adapt schedules and plans based on what you have learned in a past iteration? How do you get working software into the hands of its potential users as soon as possible? How often do you meet, and what is the focus of discussion? Are there particular funding bodies that appreciate agile software development? Are grants normally focused on publishing research and data instead of software products?

Any links, references, citations, tips or advice you could send my way here, (???), or email would be greatly appreciated. I’ve already got Bethany Nowviskie’s Lazy Consensus bookmarked for re-reading :-)