Recap: Agile Teams in Government at ViaTec



By Loren Mullane, BCDevExchange

On November 21st, over 40 people came out to the Agile Victoria Meetup at Fort Tectoria to hear about the challenges and opportunities of being Agile in government.

Why Agile?

Co-founder of the BC Developers’ Exchange (BCDevExchange), Peter Watkins kicked off the evening. An Executive Director in the Province’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, Watkins made the case for why Agile matters. He stated that Agile delivers value faster, something that be demonstrated to executives early to win support. “The social proof to get leadership behind an Agile project is to show them what you built in the first few weeks of your project. When they suggest changes and you come back in a few weeks with those changes made, they are blown away.”

He also showed how the BCDevExchange models the way to run an Agile team in government with everything from our strategic roadmap to our lines of code and what the team is working on open on the internet for anyone to see.

What We Heard

Following the presentation, there was a panel discussion moderated by Executive Director of the Province’s Citizen Engagement Branch and BCDevExchange co-founder David Hume, with questions from the audience. The panel consisted of Peter Watkins, Rumon Carter and Sachen MacDonald, all three of whom have experience with Agile Teams in government.

An audience member asked whether Agile was about making services better for British Columbians? Carter, the Executive Director of Service Reform for the Province’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) answered in the affirmative, saying, “Meeting citizens where they are, and ensuring they are receiving the services they need and want, in the way they choose to receive them, is absolutely at the centre of why we’re applying Agile approaches. For us, Agile is about listening, learning and responding,” he said. By applying Agile to government service design and delivery, a citizen can suggest how we can improve a service, and then see their suggestions put in the backlog of improvements to that service. “This sends an important message,” Carter said. “And it helps us to enhance the public’s connection with and trust in what we’re doing, which is a key driver at the EAO.”

One of the challenges flagged for Agile teams was how to unite a team at the start of a project, particularly when you may have people who may be asked to work in a new way. A contractor from Sierra Systems, Sachen MacDonald shared her experience from 15-years in project leadership and from her current role as the product manager for a government Agile team. “Start with what you know about the target product to build your backlog, “ MacDonald said,of potential features for your product . “Then get the team working together as soon as possible to get some momentum.”

Watkins echoed this sentiment, and highlighted that to foster Agile teams across government, the BCDevExchange is taking the same Lean Startup approach that guides all of our activities. “We are starting with a coalition of the willing – people in government willing to explore the same opportunities we see.” Innovators who have worked with the BCDevExchange include DataBC, Environmental Reporting BC, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer, among others.

By focusing on a handful of early adopters, the BCDevExchange aims to prove the value of the Agile approach to government projects. Watkins said,” We think the gold is in getting really good Agile teams going.”

Get Involved

A big thank you to the Agile Victoria meetup community for inviting us to share our story and generating such a great discussion.

Do you have experience or ideas about Agile in government? Please post a comment below.

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