Hugh Ivory,  Founding Partner at AgileSphere, is an Agile Coaching and Programme Management Consultant.

He recently spoke about the DSDM approach to project management with Martin Jordan at Public Sector Focus magazine. [See transcript below]

Hugh will be speaking at Bringing Projects to Life #eVa21 on 16 June.

What is different about the DSDM approach to project management?

The DSDM approach is based on the philosophy that everything we do should be focused on delivering business value.

Agile Project Management provides a framework for delivering what the user needs. The following elements differentiate this from traditional approaches:

  • Do just Enough Design up Front; don’t waste time seeking false certainty – there are some things you just can’t know today
  • Develop iteratively and deliver incrementally. Welcome feedback and change, don’t try to limit it
  • Build a team that has everything that it needs to succeed
    • Business knowledge and empowerment
    • The right people
    • Budget
  • The Project Manager is a Servant Leader, creating the space for the team to deliver – not a command and controller
  • Fix Time and Cost [Timeboxes, Releases] vary Scope
  • Provide an adequate demonstration of Control [Time, Cost, Scope, Quality, Risk]

Does the challenge of public sector project management differ from commercial organisations? If so how?

  • The challenges are the same – but perhaps they manifest themselves in different ways.
  • Smaller commercial organisations can be more adaptive simply by virtue of their scale – because decision makers are much closer to product and service delivery, and can react to feedback much more quickly. Larger commercial organisations are striving to be like this, through being flatter and empowering the people who really know the service with funding and responsibility.
  • The challenge for larger organisations, including government, is to create the conditions whereby product and service delivery teams can take feedback, make quick decisions and get on with delivery, without the distractions of heavy governance frameworks. This is difficult in government, where budgeting and decision making processes, and the need for public accountability can stifle innovation at pace. These are issues which need to be addressed if Agile in government is to succeed.

In your opinion, should the customer be as important in a public sector project as they are in a commercial project?

  • As a citizen, I want public services to be just as easy to access and use as the services I get say from my bank or on-line bookstore.
  • The Government Digital Strategy, and the Digital by Default approach, is a significant initiative in putting the citizen at the heart of service delivery, and has placed the UK at the forefront of citizen service delivery across the world. This is not widely appreciated in the private sector, and organisations could benefit from having a better understanding of this.

What are the implications for a project if the customer or service user is ignored and what implications would that have for the public sector? Can you give any examples of good or bad customer experience?

  • Put simply, ignoring the customer or user will result in the delivery of the wrong thing, that will not deliver the desired business outcome.
  • Some research that I’ve been involved in has shown a strong correlation between failure to meet user needs and high operational costs. For example, if we are not clear with citizens what documentation they need to provide to effect a transaction with government, they are likely to provide the wrong information, leading to unnecessary contact, excess documentation and multiple attempts before service outcomes are delivered.

With the emphasis on increased public sector digital service delivery, can you foresee any issues that could come to the fore?

  • The level of spending on public sector projects, and the media and public accountability that surrounds it, means that it is important to provide assurance to the taxpayer that money is being well spent. However, our implementation of this has been through heavy governance frameworks, at significant cost in terms of money and time.
  • Digital by Default and agile delivery demands a balanced approach to governance – light but effective, making use of the information radiated by the delivery teams to ensure that we are doing the right things in the right way (i.e. are we investing in the right things, are we spending that investment in the most effective way). The Government Digital Service has developed some relevant principles and guidance.

How can DSDM methodology assist public sector project delivery?

  • Agile approaches provide the opportunity for Senior Responsible Officers to have real transparency of, and greater influence over, how their investments are being spent. This brings with it a responsibility to appoint and empower the right people to deliver change, and to take more time to see for themselves what is being delivered by visiting the teams regularly and participating in Show and Tells.
  • The Agile Project Management framework defines the key roles and behaviours needed to underpin this, and sits very well with Digital by Default. With appropriate guidance, it can help public sector programmes which need to deliver digital services to implement effective agile governance:
    • Feasibility and Foundations deliverables put some meat on the bones of what teams should be delivering from Discovery and early Alpha’s
    • Roles and responsibilities are closely aligned to Digital by Default, and the team structures enable a simple but effective approach to scaling

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