Image showcasing the FBI's Agile transformation with FBI Sentinel, a successful case support system

Rescuing the FBI’s Failed Software Project with Scrum Approach


The FBI Automated Case Support (ACS) system, built in the mid-90s, was outdated and inadequate for the modern FBI.

The Virtual Case File (VCF) project was initiated in 2001 to replace it.

However, after four years of development, it was evident that the project failed, resulting in a loss of $170 million.

The new FBI director, Robert Mueller, sought funding from Congress to start afresh.

In 2006, Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract for a new project called FBI Sentinel.

Despite optimistic expectations, by 2010, only 1.5 of the four planned phases were completed, with a majority of the budget exhausted and two-thirds of the time allocated.

An external audit estimated an additional $351 million and six years to finish the project.

Realizing the dire situation, Mueller made crucial changes. He hired Agile experts from the private sector, Jeff Johnson and Chad Fulcrum, as CIO and CTO, respectively.

They canceled outsourcing contracts and brought development in-house. With a dedicated team of 40 developers and a focused Scrum studio, Sentinel was completed in just over a year, costing $30 million.

In May 2012, field tests confirmed Sentinel’s readiness, but deployment was delayed due to proprietary hardware constraints.

Finally, in August 2012, Jeff Johnson publicly demonstrated Sentinel in production

This cautionary tale emphasizes the importance of agile methodologies and strong leadership in software development projects.

By adopting Agile and Scrum practices, the FBI was able to rescue the failing project, achieve remarkable results within a limited timeframe, and significantly reduce costs.

Watch the full video here:

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