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Protest Risk in Contracts for Agile Development

Key Question: Doesn’t the fact that technical requirements for Agile software development are not defined substantially increase the risk of a protest?

No. The fact that technical requirements are developed through an Agile process should not increase the risk of a protest.

As Agile development processes have become adopted more broadly across Government it has become customary to structure contracts in this manner, which is highlighted in GAO’s 2020 report Best Practices for Agile Adoption and Implementation:

While contracting for all development methods requires definition, Agile contracts often define the Agile process and program objectives rather than detailing specific detailed requirements. For example, many contracts often rely on a statement of work in section C of the uniform contract format. The statement of work lays out a detailed presentation of the technical requirements so that contractors can provide an offer based on their unique technical solution to a well-defined need. However, having this level of detail early in the program’s life is typically not the case with Agile development because the underlying detailed requirements are unknown and not well-defined at the beginning of the acquisition process. Therefore, instead of establishing a detailed presentation of the technical requirements in a statement of work, section C could use a statement of objectives, whose goal is to develop a broadly defined statement of high-level performance objectives to provide offerors with maximum flexibility. The statement of objectives can be used with any performance-based contract and can include goals and desired outcomes of the development effort, expected performance standards, and “build iterations” for software development.


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