Agile profile is a regular feature profiling leaders in Agile government.
CIO, Salt Lake City Corp.
Director, Information Management Services (IMS)
What does Agile mean to you?
For me and Salt Lake City IMS, Agile means exactly what the name implies. Being able to quickly react to changing situations and requirements and still maintain the necessary governance for projects.
What led you to adopting Agile?
I was first introduced to Agile methodologies through a friend working at a software company. I was impressed with the concept and began looking for ways to include it in what we do in the city.
What did you do to get buy-in from your department/agency?
As CIO, I was able to set this as a goal and objective. When we hired for a project management officer position, Agile was a key requirement of the job. We did bring in experts and did a couple of days of training on what it means to do Agile and how it can benefit teams in their work. Hearing this from an outside entity helped with acceptance.
Did you see positive results immediately or did it take time?
The first couple of projects we did with Agile were rocky, primarily because we didn’t have the necessary training for teams and project managers. Today, with more background in the methodologies and techniques we are seeing greater productivity, better communication, and a higher quality product.
What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
Acceptance by staff and recognition that this could be of benefit for everyone — not just software development — was a hurdle to overcome. Time and persistence in using Agile shows those benefits. Start small and continuously step it up.
What resources/assets do you have to support your Agile efforts?
Hired a PMO with background in Agile and trained internal people to as certified ScrumMasters.
What problem does Agile solve for your organization? Culture? Delivery? Product?
All of the above. Culturally, it helped with the challenge that most ‘teams’ tended to be one-person shows. Information sharing was not a part of that culture. Agile scrums bring all the players together and accomplishes in a few minutes what was a challenge in terms of communication and accountability. Delivery times are affected as well, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse — but the team ultimately knows where the project is and has a certain degree of buy-in for both quality, functionality and timeliness.
What resources do you recommend to government leaders who want to get started with Agile?
PMI and AGL are your best resources for strategic directions. Hire someone with experience in Agile if at all possible. If you can’t dedicate a position, at least bring in trainers and evangelists to show staff what to do and how it will make their world a little better. You will need an advocate in your organization and support from upper management.
What training do you recommend for other government agencies looking to adopt agile?
There are a number of tools and technologies that can be employed. It’s important to chose one that fits your particular need. Bring someone in that can guide your team through the process. If you can’t hire that person or dedicate a person to that role, you’ll need to convert people one at a time. Much more time consuming but certainly doable.
Were there special procurement rules that were needed or modified for an Agile project?
Do you follow a specific framework like Scrum or Kanban?
We actually do kind of a hybrid of the two. Every project holds regular scrum meetings but we use Kanban to visually show where things are in the process.
Has your adoption of Agile led to adoption with any of your colleagues in different agencies or departments?
Yes, we at the IT department were working through some early attempts at scrums when one of our City Council members started talking to council staff about Agile and how it was being used in the company he works for as his day job. That led us to bringing in consultants to help train them and get Agile going in the Council offices for the work they do in preparing policy recommendations.
Do you have a designated project (or product) owner?
Are your product owners dedicated full-time, part-time, or some combination depending on the project?
Generally, we like to have the product owner come from the department most involved in the project. In practice, it becomes a bit of a hybrid where multiple people act as the product owner.
What length were your sprints when you were initially implementing agile?
What size are your development teams?
These vary depending on the project, but typically 5-7 people.
What, if any, type of Agile training did you offer your employees?
We brought in a consultant/trainer to help people understand the basics, and have several people that have gotten CSM certification.
What aspect of Agile have you either gotten better at with time or has been the most valuable to your team?