Agile Business Consortium highlights the importance of business agility in ensuring value for money and greater efficiency
The UK Government’s Digital Service Standard puts user needs first, literally; the first 2 criteria in the standard are ‘understand user needs’ and ‘do ongoing user research’. So it makes sense that our work to design a new course and qualification for people developing digital services using Agile methods should do the same.
What we learned from ICT 2.0
Our journey started at the Government ICT 2.0 Conference last year, where the Agile Business Consortium facilitated a seminar on ‘creating effective Agile governance for digital service delivery’.
Many of the challenges raised by delegates at the seminar echoed those identified by Daniel Thornton in the editorial to this ebook:
- Governance needs to become less bureaucratic, more flexible and more focused on setting clear goals, delegating decision-making, and facilitating cross-programme conversations
- A shared understanding of Agile delivery and digital services needs to be cultivated at all levels, from senior civil servants to ICT developers
- The focus of attention must be on meeting user and business needs, not on the process, and staff need to understand how to select and adapt Agile tools and frameworks flexibly
- People need more support and guidance in how to put the GOV.UK Service Manual into practice
When we reviewed these findings, it seemed clear that there was an educational need that the Agile Business Consortium could help with, and we decided to adapt our widely recognised Agile Project Management (AgilePM®) framework and qualification. This is specifically targeted at digital service development and teaching key elements of the GOV.UK Digital Service Standard and Service Manual.
What we are learning from our alpha programme
Like government digital services, we believe in testing our products with real users, so we’ve put delegates in both central and local government through a prototype of our new course to find out what works and what doesn’t.
We’ve heard some things we hoped to hear; that the course is engaging and of practical value, that it increases confidence, and that delegates are pleased that the exam will test their knowledge of how their own organisation really works, using language and terms familiar to them.
We’ve also learned that some of the language we use on the course and in the exams is confusing, and we’re working on simplifying things before we launch our beta programme in the summer.
Framework for Public Sector Business Agility
Framework for Business Agility: Enabling public sector bodies to develop and embed business agility at any scale – from a single team focused on a single service, to Agile programmes with many teams delivering complex services. All positioned within a continuously dynamic, strategically aligned portfolio.
Agile Culture and Leadership: Delivering genuine empowerment and flexibility within a robust framework of accountability. Inspiring the public to engage with each other and their service users, collaborating to meet the needs of citizens while preserving value for money.
Agile Strategy and Portfolio: Agile business change scaled to the highest level. Ensuring that change strategy remains under continuous review and reflects shifts in the operating environment. Providing a spectrum of coordination and control, from ‘full-on’ Agile enablement at one extreme to a ‘halfway house’ of Agile tolerance at the other. Features include Agile portfolio planning, Agile monitoring and control, active and effective business ownership of initiatives and, where appropriate, Agile budgeting.
Agile Programmes: AgilePgM® is Agile at scale for significant whole-business capability change; embracing Agile and non-Agile projects in a universally applicable Agile framework of governance, coordination and control.
Agile Projects: AgilePM® is a tried, tested and trusted Agile project management approach with more than 60,000 certified practitioners worldwide. For public sector bodies delivering digital services, it is now complemented by a new qualification in AgilePM® and digital services.
Agile Service Evolution: With or without IT enablement or support, business services are at the heart of the way organisations connect with and serve their customers. Agile Service Evolution is an exciting new concept inspired by the pioneering work from UK government digital services and a key element of the Framework for Business Agility.
Agile Product Evolution: For over 20 years, the primary focus of Agile has been software development. Agile Product Evolution will embrace this most popular and critical focus whilst broadening the scope of product evolution to include business products too.
Agile Enablement and Governance: Public sector organisations face a challenging balancing act in adopting business agility while strengthening public accountability and transparency. We believe the starting point should be governance that engages people with the right knowledge and skills to do the right thing in the right way whilst promoting an environment where truth, trust and transparency are the norm.
AgilePM® and digital services
What will the new course allow us to do?
