Federal agencies often have a reputation for being deeply silo-ed bureaucratic institutions that struggle with innovation. But at USCIS, evolving product management has joined forces with forward thinking IT leadership to advance technical innovation that transforms the mission. Citizenship and Immigration has embarked on a vision of moving to a paperless system for a workflow that has historically required hundreds of paper forms. Through this journey, the need for an involved, responsive, and collaborative partnership between business and technology stakeholders has become imperative. DevOps practices have allowed for a continuous flow of delivery of new valuable functionality directly to public and internal users. But this new landscape creates new challenges borne out of this technological maturity. How do we continuously release new features without disrupting the business? How do we know we’re making the right functionality? How can we anticipate the demand for specific features? And how can we measure the impact on business performance measures that have historically been illusive?

We’ll explore some experiences and lessons learned from the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) program. David Blair, the IT Program Manager, will discuss the innovative “soft launch” approach used to release a public mission critical system for just 72 hours, how the limited availability to the public allowed for feedback, and what technology made that possible without disrupting the ongoing business processes. He’ll discuss how the partnership with mission-oriented stakeholders was one of the key drivers of the program success. And how together, consistent practice of non-disruptive, reliable deployments built confidence in both IT and the business. The daily repetition of deployment success indicated to key stakeholders that production changes could be made safely and quickly. Engaged product ownership helped verify that internal and external users’ needs were being met and feedback was being incorporated immediately. Business performance metrics became the primary measures of IT success. It is this collaborative business/IT partnership that is key to the success of a modern federal enterprise.

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