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A Guide: New to Agile?

Are you new to Agile? Trying to understand how this approach to project management differs from more traditional methods? Wondering how this will affect projects at the General Services Administration (GSA)? The CTO Team and TECH.GSA.GOV can help! This guide will direct you through the content and resources we offer in regards to Embracing Agile and the Steps You Can Take [Today] to Succeed in Agile Delivery.

Understanding Agile

Agile is not a process, methodology, or a specific tool. Agile is a mindset. The Agile Manifesto fully details the values and principles that comprise Agile behavior, which we summarize in Agile Adoption. It also includes some common terminology, an introduction to the benefits of Agile culture, and behaviors we can adapt to becoming more Agile.

In Popular Approaches to Agile Adoption, we highlight the most notable Agile frameworks Scrum and Kanban, and discuss their values, common terms, roles, ceremonies, and how teams can get started with each approach. However, Agile adoption is not always an easy transition; shifting the mindset of an organization and its people can present many challenges. Agile Adoption Challenges and Best Practices features some of the major challenges to Agile adoption and recommends various mitigation techniques.

Despite the challenges, the benefits of an Agile environment can far outweigh the growing pains, as introduced in Agile Adoption at GSA. Visibility & Status in an Agile Environment further discusses how creating an Agile environment can better support Business and IT collaboration, transparency, visibility, communication, and accountability.

Implementing Agile at the Organizational Level

The success of an Agile implementation begins “at the top” - it requires the full support of executive and managerial leadership. The GSA provides support of Agile adoption through Agile Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA). As part of the GSA IT vision, we have committed to building a supportive environment for iterative and open-source development. The U.S. Digital Service Playbook and 18F: Agile Principles and Practices outline the practices that have been put in place to support Agile and iterative development environment by the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Agile Practices

Moreover, we understand that continued success throughout an organizational Agile implementation is not only supported by Applying Agile Practices to Business Teams, but also helping organizations find ways to transition Traditional Management Skills and Functions in an Agile Organization and identify Measures of Success in an Agile Organization. Further, while Agile practices are often relegated to projects / processes within Information Technology, many other industries have developed innovative and strategic Agile methods which we detail in Agile Human Resources (HR), Agile Legal, and Agile Marketing.

Implementing Agile at the Project / Product Level

Agile adoption at the organizational level creates a transparent, responsive, and flexible environment that is readily able to handle change in the market. However, we recognize that not every project or product will benefit from an Agile approach, those that do are typically large and complex in nature. Those that do are typically large and complex in nature as we note in How to Determine Projects Fit for Agile. In Agile vs. Waterfall - Scope, Schedule and Cost, we explore the main differences in why you would select an Agile approach (versus a traditional project management approach) and then recommend these 3 Steps to Develop an Agile Product Roadmap that define the product / project’s path to success.

Agile Approaches

The CTO Team provides Agile coaching, resources, and guidance in the Scrum, Kanban, and DevOps approaches. Regardless of the framework used, the goal is to continuously improve upon iterative development and encourage Collaboration Across Agile Teams. We can walk you through Conducting an Agile Project and provide guidance on Establishing an Agile Team Working Agreement, Managing Requirements in an Agile Environment, Defining When a Requirement is Complete, Writing Effective User Stories, Estimation & Story Pointing, and facilitating successful Agile Meetings Goals and Benefits.

Agile Contracts

As efforts progress, Business groups may require procurement of Agile resources to fill project roles through a contract. The CTO Team has worked with various groups across GSA IT and outside organizations, including Contracts and Acquisition, to develop supporting resources for Agile contracts, including a PWS Template and Task Order Template (also available in a downloadable MS Word format). The template provides contract language guidelines and sample language for procuring resources through an Agile BPA. Further, we have comprised Agile interview questions for Vendors and Roles to ensure informed selection of the right approach and skillsets for a successful Agile project / product delivery process.

For frequently-asked, high-level questions regarding Agile, check out the Agile FAQ. For various terminology used throughout the content, the Glossary provides an up-to-date reference. Additionally, most content cites sources used or a “Good Reads” section that includes reference information.