Agile Transformation, What Worked?


Agile Transformation, What Worked?



Lorie Dubasky, VP of Business Development | LinkedIn


On several occasions, I had insightful conversations with ASSYST’s Agile Practice team about the challenges, opportunities, and benefits of Enterprise Agile Transformation. ASSYST’s agile transformation practice has garnered significant experience in agile coaching at the portfolio and program levels with over five years of experience implementing the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®). With over 30+ SAFe Certified Resources Expertise with SAFe 3.0 to 5.0, we make the transition a reality.


Here are some snippets of wisdom gleaned from ASSYST’s highly accomplished team of Scrum Masters, Project managers, Agile Coaches, and Agile SAFe Practitioners who are leading Agile Transformation and SAFe initiatives for Federal, State, Local and Private Sector customers. While there is a lot of information out there, I thought of selecting and sharing some real-world, hands-on perspectives.


Himadri Das, Director, Program Management

Mr. Das was leading the program and assisted in the transformation from a patchwork of siloed and disparate application development lifecycle processes and organizations into a highly integrated, efficient, practical, and transparent Agile environment by way of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). He was deeply involved in developing, enhancing, and managing the transformation roadmap and facilitating cultural change, coaching, and targeted training across the organization. Mr. Das also played a key role in fine-tuning SAFe process details, tools selection, and process implementation in the selected toolset to enable collaboration, transparency, agility, automation, and an end to end lifecycle management.


Agency: Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) within the Department of State serves US citizens and millions of foreign nationals through its more than 250 embassies and consular posts around the globe, and close to 30 domestic agency locations. CA's mission is enabled by its complex and mission-critical Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, with over 90 custom systems composed of over 250 application modules and dozens of COTS products, supported by multiple Government Divisions and over a dozen contractor teams. At any given time, there typically has been 100+ application releases in progress at various stages in the development lifecycle, following a patchwork of siloed internal team processes.


Challenge: Transform the organizational culture to an integrated and transparent framework that boosts prioritization of strategic themes, vertical integration from portfolio all the way to individual sprints, and most efficient use of all available resources including those of shared teams (such as Security, IV&V, Configuration Management, Data Management, and Systems Engineering). Agile practices and processes were inconsistently applied and adopted by agency vendor partners contracted for development and testing projects, impacting the ability to accurately report and maintain Program and Project level metrics across the agency. Finally, Agile practitioners were inadequately trained and did not have the skills necessary to move seamlessly from the traditional waterfall practice to Agile.


Approach: ASSYST identified areas ripe for improvement and gained stakeholder buy-in to perform a proof of concept. By evolving Strategic Alignment, ASSYST ensured that objectives are aligned with the business goals, then promoted a structured framework to provide transparency in areas of the portfolio, program, and project management in regards to costs, value, and risks of IT initiatives. From an Epic, a big chunk of work that has one common objective and we broke down user stories into smaller pieces. Used Program Increment (PI) face to face meetings that helped Agile and DevOps teams to organize and coordinate the delivery through an Agile Release train (ART) to a shared mission and Vision. At the Program Level, our Player Coaches facilitated and guided the train during the post-PI Planning event to integrate the results of ART Planning into the vision and roadmap for the value stream. We also refactored decision support processes to enable risk management and provide quick action to issues that impact projects while providing a clear and consistent direction. This facilitated adoption across other projects and over a period of four years led to enterprise adoption across the CA enterprise. ASSYST created a consistent framework that facilitated transparency across the organization while allowing more flexibility at the team level to develop, and make early adjustments in the cycles resulting in a more rapid deployment capability that is still consistent within the framework. ASSYST also provided Scrum coaching to stabilize the existing Agile/SAFe processes and to implement approved Agile processes.


Results: A complete vertical and horizontal role-based view of the entire organizational portfolio and accompanying metrics were made available to all concerned, from the business users to the individual developers and testers. This boosted collaboration among multiple vendors, and increased understanding and transparency across the organization, resulting in better planning, efficiency, resource utilization, ability to respond to change, and ultimately a much higher level of product quality and customer satisfaction. Benefits gained by the transformation to SAFe and Agile processes led to proven effectiveness in making better decisions across all levels with CA’s business-line leaders, including in prioritization, IT budgets, and funding requests. The shared framework allowed efficiencies by establishing Repeatable Delivery Processes. The results included the acceleration of the planning of new projects, increased project success rate by leveraging best practices in the form of templates and lessons learned, and faster delivery of products and process improvements. We created a consistent framework that led to a more rapid deployment capability with higher quality. These initiatives provided measurable results to validate SAFe successfully with improvement in customer satisfaction, high product quality, and faster delivery.

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