I will describe how embracing Agile allowed the Department of Veterans Affairs to become one of the leading IT development and delivery shops in the federal Government. I will emphasize the tremendous turnaround in on-time information technology (IT) delivery performance VA achieved through the implementation of Agile practices and using a VA specific version of Agile we call the Project Management Accountability System (PMAS). I will also share how VA’s PMAS methodology and principles are shareable to other organizations, both government and industry.
• I will begin with a description of VA’s IT organization in the 2007-2009 timeframe. It was a failing organization that was able to deliver only 30% of its projects on time.
o Project managers routinely failed to deliver capabilities on time and senior leaders did not hold them accountable
o Projects frequently got off-track and were taking longer and longer to deliver
• VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) was an organization that answered yes to the following questions:
o Does your organization deliver a significant percentage of IT projects late or not at all?
o Does your organization devote time and money to projects that take years to deliver IT capabilities?
o Does your organization sustain or extend funding for IT projects that fail to deliver on time?
o Is your organization’s leadership frustrated with the current IT delivery model?
o Can your organization deliver IT capabilities early and often?
• Clearly, it was time for a return to VA’s accountability culture
o VA had to return to a culture in which it was accountable for the expenditure of its IT resources and to efficiently deliver IT capabilities needed by our country’s Veterans
o Office of Information and Technology (OIT) senior leaders wanted a project management methodology that reinvigorated accountability and embraced agile practices in daily execution
• VA returned to accountability by using Agile practices to deliver IT capabilities on time. VA called this agile accountability process the Project Management Accountability System (PMAS).
• I will provide an overarching description of PMAS, VA’s disciplined approach to ensuring on-time delivery of information technology (IT) capabilities. PMAS establishes the framework and methodology that ensures the customer, IT project team, vendors and all stakeholders engaged in a project focus on a single compelling mission – achieving on-time project delivery.
o PMAS is based on agile principals: development is done in sprints which welcome changing requirements; PMAS mandates customer interactions; PMAS ensures software is delivered early and often;
o Time-bound accountability surrounds and defines PMAS
o Accountability is a unique, two-step transaction that ensures high performance, for example:
o Project managers are accountable for identifying any risk to on-time delivery and for raising flags to warn senior leaders.
o Senior leaders are accountable for providing risk resolution, identifying process improvements and, ultimately, ensuring on-time delivery.
o Two processes support Agile principles and deliver on-time performance:
--Ensure Readiness (through go/no-go milestone reviews)
--Ensure Performance (through a risk management process)
o VA established the PMAS Business Office (PBO) to manage daily execution of PMAS
o I will include examples of the use of Agile sprints and other practices in delivering an improved version of the PMAS Dashboard
o I will project the future of Agile in VA’s PMAS enterprise.
• I will extrapolate out from how VA implemented Agile to propose tangible methods by which other organizations could embrace Agile
• I will discuss the change management challenges VA faced in its implementation of Agile.
• I will conclude by describing the impact of the shift to Agile has had on VA
o Since the inception of PMAS and the emphasis on the use of Agile practices, VA’s on-time delivery performance has risen from 30% to 83%, nearly a three-fold improvement
o PMAS and Agile has allowed OIT to become a data driven and compentency based organization
o Senior OIT leaders use PMAS data to make enterprise decisions, especially with regard to IT development resources
o PMAS data is capable of enabling predictive analysis; data entered in the PMAS Dashboard can be analyzed to predict resources the enterprise requires months in the future