Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Project Management

For Project Success, Try Something New

Agile, Enterprise Architecture, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Project Management, Sacramento, Scrum, Software Development, Technology

By Barbara Hill

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Self-help gurus have been asserting this for years—and it is no less true for software development.

In software development, we try to not repeat the pattern of projects costing too much, taking too long, and not delivering what customers really need or want. This is no doubt why we’ve seen so much advice offered on how to do things differently.

As an Enterprise Architect, I take a holistic view of an enterprise by focusing on collaboration, facilitation, coordination, and integration.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of different approaches to software development.

…Early on, there were claims that formal project management methods would solve this problem by reining in costs through managing schedules and ensuring requirements were clearly stated and met.

…We’ve seen the Agile Manifesto, which, among other values, emphasizes individuals and interactions over processes and tools, as well as responding to change over following a plan.

…Then came the DevOps movement, which noted that simply focusing on software development and “throwing work over the wall” to operations was part of the problem. Instead, developers and operations staff should work together to produce better results.

…From there we’ve experienced DevSecOps, which involves security from the outset.

…And then there’s BizDevOps, in which business teams actively engage with the development and operations teams to build new products and services.

No matter which approach you use, in order to deliver a quality product or project, you need to understand the why, the how, the who, the when, the where, and the what of how your business fits and works together.

Of these six questions, the essential one is “Why?” and yet it is often the one left unanswered.

The next time you start a technology project like rebuilding or modernizing a legacy system, or creating a new one, start, as Simon Sinek says, by asking “why?”.

Why does your business or government entity exist? What is the essential value offering you make to your customers or constituents?

Asking “why” determines one of the key components of business architecture—the value stream—and it is also key to Agile and DevOps approaches that emphasize user involvement in determining what is built and how it is tested.

Once you know your value offerings and have some ideas on strategies to deliver your products and services, you can explore what capabilities you need. An analysis and assessment of your business capabilities will help highlight early on where your strengths and weaknesses are and will help you prioritize where to spend your time and resources to achieve the greatest benefits.

By architecting your business, you can think about the information architecture necessary to support the data vital to your success.

Enterprise Architecture work can be done in parallel with your DevOps teams to help ensure that all parts of your enterprise (business, information, technology, applications, security) work together, as noted Enterprise Architect Tom Graves says, “with clarity, with elegance, on purpose.”

About the Author: Barbara Hill is a Senior Enterprise Architect with KAI Partners. With over 20 years of experience working with both California state government and private sector companies, she has been instrumental in helping clients address the complexity and volatility of change, while ensuring alignment between strategic goals and operational realities. Barbara has held Enterprise Architecture certifications from Zachman International and Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture (PEAF and POET) and is currently working on certification from the Business Architecture Guild. Her Enterprise Architecture practitioner’s bag includes considerable knowledge and experience with organizational change management, quality improvement practices (such as LEAN and Six Sigma), knowledge management, data management, and data governance. Barbara’s wide-ranging work interests reflect her nomadic early days, having resided in a number of different U.S. locations, as well as Mangla, West Pakistan and London, England.

OCM Success Story [VIDEO]

ADKAR, Corporate Training, Digital Transformation, Government, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Prosci, Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Train the Trainer, Training

One of our OCM consultants shares one of her most successful change management tactics! We empower your organization to carry on the change after our work is done! Learn more here!

When is Project Management not Project Management?

Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Design Sprints, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Training, UX / UI

By Tammy Debord, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CDAP, SAFe Agilist & Scrum Master, CSM

Luckily, this isn’t a trick question. Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s more of an art than a science.”? This holds true for many different endeavors in life and business, including Project Management.

The Way we Approach Problems is Changing

As a Project Management Professional (PMP)® for over 12 years, here is what I’ve learned—think of it as two different buckets of knowledge.

Let’s call Bucket A: “The Science.” This may include:

  1. Project Management Certifications (PMP, CSM, SSM)
  2. Project Management Frameworks (PMI, SAFe, Disciplined Agile, FLEX)
  3. Project Management Process and Artifacts (Project Charters, Agile Release Trains, Six Sigma Flow Chart)

Bucket B: “The Art” includes things like:

  1. Building psychological safety
  2. Driving innovation
  3. Empowering self-organizing teams to deliver valuable solutions

While the science is absolutely needed, without the art, we have to ask: Would we still consider it a successful endeavor?

I have witnessed a shift from only defining success through costs, dates, and deliverables to instead broadening the definition to include delighting our customers, building a high-performing team culture, and criteria that includes more items from Bucket B.

Design Sprints to the Rescue

Intrigued by this shift and how it relates to my work as consultant, I recently signed up for a Masterclass by Jake Knapp called The Design Sprint.

Design Sprints, born out of Google Ventures, is now practiced across the globe as a proven method for problem-solving and launching innovative solutions.

A Design Sprint traditionally runs four to five full consecutive days with a set number of team members who are pulled together to focus on a core problem. The structure follows the path of Design Thinking, which includes: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

At its core, Design Thinking is user-centered and focuses on rapid learning based on human interactions driven through a tailored process that drives to solutions.

