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FCW : September 30, 2013
September 30, 2013 FCW.COM 29 EDUCATE EXECUTIVES ON THE BENEFITS OF AGILE Finding a champion tops the list of steps to successful agile implementation and execution. The most common barriers to that support are executives' lack of time to oversee a project, their need for more information to make an informed decision and their fear of losing control. Today, one would be hard-pressed to nd agency IT or operations executives who have not heard of agile, but few know how to make it work in government envi- ronments. A good way to overcome the rst two barriers is to set up an executive- level brie ng that shows why agile is the right approach. To overcome an executive's skepticism or reluctance to cede control, uncover the source of concerns through one-on-one conversations. CONDUCT A RIGOROUS OPERATIONAL ANALYSIS When one or several executives have offered their support, the team can begin to identify the right systems or processes for applying agile to O&M. Conducting a thorough OA will help: • Determine where in the system life cycle the operating investments are cur- rently situated. • Gauge the extent to which investments are improving administrative ef ciency or citizen services. • Determine whether investments are continuing to help the agency ful ll its strategic goals. • Identify which steady-state and mixed- cycle investments are good candidates for agile methods. Such an integrated process will encour- age development and operations teams to collaborate on building and managing a system throughout its life cycle. Improved collaboration between development and production teams reduces costs and risks while raising customer satisfaction by delivering upgrades at the optimal times. Conducting routine OAs will close the loop started with the CPIC process by giv- ing development and operations teams shared visibility and accountability for a system's performance after its release. The Of ce of Management and Budget's guidance on OA suggests agencies should address 17 key factors that can help iden- tify systems in need of enhancements or updates, and uncover: • Areas for innovation in customer satis- faction, strategic and business results, and nancial performance. • The need to redesign, modify or termi- nate an investment. • Recommendations for redesigning or modifying an asset to head off potential problems. The demand for service delivery and administrative ef ciency is rising, and sequestration cuts are leaving few budgets untouched, so making the right judg- ment call on whether to enhance or retire a system is more crucial than ever. Why? Because as systems reach their retirement or disposal phase, the cost of running them escalates rapidly over time. PREPARE THE ORGANIZATION FOR AGILE The next step is to assess the readiness of the organization, project manager, team and stakeholders to adopt agile practices. That readiness should be measured in the following areas: • Innovation --- How much do the organi- zation, project manager, team and stake- holders value innovation and creativity over organizational stability? • Independence --- To what extent can people make independent, product-related decisions without consulting other groups in the organization? • Risk tolerance --- How willing are peo- ple to accept and work with uncertainty? • Resource allocation --- To what extent are people able to devote resources full- time to one investment rather than dividing their time among multiple investments? • Flexibility --- How easily does the orga- nization accept multiple approaches to documentation and the measurement of progress? • Customer focus --- To what extent can customers and the organization partner with one another? Regardless of an organization's agile maturity, having teams with the right skill set will help ensure the success of an agile O&M effort. The ndings of a recent survey of participants in an ESI International Agile for Government Executives workshop corroborated that conclusion: Participants cited the lack of teams with the right skill set as a critical barrier to implementing agile at agencies. The high investment in existing infra- structure and the budget-driven need to operate systems for a longer period point to the need for better, more agile approach- es to managing O&M. Agile methods are a well-recognized approach to managing those challenges more effectively and should be the standard for any government agency that wants to realize the bene ts of improved operational ef ciency. ■ Peter Schmidt is vice president of client services at ESI International. eagile
September 15, 2013
October 30, 2013