Agile ‘cannot be ignored’ by public service organisations says Socitm

With public service organisations under huge pressure to do more things more quickly and at less cost, Agile methodologies cannot be ignored says Socitm in its new guide.

Planting the Flag: pocket guide 6 – Agile is the final guide in the Socitm series covering strategic capabilities required for public service reform. The five other capabilities – leadership, governance, shared services, strategic commissioning, and organisational change – have already been covered by similar guides.

With public service organisations needing to reduce cost and increase productivity faster than ever, the guide explains how Agile development can help them deliver the adaptable ICT-supported business processes they need in future.

The guide points out that Agile is now at the heart of all development related to the new GOV.UK website produced by the Government Digital Service (GDS), and is firmly embedded as the future methodology for its digital services.

Agile promises delivery of high quality solutions within defined and short timescales, says the guide, and manages risk by building in flexibility to the approach, as opposed to traditional ICT methodology that tries to predict everything from the outset.

Many of the principles of ‘Agile’ are simply common sense, such as the close involvement of the client and/or users throughout projects rather than just at the beginning and the end.

The guide contains three main sections:

· Why important describes Agile ‘heritage’ including the Agile Manifesto of 2001, as well as management techniques like ‘Kaizen’ or ‘Lean’ or ‘just in time’ from previous decades. It compares and contrasts Agile with project management methodologies like PRINCE2 with its traditional ‘waterfall’ approaches to project development. Guidance is given on factors that might influence choice of traditional or Agile methods for particular projects or programmes.

· The Agile methodology describes how Agile inverts the traditional thinking about project management. While the waterfall method defines and fixes user requirements, Agile fixes the number of people involved and the time allowed for the development, using a series of devices and techniques – among them ‘MoSCoW’, ‘Sprints’, and ‘Scrum’ – to deliver projects

· Critical steps to make it happen describes five steps required to adopt Agile approaches successfully, and also looks at learning from the programme of Agile pathfinder projects supported by Socitm and IndigoBlue Consulting Ltd during 2012.

The final section of the guide is a 16-point action plan for managers starting out with Agile.

‘Agile does require a change of outlook and management culture by organisations, but it does not mean abandoning years of project management expertise’ says Chris Head, author of the guide. ‘While Agile will not suit all organisations or all projects, we’d encourage our audience – principally senior ICT managers and change managers throughout public service organisations – to go out and identify a suitable project and set up an Agile pilot without delay.’


Planting the Flag: pocket guide 6 – agile is downloadable free of charge for Socitm members and available for £50 each for non-members.