How Federal Agencies Can Enhance Collaboration to Implement, Scale Agile Frameworks

To drive a successful Agile framework, federal agencies must implement secure, intuitive collaboration software equipped for the modern workplace.

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After the release of the Executive Order to Improve the Nation’s Cybersecurity and its call to adopt zero trust architecture, government agencies have worked to modernize and digitize internal operations. The goal: to continue to serve constituents in the most secure, efficient and effective way possible. However, outdated systems and disparate processes hinder project productivity and collaboration in the modern workspace, often leading to a breakdown in communication and inefficient or cumbersome workflows.

Many IT teams across the public sector are turning to the Scaled Agile framework, known as SAFe ― a set of organizational patterns that guide large, complex enterprises in alignment, planning, cadence, roles, and communication. Rather than the traditional linear waterfall approach, in which each phase of a project happens sequentially, SAFe is flexible, allowing teams to work on different parts of a project simultaneously, and iterate through roadblocks.

A critical component of SAFe is intuitive collaboration that brings all stakeholders to the table to brainstorm and strategize effectively at any stage of a project.

“By using a SAFe framework, you have a structure, organization, and approach that everyone already understands and is consistently following,” says Alan Richardson, who serves as the senior solutions architect for Bluescape, a leading cloud-based collaboration software company. “You don't have one team doing something independently from another, it's shared, and everybody has buy-in, which allows people to move to the same goal at the same time.”

Although SAFe promises an improved approach to delivering project value, adopting collaboration software to implement the framework is easier said than done. This is especially true within government agencies, which each have their own unique sets of requirements and implementation hurdles.

Understand the Roadblocks to SAFe Collaboration

Since the tools and roles required for Agile frameworks are relatively new to the government, there is no set standard for sourcing and procurement. Richardson explains that, rather than getting caught in the weeds of each step, agencies should start by shifting their focus to big-picture, long-term strategic goals.

“Older models of procurement are more task-based; they define a specific task, and then agencies go out and procure someone to come and do just that one granular task,” says Richardson. “Instead of trying to define microtasks, open it up and set a bigger vision, focus on the outcomes you are trying to accomplish.”

One approach is for leadership to set their sights on recruiting a team of experts with different skill sets to pilot adoption without overly prescriptive tasks. This provides them room to innovate, then model and deliver the results.

“Let them discover what their tasks are as a collaborative unit, so they can figure out how to get to the end goal,” Richardson says. “Start small with a seed team, then share that experience and grow that knowledge. Communities of practice help agencies implement and scale these practices. There’s no downside to beginning immediately.”

According to Marina Skakun, senior customer success manager for Bluescape, the importance of efficient teams does not stop at procurement. In order to maintain a fully functional SAFe environment, agencies must arrange for several separate roles, including executive sponsorship, a product management team, system architects, and engineers.

“I think there's this misperception that agile can be a part-time job,” says Skakun. “But you need skilled, knowledgeable product owners who are solely dedicated to leading the project because there are just so many responsibilities, it cannot be a part-time gig.”

Another key challenge for government is the high level of transparency Agile teams need to openly collaborate and make quality decisions. The degree to which teams can share may be limiting, as it can lead to increased risk of confidential information falling into the wrong hands.

“Without having that element of honesty, project decisions can be made on faulty data or on pure speculations, which could trickle down and lead to failure,” explains Skakun. “To ensure transparency, teams need to have that trusted environment and confidence that they can communicate openly.”

Find a Solution that Meets Government Requirements

Understandably, very few collaboration software solutions exist that meet both the capability and security needs of federal civilian agencies ― Bluescape’s public sector solution is one of those few. The visual collaboration platform unifies tech tools, data, and human talent within a single, secure collaboration space.

Bluescape is API-driven, meaning it seamlessly integrates and communicates with an agency’s tools and applications without the cost and burden of incorporating all new software. Combined with its FedRAMP Moderate+ authorized security, government users have the flexibility and confidence to remain focused on operations, not on the adoption of new technologies.

“Bluescape creates that secure, trusted environment where teams can collaborate and share information,” says Skakun. “It can be used as that centralized view, where interactions occur, where tasks and updates throughout the project occur, building that trust and driving high-performance teams.”

What’s more, Bluescape’s 360-degree visibility software cuts physical limitations out of the mix and creates an opportunity for valuable interaction across dispersed teams in a persistently accessible workspace, which increases the number of ideas and content employees can contribute and the speed at which teams can move through processes and make faster decisions.

“Speed really becomes just as important as security,” says Richardson. “The ability to have accurate, real-time information so that people can make quick decisions and know that they have the most current data is crucial.”

Ultimately, the successful adoption of Bluescape by agencies following an Agile framework allows for scaled, concurrent planning at all levels, seamless implementation of products into workflows, and secure execution that drives agencies to successfully meet the mission in a changing work environment.

For Richardson, Bluescape’s collaboration software and SAFe framework will serve agencies in three major areas: Establishing a secure, intuitive process that values all team member contributions, ensuring agencies get value for what they're paying for and delivering citizens with high-quality experiences and services. 

“[With improved internal project collaboration] there's a lot more focus and effort put in upfront, iterating to make it improved, and then iterating again to improve it even further, versus just delivering the first run, best effort,” Richardson says. “There's a huge difference for the end user between good enough and well thought out and well defined.”

Learn more about how Bluescape can help your agency collaborate more effectively.

This content is made possible by our sponsor. The editorial staff was not involved in its preparation.

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