Unleashing the power of agile federal technology delivery

By adopting Agile into the heart of its organization, a federal agency improved its business and technology alignment, product and service quality, as well as team member performance and morale.

Overview of Agile

Agile is a methodology that strives to continuously deliver iterative working product increments. It offers an innovative alternative to the traditional waterfall methodology, which delivers a complete solution at the end of its often lengthy life cycle. Shorter development cycles allow teams to adapt to changing business priorities, increase productivity, and enhance quality through continuous feedback loops. Agile projects also receive intangible benefits including greater alignment between the business and technology as well as improved team morale. Today, a variety of industries ranging from marketing to manufacturing, and organizations from small and large corporations to government agencies, adopt Agile to tackle some of their most complex problems.


Case studies

Client challenge

A client required support to build and deploy technology to improve its management of a federal insurance program comprised of 5 million policies in force and $5.4 billion in written premium, including their oversight of 90 private insurance companies and vendors that sell and service insurance on behalf of the Federal Government. Complicating matters, the client’s program was under intense public scrutiny following the recent passage of two major congressional overhaul bills.

Solution

PwC helped the client utilize the Scrum framework to build and deploy a series of web applications according to a product roadmap based on client priorities to provide enhanced oversight of the federal insurance program. In coordination with the client, PwC facilitated discovery sessions to capture requirements through user story cards, which were further refined over time and incorporated into two week sprints. To strengthen the continuous feedback loop, PwC assisted the client with incorporating a user experience tool suite into its Scrum framework to assess functionality and gather user data and feedback to inform future enhancements. In coordination with the client, PwC built and tested functionality on a two week sprint cycle, demonstrating the output during sprint review meetings and releasing code to production according to the product roadmap. To strengthen the testing process, PwC worked with the client to establish  a “paired testing” program, which proved effective at reducing the overall time to test by eliminating redundant rounds of testing and improving testing quality through real-time knowledge transfer and coaching.

Impact to client

With PwC’s help, the client to realize the efficiency and effectiveness gains they sought in performing oversight of the federal insurance program. Using Scrum enabled the client to build and release three applications quickly and according to a product release plan continuously updated based on the client’s priorities. Releasing functionality quickly enabled the client to “get a feel” for application features and provide specific feedback resulting in more robust and effective applications. Releasing functionality incrementally enabled the client to incorporate new and changing regulations and policies into application functionality; preventing costly and time consuming change requests.

As a result of using the application, the client reduced the time required to conduct oversight and made informed, data-driven decisions when managing their program.

More specifically:

  • As a result of automating and standardizing business processes, the number of insurance examiners assigned to support one key oversight process was reduced to just one. Additionally, the overall time spent reviewing requests was reduced significantly as requests are now validated prior to submission and the number of requests requiring follow-up is down to 19%.
  • As a result of application data analysis capabilities, the client was able to more quickly pull and analyze payment data from Fiscal Year 2014 to provide high level trends, as well as details down to payments for specific claim files. This information was used to support a Senate Banking Committees’ finding that there was no systematic effort to underpay claims.

Client challenge

The client is a consumer-facing federal agency striving to become a leader in technology innovation. The client was determined to defy the pattern of expensive IT failures at other agencies, which typically resulted from a lack of cross-functional collaboration, an inability to address changing requirements, and a failure to meet project deadlines. In addition, the client aimed to exceed the public’s heightened expectations for digital products and experiences. Its growing technology portfolio called for a transformation from the traditional waterfall methodology to Agile.

Solution

PwC recommended a three-phase change management strategy, including proper Agile training, piloting, and implementation across the client’s technology office. The client immersed their technical team members and business owners in a three-day Agile training session that changed the way they think, perform, and collaborate together. During the pilot period, PwC continuously refined processes, roles, and responsibilities to deliver sustainable Agile solutions in the client’s environment. The success of the pilot teams instilled confidence in the client and helped PwC orchestrate the eventual implementation of Agile across all project teams.

Impact to client

Since the adoption of Agile in 2013, the client has successfully delivered 14 digital technology projects. More importantly, the client fundamentally transformed the way it operates and introduced a culture of real-time collaboration; several of the notable achievements include:

  • Refined documentation that facilitates knowledge transfer and addresses auditability without creating administrative burdens
  • Improved team morale that increases productivity and innovation, and motivates team members
  • Enforced feedback loops from business stakeholders and functional experts that enhances product quality
  • Increased adaptability that helps manage changing priorities and maximizes business value delivered
  • Iterative team retrospectives that improve operational process and team performance

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