Ensuring Mission Delivery for Government Projects

Derek Ridenour | March 11, 2014

The following is based on our recent webinar.

Government agencies are continually looking for ways to deliver projects faster and are rapidly changing their approach to delivering IT and Engineering capabilities. Both the Office of Management & budget (OMB) and the Department of Defense (DoD) have mandated that major IT programs adopt iterative delivery models, such as Agile. Employing these methods, agencies can realize faster returns on IT investments and deploy technology solutions that will propel them towards a 21st century digital government.

This evolution requires new efficiencies and decision-making capabilities to cope with the increased velocity. The biggest challenge lies in being able to quickly gather and approve requirements and changes, while still capturing the necessary levels of traceability. Often chasms grow between process, project data and the people making decisions. Too many sources and no single source of truth can lead to outdated specifications or dated priorities. As a result, you can waste valuable time chasing down answers and revisiting decisions.

The costs of change multiply the further you go down the path to launch. To reduce the number of late changes (where costs compound), make sure your teams stay aligned, know what they are doing and why. It’s equally important to involve stakeholders, including PMO’s and end users, early and often so they can provide the contextual information your team needs. The Jama solution helps agencies execute effective government IT programs, and we’ve developed best practices to help ensure greater responsiveness, better transparency and faster project delivery.Jama Solution

Traceability and Change Management

Today we see people creating individual documents that represent different levels of detail within projects. This detail could be business requirements, epics, functional specifications, stories, test plans and so on. By capturing all of this information in the same place, you can instantly create easy trace relationships between the different levels of requirements. Different teams can still own their pieces, but by having them in a central location and being able to see how they are all connected, you gain exponential value.

Managing requirement changes—or tracking the detailed version history of requirements—goes hand in hand with traceability. You greatly extend the value of both traceability and change management by adding in context via collaboration, ensuring that people know when things change and why.

Test Coverage

A testing manager once told me ‘Trouble rolls downhill. QA sits at the bottom.” As development on projects gets faster and more iterative, the testing department comes under increasing pressure. With many delivery dates having contractual, monetary or legal repercussions, getting testing involved as soon as a change occurs at any level is extremely important. Test coverage is fundamental to quality assurance. Today it’s often difficult to know if your test plan matches up to the product that’s being tested, and that’s because traceability is difficult with traditional tools like Excel, that do not take into account the newer, iterative processes.

When everything is connected, you notice changes being added, or scope creep, and can adjust your testing. By having insight upstream, QA ensures it tests the right things. As a best practice, the testing team should be able to see the discussions and decisions around a given requirement or element they will be testing. Then they can accurately build and adjust their test plans to match. This visibility also lets the testing team move much faster, adjusting test plans and scripts in parallel with the requirements definition. This removes waste and delay from projects. If your test coverage is properly linked throughout the project, then your audit compliance, traceability matrix, or proof of delivery is simple.

Collaboration and Communication

The ability to collaborate on any item or section of a mission, with all of the SME’s, stakeholders and decision-makers involved speeds mission delivery. This is where we at Jama have helped our government customers transform how they work.  Collaboration allows you to not only engage your teams, stakeholders and decision-makers, but also capture the context of those discussions and decisions and maintain traceability throughout your mission.

The design and implementation of the system, either internal or for a customer, follows the typical flow. However, in large government projects the complications increase due to size, amount of regulation, risk and the sheer amount change injected into the process often and by different sources. Unfortunately this process is typically handed through documents, spreadsheets or occasionally by a system that still just produces documents.

A solid set of approved requirements that you can hand off to development for build out will yield an efficient, predictable, and inclusive system where system integrators, vendors and government agencies work together toward mutual success.

In the end it really is about managing complexity. If projects are small enough with low risk, a less structured approach may be sufficient. However most projects are growing in size, complexity and risk, with a much lower tolerance for failure or project overruns. The major changes happening in government IT project process and standards drive pressure to deliver, as well as opportunities for overall improvement. By better aligning stakeholders and improving collaboration and testing processes, you can potentially revolutionize government IT.

Learn more about the biggest challenges facing organizations delivering products in the Forrester Consulting report, The State of Modern Product Delivery. Watch the full recorded webinar Ensuring Mission Delivery for Government Projects and learn more about the Jama Product Delivery solution.


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