I’m blogging the conference Agile Approaches for Delivering Business Value
National Packaging Waste Database – a DSDM Case Study
- Delivering the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) on time and to budget
- Facilitating a very diverse stakeholder community drawn from industry and the 4 regulators
- Managing the culture shock of imposing agile on a waterfall community
- Managing an agile project with a geographically distributed team
- Learning the lessons
Agile process was deliberately imposed on a traditional waterfall environment.
Packaging Waste regulation revolves around market in Packaging Recovery Notes – buying and selling of “evidence”.
At least 12 major stakeholder groups, including 4 agencies!
Project started in 2003 to replace paper-based system. Tight deadlines, so DSDM chosen as approach.
A single system for both the regulators and the regulated industries – first time in UK Government!
Success – users, industry and regulator like the system, time deadlines hit, budget met.
Challenges – Variation in stakeholder views, resentment, relocation, geographically distributed, very few people dedicated to the project.
Tight regulatory deadline, combined with a “proof point” meant that early stages were accelerated – lots of issues not sorted and which came back to bite later…
The view from the Environment Agency IT organisation – government – used to very structured process with rigid processes. Industry had said “here’s the money, get on with it”. Different technology. Tight deadline. Ouch!
As a regulator, the Environment Agency found it hard to cope with the idea of an outside body doing regulation, managing data protection, security etc.
Lots of confusion over roles – who was running this project? Two project boards – one inside Environment Agency, one across Environment Agency and the industry. Half were running with DSDM, half were in BRUF-land.
Resolved to one steering group, one PM, focus on who has skin in the game.
No end to the polititics – more discord over the future of the system and the implementation of regulation – the system forced clarity on a process with some discretionary ambiguity…
Another row before go-live – Environment Agency testers wanted to defer go-live for a collection of non-critical issues… Sometimes you have to just make a commitment! (note that code quality was good)
Culture/philosophy clash between DSDM and Government Waterfall…
Had uneasy hybrid of two approaches – effectively two sets of testing. Key learning point – sort out approach to testing early – without compromise. Go with Agile or waterfall – don’t try to do both.
Further row over support, hosting etc. In the end needed forced collaboration – lock the three sets of lawyers in a room until they agree!
Fundamental problem was conflicting attitudes to risk. Public-sector risk-averseness conflicted badly with MoSCoW.
If you want to procure agile services or projects you need to think carefully about procurement appraoch – most public-sector procurement approaches assume fixed requirements up front! Need to apply timebox and iterative disciplines to the procurement phase too…
Key learning for Environment Agency:
- One size (of process) doesn’t fit all
- Let go of some risks
- Learn to give up control and trust
- Effective and efficient are different things.
- Keep your eyes on the end goal
Key learning from project manager:
- Keep focused on deadlines and business requirements
- Just in time resolution of politics
- Communication – regular, frequent, face-to-face if possible, everyone to everyone. False economy to talk on the phone.
- Prototypes as early as possible
- Effective team-building