Making Agile Work for Government: Addressing the Challenges of Agile Adoption

[article]

To address this shortcoming in the government space, it is useful to develop a core set of tailor-able “project management framework” documents that can be easily adapted and used by new project teams as both a process reference and an on-boarding and transition guide throughout the remainder of the project lifecycle. Building on industry and project management best-practice principles (PMBOK, CMMI, etc.), this framework should at a minimum allow each project team to quickly and succinctly capture its core objectives and acceptance criteria, processes, and roles and responsibilities, and to track its progress against agency-approved performance parameters. In practice, this “framework” includes three parts:

  1. Project management plan (PMP) that captures the objectives, operational processes, roles and responsibilities , and communications principles of the project team(s);
  2. Tools (from simplified “dashboards” built in Excel to adaptations of enterprise application lifecycle management (ALM) systems) to capture and track project progress against established performance metrics – at a minimum, cost, schedule, and quality targets for each iteration and release; and
  3. Compliance-related documents and deliverables expected as part of the agency’s development lifecycle, tailored with agency approval to better match the project’s iterative development approach and integrated into the delivery schedule.

It can be challenging for practitioners to effectively adapt these more structured elements to the unique needs of a blended-agile project without introducing undue inefficiency to the delivery process, which is why it is critical that project leadership be well-versed in both agile and traditional approaches, and must work closely with government leadership to ensure that the artifacts and tools implemented effectively meet the needs of both the project and the agency. Once implemented, however, these framework elements provide a centralized process reference for all team members – both original and new – and introduce an additional level of process discipline and repeatability that can further increase delivery consistency, reduce ramp-up and transition times, and ensure that even widely distributed project teams remain aligned with the agency’s delivery expectations.

Conclusion
When implemented properly, a blended approach to agile development offers government agencies the opportunity to leverage the greatest strengths of the agile methodology (speed, flexibility, and efficiency) while improving program accountability and reducing delivery risk – thereby increasing the likelihood that the program will deliver expected outcomes on time and on budget.

Implementing any new methodology bears adoption risks, but the blended agile approach offers the added benefit of minimizing the “newness factor” by retaining and re-purposing many of the familiar elements of an agency’s existing delivery lifecycle.

While no development methodology comes without its challenges, a blended approach to agile that carefully integrates core agile principles (short, time-bounded iterations that deliver measurable functionality) with disciplined program management elements drawn from industry best-practice offers government agencies a powerful opportunity to increase program efficiency and flexibility while retaining the high level of operational control, risk management, and accountability they (and the public) have come to expect.


Read all of the articles on Making Agile Work for Government:

Making Agile Work for Government: A Blended Approach
Making Agile Work for Government: Perceived Challenges to Agile Adoption
Making Agile Work for Government: Addressing the Challenges of Agile Adoption

About the author

Erich Knausenberger's picture Erich Knausenberger

With over ten years’ professional experience in business consulting, strategic planning, and program management for clients ranging from government agencies to nonprofit organizations, Erich Knausenberger brings a background in organizational transformation, process improvement, and operational efficiency enhancement to his work at Sapient. Erich holds an MBA from Georgetown University and the ESADE Business School, and is an ITIL-certified PMP.

About the author

Raj Shah's picture Raj Shah

As the head of Sapient Global Security and Critical Infrastructure division, Raj brings to Sapient 16+ years of experience providing holistic insight and deep technological expertise. Working with both commercial and government clients, he has a background in technology planning, strategy, and software architecture design and development. Raj has been instrumental in Sapient’s growing account with the Department of Homeland Security, including work with US Customs and Border Protection and the US Immigration and the Customs Enforcement agencies. His focus includes expanding our presence with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and the intelligence community. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

AgileConnection is one of the growing communities of the TechWell network.

Featuring fresh, insightful stories, TechWell.com is the place to go for what is happening in software development and delivery.  Join the conversation now!

Upcoming Events

Sep 24
Oct 12
Nov 09
Nov 09