Government agencies are under increasing pressure to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of their constituents. While agile methodologies have emerged as a powerful tool for enabling organizations to become more responsive, flexible, and innovative, at least 40 percent of agile transformations fail. In my experience, failures are often in one of more of these three critical areas: 

  • Partnership: Choosing the right business agility partner to guide you through your journey.  
  • Planning: Defining your agile transformation.  
  • Participation: Making the culture change and remaining fully engaged. 

Partnership to Prepare for and Guide Your Successful Agile Transformation 

A business agility implementation partner is your trusted advisor who can provide your agency with the expertise, resources, and support needed to successfully implement agile principles. Your partner should always be one step ahead of what you want today, proactively thinking ahead and building a roadmap on how to get to the end state while being sensitive to the dynamics of your agency.  

A good fit should meet the following criteria: 

  • Tailored, client-centric approach. 
    Evaluate the value the partner will bring to your organization and how they can contribute to your success. Look for an approach rooted in best practices and customized to meet your unique requirements while building for the future state.  
  • Relevant, public-sector experience at your scale.
    Choose a partner with a breadth of experience, including a proven track record of success in helping government agencies implement agile methodologies. Commercial experience provides diversity of thought, as well as cutting-edge practices and innovation for a modernized government. In addition, you want a partner who is right-sized for your engagement and will provide the same level of service, no matter the size of the contract. Consider a pilot team to prove effectiveness within your organization before committing. Don’t let a big-name firm give you false confidence. Beware of a cookie-cutter approach retrofitted to your implementation.
  • End-to-end bench expertise.
    Ensure that the partner has a deep understanding of agile principles and practices. Beware of big firms that sell you a range of credentials but staff your engagement with a less experienced team, realizing their own cost efficiencies at the sake of your contract’s success. Ensure that the vendor has a talented team in place who will be with you throughout your transformation journey, providing consistent quality and deep bench expertise at every level: training, advisory, implementation, change management, etc. Ask about certifications (how many and how long) for Scaled Agile (SAFe), SAFe Practice Consultants (SPC), and Professional Scrum Master (PSM).
  • Culture & approach. 
    This is the touchy-feely part of transformation, that vibe you get from a partner who is passionate about business agility, excited about your transformation, and invested in your success. For a smooth and successful partnership, find a partner that shares your vision and core values. Look for a collaborative, not a top-down, approach, one that is committed to alignment on objectives and builds in touchpoints to ensure critical success factors aren’t being left by the wayside. Beware of a vendor with a new idea or different plan every time you meet. Your vendor should stick to the roadmap and ensure you do the same—a mutual accountability to be successful. 
  • Well-defined contract and continuity of service. 
    Your contract protects you from derailing your agile transformation. Ensure you document the scope and size of the work, including objectives and critical success factors, with measures and targets to keep you on track through the maturity of your transformation. Pay special attention to team dynamics so you have the right to review profiles and interview and approve new team members, as well as the power to reject or remove team members who aren’t a good fit. Include coaching, advisory, training, and post-transformation support so you can manage and maintain your agile environment at the end of the contract. 

Planning Your Agile Transformation 

Your needs, issues, and requirements are the objectives that will make or break a successful agile transformation. Your partner will help you document your guiding principles, build and implement your transformation around them, and revisit and refine them as your touchstone throughout your transformation.  

  • Objectives: Identify your critical concerns and desired outcomes, then work with your transformation partner to build a comprehensive transformation plan that will solve—and uncover—more problems, leading to evolutionary change.  
  • People: Define the executive sponsors, evangelists, and cross-functional teams that will empower your transformation with the necessary agile mindset and skillsets for continuous improvement and adaptability 
  • Processes: Select the most appropriate framework (i.e., SAFE, scrum, kanban, lean) and embrace iterative development to deliver value, fostering a culture of continuous feedback 
  • Technology: Ensure the readiness of your IT infrastructure with agile tools for rapid deployment, testing, and analytics to inform decision-making and measure success. 

Participation in Your Agile Transformation Journey 

You, the client, play an essential role in the success of your transformation initiative as well. You are responsible for preparing for your journey, being communicative and transparent throughout the journey, and staying the course through the maturity of your transformation.  

Leadership buy-in is critical to drive the necessary shift to an agile mindset. Effective planning, building cross-functional partnerships and a broad base of supporters, and engaging team members throughout the process are essential to success. By empowering your teams to take responsibility for progress and demonstrating progress to upper management at regular intervals, you can ensure you meet your targets along your agile transformation journey. 

Taking on an agile transformation journey can be daunting. Choosing the right business agility implementation partner is a critical decision that can have a profound impact on your government agency’s agile transformation journey. A collaborative partnership ensures:  

  • Increased agility and responsiveness 
  • Improved decision-making 
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction 
  • Greater efficiency and innovation 

To increase your chances of success, find a partner who is experienced in leading successful journeys and who values communication, transparency, and trust. The right partner will work closely with you to understand your unique challenges and goals, develop a tailored agile transformation plan, help you achieve your desired outcomes, and empower you to sustain your transformation and leverage the agile mindset and methodologies for further innovation.