Agile in the UK Government – An Insider Tells All

I came across a very interesting article on InfoQ today about Agile in the UK Government. An insider has “revealed all” about what really goes on and how tax payer funds are now spent.

Having worked in and around various government departments over the years this was a fascinating read for me.

To set the scene for you, the reason this is so important is because:

“Described as “The Biggest IT failure ever seen”, the £12 billion wasted by the UK government on the failed NHS Patient Management System highlights that something is fundamentally broken in UK government IT. That needlessly-wasted £12 billion could have helped fix many problems in society – it could have been used to pay for 1.3 million university tuition fees, build 250 new schools, or purchase 50,000 new ambulances. Unfortunately, it is one of many examples of wasted taxpayer millions in government IT.

But there is hope, the UK government now has GDS – Government Digital Service. Not only do GDS plan to fix government IT, but they plan to completely transform the relationship between citizen and state, moving the UK towards becoming a world-leading digital-by-default government.”

The insider reveals what things are now like following the 5 years of GDS’s existence. The good news is things are much, much better. The highlights for me were:

  • “GDS philosophy puts users first, with a focus on agile principles and practices.”
  • Scrum is absolutely dominant in the public sector, at-least in my experience. But GDS don’t enforce it; they are looking for cross-functional teams of user researchers, designers, developers, testers, business analysts etc.”
  • “They want to make sure you are capable of iterating on your service quickly as you gain feedback from users. Some teams do choose a more continuous flow/kanban approach and that’s absolutely fine, too.”
  • “The teams I worked with, and many others I worked closely with, all achieved impressive levels of delivery. For example, at times we were deploying four times a week, benefitting from having a small, co-located, cross-functional team who could quickly make decisions, quickly change our code and quickly ship value to UK citizens.”
  • “Engineering practices such as TDD, pair programming and code review played a key role in that, and so did cultural philosophies like making quality a responsibility of the whole team and keeping our batch sizes small.”

This is all wonderful news and as a UK tax payer makes me much happier.

You can read the full article here. Be warned that it is quite lengthy:

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