Cost Savings through Agile Implementation: 8 Best Practices

This is the 3rd article in a series on best practices for Agile implementation in the Federal Government.

The Federal IT Dashboard has helped to track Federal IT expenditures and reporting. The IT Dashboard Treemap shows current annual IT expenditures by agency. With $79.5 Billion in IT spending for FY13, there is good reason to look at opportunities for cost savings.

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.

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 prepare your organization to adopt Agile methodologies and ease the transition:

Train the entire organization in Agile.

Train all members of the organization, not just those that will be directly involved on a team. Managers need to know what type of commitment will be involved and everyone needs to know that the team is focused only on the tasks in the current Sprint; all other work is set-aside.

Be sure you have appropriate subject matter experts.

Team members who are subject matter experts or Product Owners who are part of the team must have the necessary knowledge. Having the appropriate staff will reduce delays caused by additional time to research needed information.

Begin using Agile terminology.

Using agile terminology such as Scrum, Backlog, Agile Center of Excellence, etc. will remind everyone that you are not doing business as usual anymore.

Use the physical environment to support Agile.

Many adopters of Agile co-locate teams in order to foster communication and reduce distractions. If co-location is not possible, implement the use of tools to connect team members.

Establish measurable outcomes.

Track the planned v. actuals of your Agile business rhythms.  For example, are you having your Scrum call every Monday as you had planned?

Work with stakeholders to adjust oversight requirements.

In the Federal space, this may be a difficult step to achieve. Whenever possible, discuss ahead of time, the possibility of using frequent product reviews to build trust and reduce the amount of documentation required.

Discuss the Definition of Done.

The Definition of Done should be well defined and measurable. Vague and subjective descriptions for a finished product will ultimately result in confusion and frustration for the team.

Contracts should support Agile.

If at all possible, contracting language should support Agile practices. Waterfall-based artifacts and extensive documentation will be contrary to Agile methods.

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.

For a discussion of the organizational commitment and collaboration to achieve Agile, see article 2 in our series, Four Best Practices for Agile Commitment and Collaboration.

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


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