Four Best Practices for Agile Commitment and Collaboration

This is the 2nd article in a series on best practices for Agile implementation in the Federal Government.

Although progress has been made in identifying Federal IT investments with opportunities for cost savings, there is still much work to be done. The Federal Information Technology 2014 Budget Priorities report indicates that total IT Federal expenditures will reach almost $82 Billion.

In order to reduce the costs of IT development projects in Federal Agencies, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has recommended implementation of modular (or Agile) software delivery. Agile software development describes several different types of methodologies which involve close collaboration between the development team and customer, and frequent delivery of product iterations with immediate business value.

Scrum, which is one type of Agile methodology, employs the use of a cross-functional, empowered team; usually 5 to 9 people in size. The team includes a ScrumMaster and a Product Owner. The ScrumMaster facilitates consensus-based meetings, works to remove team impediments and acts as a servant leader with no authority over team members. The Product Owner creates the vision, collaborates with the team and stakeholders and understands constraints and ROI.

Agile methodologies are widely used in the private sector, but have been slower to be adopted in the public sector. A study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identifies best practices for implementing Agile methodologies within the Federal Government is a reference for government leaders.

Following are suggested practices from the GAO report that will help to structure the organizational commitment and collaboration required to prepare for an Agile environment and reduce the risk of employee resistance to change:

Ensure all contributors are committed to Agile.

Be certain that all employees contributing to a project are committed to the Agile approach and understand Agile concepts. Don’t overlook stakeholders and product owners who provide input and oversight. Conduct training as necessary. Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Product Owner training is available around the country.

Be sure to have an Agile champion.

Someone in an authority position must be an advocate and have the ability to remove impediments to the team at the organizational level. A ScrumMaster is responsible for working to remove impediments, but may not have the authority to do so. The team must stay focused on accomplishing the work, which can only happen if distractions and roadblocks are removed.

Make sure every team has a member with experience.

Because Agile teams should be self-directed, make sure that there is at least one team member with experience using Agile methodologies. Set teams up for success by making sure that the right skill sets are included.

Empower small teams.

Agile teams need to have the autonomy to decide how much work they can complete within a sprint and how to produce it. Be prepared to support the team in the decisions they make and encourage transparency. Whether the team meets the goal or not, there are no failures; only opportunities for improvement in the next sprint.

For a summary of practices and approaches helpful for strategic planning to support Agile implementation, see article 1 in our series, Six Best Practices for Agile Strategic Planning.

To continue the discussion about implementing new methodologies or increasing your capacity for Agile development, contact us.


















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