Ep. 5 - Agile Transformation & The Government: Changing Culture & Process

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Will Choi is the President and CEO of VerticalApps,

an IT consulting company focused on facilitating the agile transformation of the federal government. Will took a risk by leaving the private sector to launch his own business in 2010, but he is an entrepreneur at heart – and with that comes the desire to take risks and change the game.

And much like his clients, VerticalApps had to iterate and adapt very quickly throughout their own business lifecycle. By pivoting on what they do and ultimately who they do it for helped create the momentum they needed to propel their business forward.  

Breaking through the notion of the way things were

Facilitating agile transformation requires a cultural transformation, especially within the public sector.

Many organizations are afraid of change, which is a obviously a big obstacle when implementing a product development approach focused on rapid iteration. The first step to overcoming this fear is helping them understand, identify, and agree there is a need to change.

But to really get them to believe in this new way of working means less talk and more action – if you can’t demonstrate how your technology or your processes help a client meet their business goals, you’re not helping. It also requires the commitment and buy-in from the top to set the stage for change.


Key Takeaways:

  • Need to be more agile if you want to keep up – Whether they’re in the public sector or the private sector, organizations should embrace a shift towards agile processes. The world changes quickly, especially tech and how people interact with it, and you will need to be more Agile if you want to keep up.

  • Show me don’t tell me – People are usually hesitant to embrace Agile because of culture or mindset. Especially within the government, the existing culture may be actively resistant to iteration and change. You need to show the benefits of being Agile – not talk about them.

  • Agile is all about speed, both in thinking and doing, and doing things that are of high value – Prioritize what delivers the highest value and show them something tangible in a matter of weeks that the organization can relate to; prove agile processes will be better for them.

  • User-centric not organization centric – Everything needs to be designed with users in mind (someone who is actually going to be using the system), and there will be users that are different.

  • Someone from the business side needs to be represented – This business owner is the product owner, can put together a business case, and is able to determine importance and value against potential capabilities, features, or functionality.

  • Requirements reflect business needs which should be aligned to the user needs - Your business owner and the team should be in-tune with your user needs in order to assess what is high value.

  • Dedication at the top and commitment across teams creates the velocity throughout the organization – Agile organizations have to be committed to the process, from the business owners down to the developers and designers. Yet it’s not just on the development side, and not just on the business side. It's for all of the organizations in the federal government: legal, contracting, policy, information assurance, public affairs. They all need to change their thinking and their mindset to support this for the skids to be really greased.




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