Agile Government Leadership | Agile Leadership Blog
A community-powered network of agile government professionals. By bringing applied agile practices to government, we want to redefine the culture of local, state and federal public sector service delivery across all aspects of government.
The California Department of Technology (CDT) on Wednesday issued a new statewide policy on open data to encourage transparency and provide guidance for state staff who publish data sets.
“The newly announced Open Data Policy sets a new standard and officializes open data as a policy priority in government operations. All previous open data efforts have been volunteered-based. Having a policy in place provides guidance, standards, and gives departments the permission to start, continue, or enhance their data-driven efforts,” the California Government Operations Agency said about the policy.
Signed by CDT Director Amy Tong, Technology Letter 19-01 updates the State Administrative Manual to redefine “Open Data” and metadata” for state programs. The new policy also announced a statewide portal (data.ca.gov) for agencies to collaborate across government and launched a new handbook for staff who identify and publish data.
“This Open Data policy promotes more accessible, discoverable, and usable data that impacts economic development and improves government services. In addition, open data encourages informed policy decisions, performance planning, research and scientific discoveries, and increased public participation in democratic dialogue,” says the letter.
Public sector agencies across California are successfully incorporating Agile frameworks into their daily responsibilities.
Coming from a background in government with zero exposure to Agile, I recently completed the Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO) trainings offered by the KAIP Academy. These certification courses introduced me to the new way of thinking that the Agile discipline embodies.
The trainings were incredibly helpful now that I am working as a consultant for a large California state agency that has incorporated Scrum and Agile into its IT system modernization initiatives. Holding daily standups, working within sprints, and embracing iterative development are all used to accomplish the work.
To see first-hand Agile concepts used in practice by the public sector demonstrates the value of the framework and the benefit of taking a different approach to IT projects. This is something I wouldn’t be able to truly appreciate without the foundation of knowledge from the trainings and an understanding of how Agile works. More importantly, it would have been difficult to perform my job without the concepts obtained in the CSM and CSPO classes.
It’s encouraging to see that Agile can work effectively in a government setting and I hope others without a background in Agile are able to benefit from CSM or CSPO trainings.
Interested in taking one of KAIP Academy’s Certified ScrumMaster® or Certified Scrum Product Owner® courses? Click here.
AGL and Code California hosted Chaeny Emanavin, Director of the Office of Innovation within the California Health and Human Services Agency, and Angie Quirarte, Assistant Secretary for Digital Engagement at California Government Operations Agency, for a town hall-style talk with audience questions.
Putting Open Source to Work for California: Town Hall Talk with Chaeny Emanavin - YouTube
GovOps Assistant Secretary Angie Quirarte explains Code California and the state’s commitment to a collaborative tech ecosystem (1:00)
Chaeny Emanavin on his unusual path into public service and how to bring learnings from the federal space into state government (6:44)
Bringing methodologies of human centered design and journey mapping into state service (12:35)
Extending government’s ability for impact by creating an open source conduit for people to use public data for good (14:15)
The two main goals of the California Office of Innovation (15:15)
How “product” is different from “project” — and the common mistake government makes in distinguishing the two (18:15)
How “6-week assignments” at the Office of Innovation help employees across departments solve specific problems using human centered design, product management, design thinking, and humanware (20:00)
How to pinpoint redundancies and pay attention to the “human aspects” before you start to build code and products (24:25)
What the Office of Innovation is doing to build knowledge sharing and community around open source and government collaboration efforts (32:00)
Don’t just train people in government modernization skills — give them a chance to practice them (39:30)
What vendors should know if they want to work with the state of California (43:00)
Chaeny’s career advice to aspiring government innovators (46:00)
10:18 Polly Hall says “there are more effective metrics” than EVM for showing satisfactory work on agile contracts – one of which is customer satisfaction
12:25 Getting to the heart of business value: what can we use to satisfy contracting officers to hold vendors accountable?
14:03 How U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is trying functional ways to measure success and performance across many agile teams (i.e., number of requirements delivered, rate of deployments, mean time to recover from outages)
15:50 How to measure ongoing contract success from an open source software perspective (i.e., independent third party deployability of the software throughout the development cycle)
18:29 How agile tools of transparency can replace what we think of as “reporting” or metrics (i.e., Slack, Trello, Jira)
21:04 What contracting officers need to understand about agile
22:51 Joshua Seckel: “Focus on outcomes, not outputs.”
25:30 How open source projects provide more accountability and quality (Hint: developers work faster and better when they’re working alongside and being reviewed by other engineers)
27:37 Why shorter, modular contract structures can improve performance and provide more functional products
30:23 Polly Hall: “Build incentives into a contract and be willing to walk away if performance isn’t there.”
30:51 What happens when contractors are prevented from doing good work by the government’s failure to follow agile practices
35:03 How government can work with vendors throughout the process to build trust and learn together
36:51 Karl Fogel shares a crucial question government customers should ask themselves
39:09 How do you scale trust and build communication when you have many people and contracts all working at the same time?
