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Agile Methodology In-depth Review, Government Edition


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I'm giving an overview of agile for an agency later this month. Here's my slides, so far. As ever, "government" is just an extra layer of sprinkles on-top of advice for all large organizations.

There's some extensive (for me) talking points in the slide notes if you're into that kind of thing.

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Agile Methodology In-depth Review, Government Edition

  1. 1. Agile Methodology In-depth Review, Government Edition @cote June 2016 Slides: 1
  2. 2. • @cote – Director, Marketing at Pivotal • Former industry analyst at 451 Research and RedMonk • Corporate strategy and M&A at Dell • Former software developer • More:,,, Register DevOps column. Hello! 2
  3. 3. How we got here 3
  4. 4. It’s time to do things differently… 4 Private Sector Public Sector
  5. 5. The nature of software is changing, again Sources: "The New Developer Landscape: Understanding the Modern Software Developer," Al Hilwa, March 2016. See also: "Application Modernization, Service By Microservice," Kurt Bittner and Randy Heffner, Dec 2015, Forrester. See the “The RedMonk Programming Language Rankings: January 2016” for popular programming languages. 5
  6. 6. Yet how we do software has largely stayed the same 6 Source: “Survey Analysis: How Agile in the Enterprise Stumbles, Evolves, Then Succeeds,” Mike West & Nathan Wilson, Gartner, March 2016.
  7. 7. For the most part, “waterfall” is to be avoided* Source: RashNull, May 2011.7
  8. 8. 8 Source: Reddit thread from ~2015. See also for fun discussion of such signs.
  9. 9. * When “waterfall” may be preferred 9 • When there is zero uncertainty about what to build and why. AKA: “be careful what you wish for” • When new software replaces existing software wholesale • Requirements & budgets are fixed – good luck with schedule Sources: see discussion in Twitter on this topic.
  10. 10. Waterfall Traps 10 • Spending too much time on upfront requirements • Treating testing as an afterthought and doing too much of it manually • Finding problems too late in the cycle • Still deploying huge releases manually • Ignoring how users interact with your app Sources: “Water-Agile-Fall Is A Steppingstone To Faster Delivery,” Diego Lo Giudice, et. al., Forrester, May 2016.
  11. 11. Only 25% of respondents felt that their companies were innovating in agile ways. Source: Institute for the Future study, April 2015, n=3,600; The Agile Advantage, MeriTalk/Accenture, May 2015; Cutter Consortium, July 2015. Organizations are held back by an IT agility gap What is your IT organization's role in business innovation? 87% of Feds say it takes too long to deploy new systems per requirements 11
  12. 12. Government Filter 12
  13. 13. Things worth pointing out to government people • “Winning” is making citizens more productive • Move to a person-centric, end-to-end product approach • Making budgeting “worth it” • When “legacy” means “core systems” • Security • Regulations/compliance 13 Source: conversations with government IT staff; “Delivering Simpler, Clearer, Faster Government Services,” Lindsay Holmwood, May 2016.