The new AgilePM® and Digital Services course will help organisations to develop a consistent Agile approach, a common language and a skilled workforce (with appropriate accreditation opportunities) for the successful design and delivery of digital services, whether through evolving improvements or step-change transformation.
The Agile Business Consortium have adapted the AgilePM® qualification to explain how its concepts can be easily aligned to the GDS lifecycle and roles, to provide a flexible governance structure to use alongside Scrum, Kanban or any other Agile IT development methodology. The new course will also cover some of the distinctive elements that GDS has injected into Agile discourse, such as “Citizen over Government” and “Assisted Digital”. It will also include the tried and tested concepts of alpha, private beta and public beta within the project lifecycle.
Do we really need a new course?
Yes, absolutely. Although there is some good Agile training available, including our own AgilePM® qualification, none of it focuses on how to apply the Digital Service Standard, and the language used is often different to that in use within government departments.
In response to the special complexity of government, GDS has created the GOV.UK Service Standard and supporting Service Manual, which defines a development lifecycle for digital services (Discovery-Alpha-Beta-Live) and provides a set of design standards and a host of supporting guidance. This has produced some excellent results in the design of citizen-facing services (e.g. Tax your Vehicle). However, there is often the need to deliver more complex and far-reaching changes through projects and programmes, and this is where challenges emerge. There is currently no Agile method which effectively addresses the Agile development of Digital Services within a project or programme structure.
More broadly, it’s clear from the research we’ve done that government is struggling to adapt the way it leads and manages change to get the most out of the speed and flexibility that Agile promises. As Daniel Thornton from the Institute of Government observes in the editorial, “Agile development involves decision-making which is swift, and as close to the user as possible. This is not how decisions are made in government, with its overlapping layers of control from the centre and within departments and agencies. Public servants need to learn the specialist skills to do this…”
Who is the new course aimed at?
The course is aimed at all those involved in the delivery of digital services to the public, including central government, local government, the NHS, and the private sector organisations that support them with training and consultancy services.
We want the new course to be useful to both delivery teams and the civil servants who support them as change managers, service managers and product owners. For those with a good grasp of Agile methods, we will introduce guidance on elements that might be new, such as user research, user experience design and digital performance analysis.
At the same time, we will cover the fundamentals of Agile culture and delivery as well as demystify Agile jargon for civil servants and others who are new to Agile.
What is Agile anyway?
Agile is built on simple principles which were radical when they first emerged 20 years ago, and still remain relevant today. Yet they are challenging to put into practice in large, complex and hierarchical organisations like government departments. These ideas are articulated in many different lists – here’s a short one:
Agile is collaborative – we have users, technologists, frontline staff and managers working together, often in the same room, throughout the design and delivery of a new service.
Agile is flexible – we know that requirements will change throughout a project, and welcome the improved understanding of user needs that this change represents… we don’t hate ‘scope creep’ but embrace change and aim to make decisions quickly and as close to the problem as possible.
Agile is about people, not technology or other ‘stuff’ – we focus on what users and businesses need, and how the people who deliver services can meet those needs – often, but not always, with the help of technology.
Agile is transparent – we prefer showing models, prototypes and the actual product, rather than producing reports, spreadsheets and presentations. We prefer sharing our challenges to hiding them.
How and when can I get involved?
The course is in alpha at the moment (meaning we’re trialling a prototype with real people to see how it works), and we’ll be sharing those experiences and launching our public beta programme in May 2017.
If you’d like to participate in the public beta programme and get early access to the new course, please email the Agile Business Consortium firstname.lastname@example.org.
AgilePM® and AgilePgM® are Registered Trade Marks of Agile Business Consortium Limited
Agile Business Conference
At the Agile Business Conference, 2017 Success with Agile in Unpredictable Times, the topics of Digital Services, Transformation and Leadership, and People and Culture will be explored in more detail. The Conference is a major, two-day annual event which provides a single forum for everyone interested in the application of Agile or moving towards an Agile way of working. This unique gathering of influential Agile practitioners and leaders takes place on Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 October at etc. venues., 155 Bishopsgate in Central London. To find out more information, or to book tickets please go to our website Early Bird rates available until 31 July – 20% saving.
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