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Agile Apps for U.S. Army

The U.S. Army found a way to fight the sluggishness of traditional software development that's slowed even further by legendary government bureaucracy: go Agile.

Speed is the new weapon in the Army's battle plan for getting new applications worked up and into the field as quickly as possible. Winners were announced today for a coding contest called Apps for the Army, which “marks a shift away from traditional Army development practices by using the latest in Agile development methods, while focusing on rapid deployment,” according to an announcement from the Army CIO's office.

The contest -- dubbed A4A -- sought to enlist the latest trends in development: mobile apps developed within the cloud. The coding challenge “was set up to test a rapid-acquisition process for software applications -- similar to what is done when developing applications for both the iPhone and Android cellular phones,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, the Army's CIO, in another announcement.

The winners of the contest were announced this week at the Army's LandWarNet Conference in Tampa, Fla. The top applications in five different categories include a physical training program developed for iOS; a telehealth mood tracker for Android and iOS; a disaster relief app for Android; a movement projection program for Android; and a new recruit tool for Android.

The contest started March 1 and ended 75 days later, with 141 contestants -- including soldiers and Army civilians -- providing 53 mobile or Web apps. Some entries were produced by teams. All had access to a cross-platform, cloud based, secure development environment.
According to the Army's announcement, the speedy process used in A4A eliminates the need for writing a requirements document and request for proposal. It also bypasses the "bureaucratic acquisition process that sort of slows us down in trying to deliver a capability," Sorenson said.

"We haven't walked through all the capabilities, but I think this contest ... portends a way for how we can more rapidly develop applications in the future, using the collaborative forums to help define the requirements, using this contest methodology to go out and have companies participate, and then build it in a manner that we can more rapidly bring it in," he said.

A complete list of winners and honorable mentions, along with details of the winning apps, is available online.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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