8 Common Challenges in Government Application Development

8 Common Challenges in Government Application Development

8 Common Challenges in Government Application Development

Custom software development projects are enough of a challenge even in the most permissive circumstances. To start, you’ll often be dealing with a significant amount of legacy infrastructure as well as stakeholders who need to be educated through the development process. Add a responsibility to the public and red tape into the mix, you’ll begin to realize why some developers advise against taking government contracts.

Despite these hurdles, successful application development in the public sphere is possible when developers and other stakeholders know what to expect. Once the challenges are understood, all parties can work more efficiently to meet key project milestones. In this brief guide, we delve into the multifaceted hurdles of software development for public sector entities.

1. Updating Stubborn Legacy Systems

It’s not uncommon for government stakeholders to delay updating systems because of the cost of migrating existing data and training users on replacements. Of course, as technology and user demands evolve, legacy applications will tend to require meticulous code refactoring and often tenuous stop-gap measures to ensure compatibility with current needs.

Fortunately, decades of public sector digital transformation have equipped both government and private app development stakeholders with numerous best practices for aiding transitions. Notably, approaching transitions as a people-centred challenge rather than as a strictly technical exercise will help secure buy-in, overcoming entrenched organizational inertia.

2. Procurement and Choice Justification

In less tech-savvy organizations, procuring approval for common software libraries can morph into a protracted ordeal, with points of contact at multiple levels demanding developers to furnish exhaustive justification for even the simplest decisions. In theory, this obstructionism safeguards against potential failures and abuse. In reality, it most often results in costly delays and losses of valuable project momentum. Starting projects with streamlined procurement workflows can do much to expedite decisions and accelerate progress.

3. Too Many Responsible Parties

Related to the previous challenge, decision-making within the government framework is often over-compartmentalised, much to the detriment of application development. It’s also common for different approving parties to have divergent priorities that lead to delays and inconsistencies in decisions. This can be exacerbated when stakeholders may lack direct involvement in the software's end-use, potentially leading to misguided approvals and inflated costs. Anticipating these issues and educating stakeholders can go a long way in avoiding serious delays in critical app development projects.

4. Tight Deadlines and Limited Resources

It’s not unusual for developers to grapple with constricted timelines and scarce resources, even in the private sector. However, when you add the relative slowness of many government stakeholders, projects can be left in a very precarious situation. Foreseeing these issues and negotiating more realistic deadlines is a must for getting around this problem. Critically, developers and other implementors must also push for project management methodologies maximise efficiency.

5. Project Size

Government projects are renowned for their sheer scale, encompassing both mammoth undertakings and minute tasks. Consequently, the software required for such ventures has to have an exponentially larger scale than average, amplifying the challenges associated with their management. Strictly defining project scopes as well as stakeholders’ goals and expectations right at the start should help keep development projects from ballooning uncontrollably.

6. Budgeting

Most government projects mandate upfront budget requests, sometimes spanning multiple years, which means that accurate cost estimates are rarely possible. Though some degree of inaccuracy is expected in government projects, meticulous planning and forecasting are important, nonetheless. Using financial modelling and data analysis should help governments and development partners come up with a more realistic budget.

7. Regulatory Hurdles

Government projects frequently necessitate compliance with stringent data regulations, impeding the adoption of new solutions. In many cases, the regulations make sense. Occasionally, however, they only serve to impede the project without offering any meaningful protection. Project implementors must be prepared to negotiate these regulatory minefields, either by complying efficiently or renegotiating key points. 

8. Maintaining Security Integrations

Custodianship of sensitive data mandates stringent security measures. To prevent data breaches, project stakeholders must adopt robust coding standards and conduct regular security audits to fortify systems against evolving threats. Adopting a common technology stack for all government applications should also serve to preemptively plug vulnerabilities and streamline security protocols across different projects. 

Government App Development Is a Worthy Challenge

Despite the many hurdles usually found in government software development, exercising strategic foresight and proactive mitigation will do much to guarantee any project’s success. Critically, approaching things from a more human, user-centric angle will be important for the vast majority of public app development projects, given that decision-makers may not necessarily be technically adept.

Regardless of the specific challenges, consistently turning in successful projects demands creating a culture of adaptability and innovation. Having such a culture creates opportunities to do good as well, as those involved in the implementation of public apps can positively influence the government agencies that ordered them. Properly executed app development projects can, therefore, help governments transition to a new era of efficiency and user-centeredness.

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Ujjwal Bhardwaj

Ujjwal Bhardwaj is a skilled software developer and the creator of #getwidget, a popular open-source UI library for Flutter. He also contributes to the @ionicfirebaseapp Marketplace, providing developers with valuable resources for Ionic and Firebase projects. Follow him for the latest updates and insights into his groundbreaking projects.

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