  14. 14. Goals/End-State 14
  15. 15. Use small batch thinking, at all levels • Weekly, even daily deploys to production • Deploy to production each time, avoid waterscrumfall • Relies on: - Product approach - Small batch oriented pipeline and process - Cloud native automation Inception Hypothesize Validate w/real use(r)s Did it work? Sources: “Good Software is a Series of Little Failures,” Coté, April 2016; The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, 2011. The Lean Enterprise, Barry O'Reilly, Jez Humble, and Joanne Molesky. See also overview of this approach at the IRS from Dec 2015.15
  16. 16. A small batches approach is more successful “The best way to do this stuff is to get a multi-disciplinary team of people in house – designer, user researcher, developer, content person – you’re talking a team of about twelve people.” Ben Terrett, former design chief at the UK GDS “We did an analysis of hundreds of projects over a multiyear period. The ones that delivered in less than a quarter succeeded about 80% of the time, while the ones that lasted more than a year failed at about the same rate. We’re simply not very good at large efforts.” Large financial institution Source: “Why Britain banned mobile apps; Interview with Ben Terrett, former design chief at the GDS,” GovInsider, June 2016; "Application Modernization, Service By Microservice," Kurt Bittner and Randy Heffner, Forrester, Dec 2015. For organization structure see “Roles and Responsibilities for DevOps and Agile Teams,” Coté, May 2016. See also “From Aristotle to Ringelmann,” June 2016 on team size.16
  17. 17. How a small batch process works Build Test/Verify Package repository Version Control Infrastructure Platform (IaaS, PaaS, VMs) Production Concerns (monitoring, scaling, etc.) Feedback Loop Specify Code Development CI/CD Ops 17
  18. 18. A cloud platform provides the needed speed, resilience, & standardization 18 “PaaS, for us, eliminates entire classes of problems that we just don’t have to think about anymore.” -Lindsay Holmwood, Head of Development, Australian Government Digital Transformation Office Sources: "Technical Dive into Cloud Native Application Platforms," Brian Gracely, Wikibon, Sep 2015; "The cloud-native future," Casey West, O'Reilly Radar, Aug 2015; “Get Started on Pivotal's Cloud Foundry Stack,” Coté/The New Stack, Jan 2016; Cloud Foundry overview book.
  19. 19. Cloud native approaches speed up the whole process, more efficiently than previously possible Source: “Deployments We Can Believe In,” Diego Lapiduz, 18F, June 2015; see also “Barriers to DevOps in Government,” Coté, Oct 2015; Humana keynote, CF Summit 2015; Gregg Otto at CF Summit NA 2016. 18F/ ATO reduction from 9-14 months to 2-3 days • Humana Cue Apple Watch app: “Two people built the app and got it into the AppStore in five weeks.” • Large financial institution on PCF: 145 apps with 2 ops people • “We get features in days, not weeks, and scale takes minutes, not months.” –Gregg Otto, Comcast 19
  20. 20. Practices 20
  22. 22. Don’t worry, we got your happy trees!
  23. 23. Practices: User-centric 23
  24. 24. User-centric design 24
  25. 25. UK GDS: “Things are just designed to suit the very silos that the project sits in, and the user gets lost in there.” • “Google is the homepage” • Opening a restaurant with a single process • Only 0.1% of people want to share a government service Source: “Why Britain banned mobile apps; Interview with Ben Terrett, former design chief at the GDS,” GovInsider, June 2016. 🤓 When you study the user, you find out… 25
  26. 26. How much do I owe the IRS? Source: "Minimum Viable Taxes: Lessons learned building an MVP inside the IRS,” slides , Andrea Schneider & Lauren Gilchrist, 2015. Before After 26
  27. 27. Example approach, The Pivotal Way 27 Source: Pivotal Labs, March 2016. See also “Agile Transformation in the Age of the 3rd Platform,” Al Hilwa , IDC, Feb 2016 (unpublished) Exploration Discovery
  28. 28. Practices: “Agile” 28
  29. 29. After 17 years, “Agile” is not as wide-spread as we think it is – make sure you’re actually doing it Source: “Town Hall: Agile in the Enterprise,” Mike West, Nathan Wilson, Thomas Murphy, Dec 2015, Gartner AADI US conference.29
  30. 30. Practices: DevOps 30
  31. 31. DevOps, the word defines itself (1.) DevOps is the practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support. (2.) DevOps is also characterized by operations staff making use of many of the same techniques as developers for their systems work. Source: “What Is DevOps?,” The Agile Admin, Dec 2011. For more: Effective DevOps, Jennifer Davis, Katherine Daniels, May, 2016.31
