Written by Dave Morton
Our discovery will be delivered collaboratively by:
· North East Lincolnshire Council
· Publica Group (Cotswold DC, West Oxfordshire DC and Forest of Dean DC)
· Allerdale Council
· Oxford CC
· The GOV.UK Pay team
So “the team” in this case is not only multidisciplinary but also geographically disbursed across a range of public sector bodies.
The aim was to ensure the people delivering the project would have a common language, understanding around the project and an approach to working together. And it was great to be able to put faces to the people behind the emails and telephone conversations we’d had to this point.
We had a mix of partners and council staff with roles including
· Council service design team
· Business analysts
· GOV.UK Pay team
We self hosted the event at a venue on the Seafront in Cleethorpes with hope that this would provide cheap out of season accommodation for partners along with a range of things for them to do in the resort during their stay and of course some local fish and chips too.
Days one and two were used to provide an overview of working as an agile team, roles, processes and ceremonies. The sessions were a mix of presentations, learning, videos and exercises leading to some fantastic days, great activities and productive discussion.
The exercises were great, in particular the ones that demonstrated the benefits of working using agile practices. Examples included planning a productive day’s leave with a Kanban board or of getting better by doing in terms of understanding the work in progress limits for our paper hat and boat production line. The latter exercise also demonstrated that my paper folding skills have some significant room for improvement.
Our trainer was also great at answering our questions by framing his answers around worked examples making everything feel real. And it was great to see the whole group engaged throughout the session.
Day three was dedicated to planning a project or in our case planning our Discovery together. And it was great to be able to spend quality time with our collaborators to understand the challenges, in particular around understanding habits around income management and reconciliation. We also considered the outputs for the discovery and how we might deliver the best possible discovery within the time available. And the shared experience of the people in the room really helped with the planning.
We had originally intended to have a kick off meeting after the training. However as we’d already done so much work on this throughout the day we had a short conference call with the people that couldn’t be in the room to bring them up to speed instead.
We’ve agreed to deliver our discovery work in 4x two week sprints with a final fortnight to produce and agree the outputs for the work. We’ve agreed to use online collaboration tools to manage the day to day work, along with remote “show and tells” and a weekly catch up call.
We are now completing our first sprint which has focused on producing key artefacts for the remainder of the discovery including a high level overview of how money flows through the organisation, a questionnaire for councils and some user research around “are council customers the same as central government customers?” and “does the e-payment interface have an effect on customer trust and confidence?”
This is our first experience of delivering an agile project with such a range of geographically dispersed collaborators. However so far it has been a great experience, we’ve been learning all the time around how best to make this work at distance and trying a range of approaches. And the potential benefits for government as a whole of organisations collaborating to solve common problems using patterns and approaches that can be reused across government are enormous.