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


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.

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

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