  32. 32. Defining DeveOps by practices & goals, part 1 32
  33. 33. Defining DeveOps by practices & goals, part 2 33
  34. 34. Practices: Coding 34
  35. 35. A microservices approach gives you organizational agility, at the expense of architectural complexity Benefits • Decoupling service releases, teams • Faster innovation cycles • Composite applications vs. monolithic apps Problems • The one about the murder mystery • Incompatible APIs • You still need other people to do work It’s worth solving the problems if you want the benefits…and it’s possible!35
  36. 36. The Application Framework promises Codebase Dependencie s Config Backing Services Build, Release, Run Processes Port Binding Concurrency Disposability Dev/Prod Parity Logs Admin Processes Source: “The Twelve-Factor App.” • A set of best practices for developing and deploying cloud-native software. • Practices translate into platform features and workflow requirements. 36
  37. 37. Changing Culture 37
  38. 38. It’s not much of an IT department, but I’m sorta attached to it… 38
  39. 39. Source: "Strategy, not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation," 2015 Digital Business Global Executive Study and Research Project, MIT Sloan Management Review & Deloitte University Press, July 2015. n=4,800,conducted in Fall of 2014. Government concerns from “The Agile Advantage,” MeriTalk/Accenture, May 2015 43% 33% 25% 25% 24% 22% 17% 16% 15% 10% 7% 3% 8% Too many competing priorities Lack of an overall strategy Security concerns Insufficient technical skills Lack of organizational agility Lack of management understanding Lack of entrepreneurial spirit, willingness to take risks Lack of collaborative, sharing culture No strong business case Lack of employee incentives None/no barriers exist Don’t know Other (please specify ) What barriers are impeding your organization from taking advantage of digital trends? (select up to three) Most problems are in the meatware Government concerns: • Security • Budget • Infrastructure complexity • Fear of change • Inflexible practices • Lack of collaboration 39
  40. 40. Management creates the game • Leading change management • Setting, communicating, tracking goals • Dramatic organization change, gradually • E.g.: from autocrat to self-directed teams Sources: Leading the Transformation, 2015; “Management’s Job is orchestrating the ‘why,’” 2015; The Concise Executive Guide to Agile, 2010.40
  41. 41. To change, you must actually change Or, how t-shirts jump-start digital transformation “I can’t tell you what having a leader stand-up in front of an organization with a hoodie and t-shirt does to cultural change. It all the sudden makes it OK for everyone within that organization to participate in change.” -Matt Curry, Allstate 41
  42. 42. Fighting bureaucracy self-FUDing - addressing “risk” 1. Bug swarms 2. Useless software 3. Stymied innovation 4. Budget overruns 5. Schedule elongation Sources: "Software devs' new mantra: Zen dogs dream of small-sized bones," Coté, Feb 2016. “Good Software is a Series of Little Failures,” Coté, April 2016.42
  43. 43. Automating compliance Source: “OpenControl Overview,” Joshua McKenty, March 2016. “Running Cloud Foundry in a Compliance and Security Focused Environment,” Diego Lapiduz and Bret A. Mogilefsky, 18F, May 2016.43
  44. 44. Dealing with legacy: the stuff that makes all the money Quarantine • Low impact applications • Lacks good testing, risky to change • Change resistant priorities Migration Strategies • Virtualize & re-platform to control costs and maximize management • API gateways combined with the strangler pattern • Portfolio management (cf. The Three Horizons) Sources: “DevOps isn't just about the new: It's about cleaning up the old, too,” Coté, April 2016; The Cloud Native Journey, Coté, 2016; Escape Velocity, Geoffrey Moore, Sep 2011 and "To Succeed in the Long Term, Focus on the Middle Term," Geoffrey Moore, August 2007. 44
  45. 45. Staffing: There is no talent shortage F100 CTO: “But Netflix has a superstar dev team, we don’t!” @adrianco: “We hired them from you.” Source: @blueboxjesse, Oct 2014. See also “There is no talent shortage.”45
  46. 46. Further reading Free at Leading the Transformation, 2015 Free at 46
  47. 47. Thanks!@cote | Slides: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.” - The Agile Manifesto, 2001 47