Voices from Accenture Public Service

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For public service IT teams, the shift to agile is a considerable one to make. A new methodology for delivering IT projects can be disorientating, puzzling and even alarming for those used to traditional waterfall approaches. The terminology of ‘sprints’ and ‘scrums’ takes time to absorb. So effective training is essential.

Agile requires a new mindset that replaces a focus on meeting all requirements immediately with a comfort around delivering functionality in phases. Achieving that requires a willingness to iterate and continuously improve and make change a day-to-day part of working methodologies. It’s all very different. And so it’s no surprise that the research we carried out with NASCIO found that public service leaders believe that training for IT talent is essential to make agile a success.

But agile won’t be successfully adopted and implemented if training starts and stops with the IT function. The business, too, has a crucial role to play. They need to be involved from the outset of any project, providing feedback and engaged as a full agile team member. Rather than issuing their requirements and waiting for delivery months or even years later, the business plays a key role in shaping delivery from day one that stays throughout the project.

It’s a new role for the business. As product owners, they have to be hands-on, participating in development, making suggestions and providing input into changes on a continuous basis. A number of states I know of have sent their business users to product owner training in order for them to get the right exposure to their responsibilities and to help them participate effectively in agile programs. Some CIOs have taken it even further – providing training to their procurement and contracting teams, to help them understand how agile is different from traditional waterfall. It’s an initiative that’s worth considering for every organization.

In addition, one of the things that I’ve heard many leaders discuss as a success factor in adopting agile is to have a coach: someone who has done it before and who understands what the process looks and feels like in action. A coach can help both the IT and other parts of the organization work together to understand what each of them needs to do to make agile a success. Because they bring practical experience of what good looks like, they’re able to help organizations avoid the common pitfalls and overcome teething troubles of adopting a new and different approach to IT delivery.

And as some in the organization become familiar and comfortable with the new approach, they can become coaches in their own right, helping to drive knowledge transfer across the organization as a trusted source. Those internal coaches can arise from many different places. Tapping into the younger generations, for example, can prove to be a great resource of agile talent, with many now entering the workplace viewing agile as the natural way to work. Their enthusiasm can be harnessed to engage and encourage older workers to adopt agile. But the key lesson from training? It has to work across the enterprise. Agile’s not going to happen unless everyone’s equipped to get on board.

Let me know how you’re addressing agile training and adoption in your organization.

See this post on LinkedIn: The key to agile success? Training across the enterprise.

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