Photo: Mark Dalgarno

Photo: Mark Dalgarno

Agile Profile is a regular feature profiling leaders in agile government.

Who

Emily Webber
Head of Agile Delivery
UK Government Digital Service

What does Agile mean to you?

Agile is a culture and a set of values, which align with the Agile manifesto and help us deliver the best services for the users. Agile tools and techniques are ways of creating that culture and allow us to focus on: communication within teams, the organisation and others; releasing value regularly (either working software or tangible outcomes), and being flexible in what we deliver so we can respond to change and ultimately deliver the best services for citizens.

What led you to adopting Agile?

Government Digital Service has been agile from the beginning and long before I joined. The development at GDS started with our minimum viable product: alpha gov.

It was a small team that created a prototype to show what could be done and in a short space of time if we took a different approach. This was launched publicly and led to the beta and live versions of GOV.UK. Although we now have many more teams working on different programmes as well as GOV.UK, we remain agile as it allows us to deliver value to our users more quickly.

What resources/assests do you have to support your Agile efforts?

Our real assets are our people. We have amazing people and a supportive environment that trusts those people to use their expertise and passion to get things done.

What training do you recommend for other government agencies looking to adopt Agile?

We have some guidance on training in our Service Design Manual. I’d always recommend taking a rounded approach to training and remembering that there is no one size fits all and the best learning is done through experience.

The guidance talks about:

  • shadowing / learning from others
  • formal training in a range of frameworks and techniques
  • self-initiated learning (networking, reading blogs)
  • sharing ideas and support (community, blogging, public speaking)
  • small experiments and running short projects
  • questioning and retrospecting (short feedback loops and retrospectives)

Do you follow a specific framework like Scrum or Kanban?

We take a pragmatic approach to Agile, we don’t subscribe to one specific framework and our teams work in the way that best enables that specific team doing that specific project at that specific time. Our Agile practitioners are well versed in a variety of frameworks so that they can use the most relevant tools to suit the needs of the situation. This means that each team may work in a slightly different way at a team level, but all moving us towards shared goals at a programme or organisational level.

Do you have a designated project (or product) owner?

Yes, many! At GDS we call them product managers, most of our teams have one. They act as the vision owner in the team and make prioritisation decisions based on information they seek from the team and external stakeholders, with a specific focus on user behaviour and research.

Follow Emily on Twitter at @ewebber.