How do we implement Agile ways of working in central government? | NTT DATA

Thu, 18 May 2023

How do we implement Agile ways of working in central government?

Driving agility and embedding new ways of working in central government

Agility is key to the success of any large organisation, and this goes double for central government organisations, with a much broader and varied range of issues to address than the typical enterprise. Flexibility is a primary enabler in driving central government operations forward, but when it comes to agility, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t cut it.

When looking at methodologies like SAFe or LeSS and how you want to position them to your client, you need to work out why previous implementations have lagged. Read more about which Scrum of Scrums framework might work best for your purposes here.

For example, an Agile strategy or solution put in place for the Treasury may not be a good fit for the Home Office. Even within central government, organisations have different needs that require specific tools to accommodate end-users, enable consistent reporting standards, and ensure success. Having access to the technology solutions that specifically cater to these differences is central to that organisation’s success. 


What issues does central government face with Agile methodologies?

In all the projects and government organisations we’ve worked with, people have the intent to become more Agile. Why, then, do some organisations still encounter issues with execution?

There are multiple reasons for this. The primary pain points are governance structures, a confusing multi-supplier environment, and short-term standard contracts that need frequent renewal – all leading to difficulties in consistently realising the benefits from an Agile framework.

Adopting Agile ways of working can be a significant mindset shift for teams in central government. It’s not something that happens overnight. One training course that might help alter these attitudes is NTT DATA’s Agile Kickstarter, supporting the launch of Agile ways of working and providing key stakeholders with a foundational understanding of Agility.


How to solve common Agile blockers in central government

One common issue that you may run into when implementing Agile is a lack of the necessary skills and capabilities within your existing team. It’s worth noting that, while this might slow your Agile progress in the short term, it gives you the opportunity to upskill your team and improve your training and coaching capabilities in the long term.

Even when your client has bought into the project and you’ve launched new ways of working, that doesn’t mean your job is done. If you want to encourage the right behaviours and ensure that they become part of the culture, you need to carry out continuous coaching and mentoring. Certain roles (e.g. Product Owner) can particularly benefit from this continuous coaching – especially given how often people underestimate the effort and commitment required of them.

Another blocker that should be on top of your list of priorities is trust. When a team doesn’t trust a new way of working, it’s unlikely to stick. In turn, this makes it very difficult to drive agility in these central government organisations where trust and transparency are crucial.

This is another situation where regular coaching and mentoring sessions can help: instilling the right behaviours and mindset and supporting the transition into an Agile role. In certain situations, these sessions allow you to establish a feedback loop: showing the client where there are issues with capacity, skillset, and so on.


How are Government Agile frameworks enforcing agility?

Fortunately, there are existing government frameworks and guidelines that can help you apply Agile to a central government organisation.

Some of the primary examples are:

If you want to apply Agile ways of working in central government, take the time to make sure you’re familiar with these frameworks and guidelines. You’re more likely to have funding approved, to be chosen as supplier, and secure approval to proceed in established stage gates if you can demonstrate how your work is aligned with these principles.

Bear in mind, however, that some of these guidelines were established a decade or more ago and think about how you might evolve the thinking to suit the challenges this organisation faces in the modern day.

Your client might be concerned about the governance implications of adopting an Agile framework. However, this gives you a chance to line up Agile ceremonies with existing client governance mechanisms in certain situations – further building trust in Agile by relating it to a process that they already use.


Achieving results with Agile implementations

Agile ways of working can be a great way for central government organisations to increase their flexibility and drive operations forward. However, when you're tasked with implementing these frameworks in a central government organisation, it's important to understand the client's specific needs and concerns before selecting the Agile methodology or tools that may work best.

By identifying the main blockers, which are often related to skill gaps and lack of trust, you can build an effective strategy tailored to your client. Even better, there are existing Government Agile frameworks and guidelines in place that can make your life easier by guiding your implementation process.

At the same time, agility is still a mindset shift for many organisations. To ensure that it's fully integrated into the culture, continuous coaching and mentoring are essential – as is staying up to date with the latest government frameworks so that you can demonstrate how your work fits in with them to secure contracts, buy-in, and funding ahead of your competitors.


Choosing the right partner

A truly agile enterprise is 72% more likely to outperform competitors and can have 30% higher profits with 40% higher employee engagement. At NTT DATA, we help enterprises embrace and adopt agility by coaching their executives and teams, defining and driving their transformation roadmap that aims at improving business results and employee satisfaction.

If you’d like to find out how we can help you with coaching or implementing Agile ways of working, get in touch with us today.

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