5th January 2017

6 reasons why Agile works for central government

In the commercial world, Agile working is being actively adopted. Indeed, the latest research from Forrester revealed that in the last two years the number of companies going Agile has doubled.

Because of its popularity there, Agile can sometimes be assumed to be more suited to the corporate world, rather than something useful for central government and public sector organisations. However, adopting Agile is simply about responding and adapting quickly and progressing in short iterations rather than specifying all the requirements and functionality up-front. It’s something that central government development projects can – and are – benefiting from.

Here are six compelling reasons why Agile works for central government projects.

1. It’s quicker and cheaper than traditional development
Agile ensures feedback is gathered sooner so missteps and bugs are found early, changes identified and enables a rapid response to stakeholder needs. This is in contrast to more traditional approaches where a large amount of upfront planning occurs and results are discovered at the testing phase. This is often much too late in the process and resultant changes entail a lot of reworking. As Agile avoids this it tends to cost less and gets to the resolution more quickly.

2. It brings higher quality results
Because of the extensive and early feedback Agile garners, the quality across a project is much higher. Products and services tend to work more efficiently and are a much better fit for their purpose. Clearly this is vital when delivering relevant services and transactional systems.

3. End-user and stakeholder requirements are met
Service users and stakeholders get what they need because of the early and consistent engagement they receive throughout the life of the project. Specifically, they get what they need because in the initial stages the things that matter are put first.

In addition, the process ensures stakeholders focus on what they really need by using the ‘MoSCoW’ prioritisation technique wherein they must categorise every requirement as a ‘Must have’, ‘Should have’, ‘Could have’, or ‘Would like to have’. The list that’s produced is called the product backlog and is continually revisited throughout the project to check the work is staying on track to deliver its outcomes.

4. Projects are more flexible
Agile provides opportunities to make adjustments as you go along in response to feedback and changing circumstances. It’s also easier to make and/or prioritise changes than in traditional projects where outcomes are immovable throughout development and then only reviewed at the testing stage, when change is expensive.

5. Earlier oversight of ROI
With Agile it’s possible, depending on the scale and complexity of what’s required, to have a prototype available for testing within two or three weeks of the start of the project. It will be a rudimentary version, but enough to give managers and stakeholders confidence that the work is on track, and to assess whether the project is going to meet the objectives in a cost-effective way. This is particularly important to central government departments that need to see if the project is actually going to deliver what’s needed. Unlike with traditional projects, if a budget is suddenly pulled and the project goes no further the client will have something to show for their investment rather than nothing at all.

6. It energises teams
Agile galvanises a team into action as they know with certainty that what they are doing has value. It also helps them move on quickly if the opposite is true. This reduces boredom and prevents the burnout that comes from months of working on the same project with little result. Importantly for central government, agile breaks down silos and minimises stagnation. Channels of communication are transparent and efficient enabling teams to share best practice and adapt to suit.

Agile could provide much-needed innovation and speed to central government, replacing archaic, long-winded systems and processes while ensuring high quality service and outcomes.

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