Development of Universal Credit with Agile


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Universal Credit is a UK Government programme with development costs estimated at £2.4bn. Following criticisms of previous large government programmes Universal Credit is being developed using Agile techniques. Following concerns on the progress of the programme the National Audit Office (NAO) has produced a report (Sept 2013) that identifies the failings to date. So what does the report say about the application of Agile and its future use in such large programmes?

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  • Traditional use of the ‘Waterfall’ approachAssumes all requirements are known at the outsetStaged phasesDistinct roles for Client and SupplierScope of requirements are contractually definedContracts are typically Fixed PriceMilestones based on completion of a PhaseFunctionality is part of the contractChanges to functionality impact on Cost and TimeBenefits only provided at the endMany projects are criticised forDelivering lateBeing expensiveNot providing the required functionalityPoor quality
  • £303m of the £425m spent to date is attributable to IT development.
  • Functionality of the early Pathfinder systems have been significantly reduced in order to meet timescales.The current limitations require manual process supportThe current system has some ‘hardwiring’.Consequently the current Pathfinders are not scalable to a large deployment.
  • The provision of IT equipment, resources, software development and integration was undertaken by the ‘big three” (Accenture, IBM, HP), BT)BT was also involved for the provision of telephony systemsIt is understood the original intention was to use smaller organisations with expertise in Agile, but these appear to have been squeezed-out.
  • The audit report covers the period after the project had reverted to a Waterfall development and does not identify whether user representatives had ever been working alongside the development teams and in a collaborative manner as advocated by Agile.Development was started in January 2011 in order to meet a local roll-out of the limited Pathfinder system in April 2013.This was to be followed by a more widespread rollout of the Pathfinder system in October 2013.The audit found that the development teams were initially only provided with limited business process information, and more detailed information was provided late.The final regulations for Universal Credit were laid before Parliament in December 2012.The limited level of documentation was criticisedsince this is the only means of providing visibility of progress. However limited documentationis often a characteristic of Agile processes particularly where Agile is adopted at the code level (such as Scrum or XP).
  • Most of the observations from the NAO are relevant to the successful delivery of any project, they are not unique to an Agile based development.Contracts set the tone for the development and must identify and reflect the processes to be usedA key item relevant to Agile based development is the importance of an appropriate level of documentation.The need for documentation is not widely recognised in Agile processes focused on software development such as Scrum and XP, but is recognised in higher project level Agile approaches such as DSDM.Active user involvement as a collaborative partner is key to enabling the development teams understand the business processes they are developing.
  • Development of Universal Credit with Agile

    1. 1. Universal Credit & Adoption of Agile Dave Nicoll Project Realization Ltd
    2. 2. Agenda • Reason for our Interest in Universal Credits • Background to Universal Credits • Objectives of Universal Credits • HMG Approach to Projects • Agile Approach • Approach to Developing Universal Credits • Progress to Date • Use of Agile • Project Reviews and Audits • National Audit Office (NAO) Findings – Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) – Suppliers – Software Development • Summary & Observations
    3. 3. Reason for Interest • Universal Credit is currently one of the UK’s largest public sector IT development programmes • It is also largest application of Agile techniques by the UK Government • Experience from this programme will impact on the future use of Agile in other government projects.
    4. 4. Background to Universal Credit • Annual cost of current welfare benefits = £67bn • Administration costs = £3.5bn • Fraud & Erroneous payments = £5.2bn • Unclaimed legitimate payments = £1.5bn • Many different and complex benefit schemes – Income support – Job seekers allowance – Employment & Support Allowance – Housing Benefit – Child Tax Credit
    5. 5. Objectives of Universal Credit • Simplified into one single benefit • Rationalise process for claimants – Encourage people back to work – Reduce Administration costs • Consolidate information – Remove multiple sources of the same information – Reduce fraud and error – Ensure claimants receive their full entitlement
    6. 6. HMG Approach to Projects • Traditional use of the ‘Waterfall’ approach – Assumes all requirements are known at the outset – Staged phases – Distinct roles for Client and Supplier – Scope of requirements are contractually defined – Contracts are based on completion of the functionality ‒ Changes to functionality impact on Cost and Time ‒ Progress is measured through completion of each phase – Benefits only provided at the end • Many projects are criticised for – Delivering late – Being expensive – Not providing the required functionality – Poor quality
    7. 7. ‘Agile’ Approach Over the last few years Industry has started moving to Agile approach • Assumes many requirements are unknown at the start • Short time-boxed periods of iterative development – Enables system details to be developed with the customer • Requires close collaboration between Client & Supplier • Progressive delivery of limited functionality – Incremental growth in functionality – Benefits are provided throughout development • Flexible contract based on sequence of increments – timescale for each increment – Cost for each increment • Perceived Benefits of Agile – Provides for rapid user feedback – Removes wasteful development – Quality is maintained throughout
    8. 8. Approach to Developing Universal Credit • Cabinet Office recommendations – departments to move away from large scale developments – use Agile approach to reduce delivery risk and improve business outcomes – Target is to have 50% of all development projects to using Agile by April 2013 • Universal Credit – assumes a “Digital by Default‟ on-line user service – the largest use of Agile techniques in UK public sector
    9. 9. Costs and Forecasts • Overall planned cost (to 2023) = £2.4bn • Estimated net benefit (to 2022/23) = £38bn • Spend to date (April 2013) • Recent forecasts for IT May 2011 December 2012 £396m £637m from annual Business Cases Planned Actual £431m £425m of which IT = £303m
    10. 10. Use of Agile • December 2010 – Project announces use of Agile • January 2012 – Project is “reset” to use “Agile-2” (a Waterfall/Agile hybrid) • October 2012 – Project is moved to a ‘phased’ approach • September 2013 – Project is fundamentally a Waterfall development
    11. 11. Project Reviews & Audits Two significant project reviews • Major Projects Authority Review (Jan 2013) • National Audit Office (NAO) Report (Sep 2013) Both reports independently concluded: • Project is failing to deliver the intended benefits • Development costs have escalated • Functionality has been significantly reduced
    12. 12. NAO Findings on DWP • No ‘blueprint’ of how Universal Credit should work • Insufficient Programme Management • No process controls • No controls over finances • No controls over payments • No definition or control of scope • No active or visible senior leadership • No experience in Agile development • Reliance on suppliers for guidance • Contracts – based on traditional “Waterfall” development – don’t support use of Agile
    13. 13. NAO Findings on Suppliers • Large established suppliers to HMG – Working within existing and ongoing HMG contracts – Contracts are fundamentally “Waterfall” – Suppliers are familiar with “Waterfall” Development – Only limited previous exposure to Agile
    14. 14. NAO Findings on Software Development • Requirements – Only limited business process requirements provided to the development teams – Requirements provided late • Software development – Started early in order to meet timescales – Developed code is of good quality – Little documentation ‒ visibility of progress is limited • Agile – is most often used in small teams – over 1000 people involved in this development – at no time was Agile applied in the way it was intended
    15. 15. Observations and Factors for Success • Project Governance and oversight is still critical to success • Contracts must support the development process • Documentation is still required to provide visibility of progress and content • Active user involvement is required to ensure the right functionality • Agile at the code level is insufficient on its own for overall project success
    16. 16. Reference Reports • Universal Credits – Early Progress (Sept 2013) • Government ICT Strategy - Strategic Implementation Plan strategy-resources