Agile articles and info from our Agile Practice team

By Paul Fleming Jr.

No matter what you think about President Barack Obama, there is one issue all of us can agree on – the unveiling of his Affordability Care Act’s (ACA) Healthcare.gov website on Oct. 1 has been an unmitigated disaster.

Some of the manifold problems first-time users have encountered have been site availability due to excessive loads and the incorrect recording of data.

Yesterday, President Obama said there is “no excuse” for the problems with the site and is vowing to fix the technical maladies.

As we watch the federal government continue to throw millions of dollars at an IT problem that should never have occurred to begin with, we are asking ourselves: If the Healthcare.gov website had been developed through the Agile process, could the difficulties have been avoided?

The one word answer?

Yes.

Consider if you will a problem our team of Agilists recently cured for one of our largest national clients. The company – a financial services entity – was having an inordinate amount of trouble developing an end-to-end reporting solution that was necessary to comply with a series of guidelines from the federal government.

Our client had been trying to solve the issue on its own for 18 months, using traditional project management methodologies. When a major deadline was not met, management decided to implement an Agile solution to rectify the problem.

Their reasons for adopting Agile?

  • Communication on the project was weak
  • The resources of their business had not been properly organized to ensure that the deliverables being created were suitable for the continued operation of their business
  • There was no testing documentation to satisfy audit requirements
  • There was a need to verify that a “75 percent” development complete feature was appropriate (The testing to determine what aspects had been correctly developed was flawed. As a result, no one could accurately determine how far long the project was)

Our Agilists corrected these issues by immediately creating four separate teams, called “PODS,” to facilitate higher levels of communication and focus. The teams were filled by a system of who worked where, within the company.

Following the selection of the teams, our Agilists:

  • Provided Agile training to all
  • Created a backlog of work for everyone involved in the project
  • Forecasted the velocity of the project
  • Planned for the next six months of work
  • Crafted a “Definition of Done” (including user acceptance and audit needs)
  • Established the rules of engagement for business involvement
  • Re-started development activities

As a result of this plan, our client:

  • Improved its business flexibility and transparency
  • Had faster speed-to-market implementation
  • Improved the quality of its work by adopting the “Definition of Done” mandate, which was adopted by both internal teams and vendors. The ongoing compliance and enforcement forced teams to focus on delivering a level of quality that met or exceeded the pre-defined Audit parameters.
  • Increased productivity – Core Team members were co-located and gained efficiencies through improved communication and collaboration.

We are still engaged with our client and the problems that had surrounded their project have been solved. Our client’s employees involved in the effort? They continue to provide retrospectives on what is working, what is not, and are constantly engaged in the development process.

Clearly, that did not occur in the development of the Healthcare.gov website.

And now the federal government is going to spend a lot more of our money, fixing a problem that did not have to be.

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