41:30 Paula Wagner shares techniques from USCIS for avoiding vendor lock-in and diversifying cloud infrastructure
43:38 Each vendor on a project must cooperate and collaborate with the other vendors — write it into the contract!
45:48 How working in the open can benefit a project — and why this is a struggle for risk-averse government agencies
49:48 How government can work on de-scaling work and scope rather than scaling teams (i.e., microservices)
51:50 Tactical advice and resources
54:54 Polly Hall: “At DHS we treat our procurements as agile projects, bringing the principles and rituals of agile into the procurement process — even including ‘retrospectives’ by interviewing offerers and using their feedback to iterate and improve.”
Last month at an innovation conference in Sacramento, a government executive sat on stage and qualified a reference to “agile” with “dare I say it,” implying the term has sometimes been overused, confusing or misapplied in the public sector.
There is growing evidence the term ‘agile’ is facing backlash, or at least that the glorification of it as a prescriptive formula is casting a shadow on its potential to have positive impact in government. The value of agile fundamentals like rapid iteration and user-centered design remain undisputed, but semantics can make it difficult to embrace a word that has acquired so much baggage.
Exacerbating this problem is the vast number of projects, vendors, and agencies that claim to be using agile, but aren’t — to the extent that the U.S. Department of Defense recently published guidance to help program executives detect “agile BS” and ensure projects are truly benefiting from the real thing.
In a December Medium post, Agile without ‘agile’, British economist James Plunkett makes the case for drawing value from agile methodologies without being distracted by the term — instead focusing on “irreducible principles” such as defining solutions based on user needs, building solutions quickly and simply at first, and using real-world testing.
“One of the challenges of agile is the word ‘agile’. Even now, the word puts some people off. They get, understandably, skeptical about the jargon, dismissing otherwise helpful insights as yet another digital fad,” said Plunkett in his post. “Meanwhile, other people end up embracing nothing but the jargon, without the substance underneath. They start standing up for their meetings and think this will deliver better outcomes for their customers or users.”
Federal Computer Week columnist Steve Kelman expands on Plunkett’s theme: “Above all, we need to translate agile rhetoric into agile action. That is a responsibility for both government folks and vendors, but government folks are in the best position to effectuate such a change because their signals and their behaviors will signal to the vendor community what is valued and frowned on,” he said in his recent column, “Agile without the baggage“.
Government is slow to change and lags behind the corporate world in the adoption of modern digital strategies and user-focused culture. This makes our choice of terms and definitions more important than ever as the public sector works to be more open, iterative, and collaborative with the adoption of agile . . . or whatever you call it.
AGL and Code California hosted Rebecca Woordbury, Director of Digital Service and Open Government at San Rafael, and Angie Quirarte, Assistant Secretary for Digital Engagement at California Government Operations Agency, for a town hall-style talk with audience questions.
How Code California aims to take a unique approach to implementing open source policy (4:20)
How San Rafael is re-imagining government in the 21st century (16:24)
On questioning the status quo and learning from failure (17:35)
On the agile revamp of the city website and working in the open (19:30)
Taking transparency and communication beyond “the letter of the law” (20:55)
Giving back to the local government community through openness (24:12)
Overcoming resistance to open culture (26:28)
Sharing information or tools across agencies (35:49)
Examples of getting feedback from the public (36:15)
Background Last month, Rebecca gave an Ignite Talk at the Code California launch event where she talked about how her city is building and embracing a culture of openness and its benefits to digital services, including such projects as converting the employee intranet to a public-facing website.
In her role, she oversees initiatives to: deliver new, innovative digital services to the residents of San Rafael; design better ways of involving and engaging with the community, especially under-served populations; and build a culture where city employees work in the open and share across organizations.
In the online discussion on January 25, Rebecca will provide a more in-depth version of her presentation and answer questions from the audience.
Last week in his first budget proposal after taking office on January 7, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed to create a new Office of Digital Innovation within the Government Operations Agency. Staffed by 50 new positions and a budget of $36 million, the new office will aim to make the delivery of government services more efficient, starting with the Department of Motor Vehicles and its “significant customer service challenges.”
“The Office will engage departments and stakeholders throughout the state to implement user-centric design, iterative software development, customer feedback loops, and other tools necessary to build a culture of continuous program improvement and 21st Century service delivery methods,” says the budget summary.
The proposal includes an innovation academy, a training program and a one-time $20 million innovation fund to help California state agencies prioritize efforts to “demonstrate transformational customer-focused digital service delivery.”
AGL members recently met to discuss vision and strategy for building an empowered and connected government innovation community.
The outcome of their conversation is captured in an article that highlights these goals:
Help government innovators find each other
Help people learn
Encourage better dialogue
Increase safety for government innovators
Create opportunities for partnership
Support and celebrate individuals
These goals recognize that people are the cornerstone of any successful effort to make government work better. AGL’s member community provides a support network and collaboration opportunities for government professionals who are working to bring modern, innovative practices to the public sector.