A Disciplined Approach to Agility: Agile Infusion at DFAS.

Author:Hanrahan, Michael

Five years ago, DFAS piloted the "Agile" methodology on the technology refresh for a Travel SmartVoucher application. Senior leaders were so impressed with the results compared to traditional Waterfall software development that they sought to expand the use of Agile. Like most successful transformational efforts, the Agile infusion began with senior executive buy-in and support of Agile basics and values.

In April 2016, the Agile Transformation Team (ATT) led the first formal DFAS Agile training course. DFAS now possesses a fully developed Agile program that achieves a 44 percent average reduction in time to deliver value and a 38 percent average reduction in time spent on rework across all transitioned systems. Implementing a disciplined approach to agility and achieving value required navigating the steps to understand Agile basics; developing the DFAS Agile process; creating an Agile infusion strategy; quantifying results; and incorporating lessons learned. Overall, Agile Infusion at DFAS provides higher quality FM capability to our customers sooner, and is a strategic enabler for mission success supporting the Department of Defense.

Agile Basics

Agile emphasizes the following core values:

* Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

* Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

* Responding to change over following a plan

* Working software over comprehensive documentation

Agile reflects the change in focus from a documentation handoff to a customer-focused process. Different methodologies exist to implement Agile such as Scrum, XP, Lean, and Scrum/XP Hybrid. DFAS uses the Scrum development process for short timeframe Sprints focused on frequent, iterative deliveries of project components. A Sprint's goal is to produce a minimally viable product with just enough features to satisfy customers and provide feedback for future product development. This is different from the Waterfall process where the product owner delivers a holistic written requirements package, and IT develops the entire solution to return to the customer.

The Scrum team is unique because the product owner is the customer who is responsible for the end product and remains involved in the process from beginning to end. There is constant communication and collaboration within the Scrum team. Daily meetings allow the team to maintain a consistent flow of work, an even pace, and the opportunity to accommodate changing priorities. To ensure the group stays on task, Agile uses artifacts such as burndown charts to track progress toward completion. The continuous communication in Agile ensures the product owners and developers negotiate scope and the minimally viable product to deliver the right solution for the customer.

The DFAS Process

The Agile process allows for increased visibility, adaptability and productivity. DFAS identified that its systems function needed the ability to rapidly pivot to higher priorities and the capability to complete IT work more effectively. As part of the its Fiscal Year 2017-21 strategy, DFAS formed the ATT to improve solution delivery effectiveness, allowing for a more adaptable system lifecycle with an increased focus on cross-organizational collaboration. The ATT trains, educates, mentors, and infuses the Agile mindset to solution delivery teams that include representation from the...

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