5 Design Sprint Tips

  1. Show, don’t tell. Facilitators encourage visuals like sketches, prototypes, and dot-voting over traditional meetings where participants typically just talk about ideas. Having a dialogue using an interactive medium helps to eliminate assumptions when people only describe what they mean.
  2. Put people first. People oftentimes drive your greatest outcomes or are your biggest barriers. Projects are not inanimate things to manage.
  3. Frame and re-frame. How you frame a problem allows you to find the right challenge to tackle. “How might we…?” problem statements allow participants to try many different lenses to a particular challenge.
  4. Embrace ambiguity. Sometimes situations won’t be clear and your cheese will be moved—when that happens, stay the course and push through with your team.
  5. Context matters. Whether you are in a new organization or another country, every ecosystem has their own culture, language, and norms to which you should recalibrate.

While I did earn a certification to add to my collection (think Bucket A: The Science), what I take with me is that the “art” of running a successful Design Sprint is the same “art” as running a successful project.

It takes a different part of the skills in your toolbox to master both—the best consultants I know have the best toolbox to pull from.

Put Your Skills into Action

A couple of ideas from the Masterclass that I have been able to use immediately in my current higher education consulting work are:

  1. Re-framing the problem
  2. Understanding context

For example, when developing an application, it is easy to believe the end goal is simply ‘completed functionality.’

By reframing the problem with the user in mind, i.e., “How might we ensure a student is able to combine and transfer their units online between campuses?”, we ensure that what is developed meets the needs of a solution beyond working code.

This could mean ensuring the underlying data needs to be revisited or that a mobile-first user experience better serves the population using the application.

By understanding context, we may discover we need to know more about the upstream or downstream applications that units are coming from or feed into so that the student has a tool that can meet their needs.

By reframing the problem and understanding context, we refocus using an empathetic lens through a technology solution.

These are just a few ways I’ve started using Design Sprint concepts in my work—do you use the Design Sprints or Design Thinking concepts? Let us know some success stories or problem areas—maybe we can help!

About the Author: Tammy Debord, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CDAP, SAFe Agilist, SAFe Scrum Master, CSM started her career in gaming at Sony PlayStation and has worked in several fields including Solar, Higher Education, and Finance in Silicon Valley. Currently she is an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, working with a public sector higher education client. While not collecting letters behind her name as part of her love of life-long learning, she enjoys watching boxing and following the Marvel Universe of films.

Chunking up the Juggernaut (aka: Scrum in a Government Setting)

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAIP Academy, Learning, Professional Development, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Scrum, Technology, Training, Workforce Development

By Todd Wallace, PMP, CSM

Agile methodologies.
Scrum projects.
Continuous and rapid improvement.

These are all phrases you would expect to hear in a Silicon Valley startup, while attending a morning huddle in a shared space office.

You would not expect to hear these phrases while attending a quarterly all staff meeting in “the large conference room on the 6th floor” at a government office.

However, times are changing, and the way work is being done is changing with those times.

What was once a radical new way to manage projects, or “work efforts,” is now seen as a reasonable, efficient, effective, and adoptable methodology to bring into new areas, such as state government.

As opposed to the historically applied Waterfall method to manage projects in state government, using an Agile method allows for earlier customer feedback and course correction.

This helps increase the chances that your project meets the customer’s needs and isn’t outdated before it’s even completed.

While a juggernaut such as a government agency may not be able to pivot as quickly as a small startup, there are still very real gains that a government agency can realize through adopting Scrum into their day-to-day operations.

With the support and understanding from leadership, a group within a government agency can form into a Scrum team, with a Product Owner, a Scrum Master, and a working group.

By breaking up the work that needs to be done into correctly written user stories and a backlog maintained by the Product Owner, the team can accomplish recognizable progress every two weeks.

While Agile was originally created for software development and rapid releases of code, achieving success with Scrum doesn’t rely on being in a software development group.

Notice that that previous paragraph said nothing about technology or software.

Scrum can be applied to any work effort, from process improvement efforts, to reconfiguring the physical assets of a floorplan.

The overarching goal of Scrum is to “chunk up the work,” or break the work down into tasks that can be completed in a timely manner, with value added at their completion.

Scrum projects may seem like tech world jargon, but there is real value in knowing how to manage Scrum efforts within the government sector and there is a real push for government agencies to adopt Scrum in daily operations.

If you work in a government setting, either as a government employee or a contractor, Scrum is a very real change coming to you soon.

If you want to be ahead of the 8-ball and able to walk the walk when your department’s leadership implements Scrum methods, the Certified ScrumMaster course, offered by KAIP Academy, will teach you everything you need to know to get up to speed. You’ll be able to confidently raise your hand in a “fist to 5” saying that you can coach the team to succeed with Scrum!

About the Author: Todd Wallace is a Senior Project Manager with KAI Partners, Inc. He started his professional career as a student assistant in the special projects department of a state agency and worked as a state employee for over 7 years before transitioning to private sector and consulting to state agencies. He has a BS from CSU, Sacramento in Small Business Operations and an MBA from UC, Davis in Entrepreneurship and Strategy. In his free time, Todd loves tinkering on cars and motorcycles and has a passion for innovation.

Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference 2019

Conferences, Digital Transformation, Event Recap, Government, Healthcare, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference 2019, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Public Sector, Technology

KAI Partners was thrilled to attend the Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference (MESC) last week in Chicago. MESC is an annual event bringing together public sector and private sector Medicaid leaders and partners to discuss issues around national Medicaid programs and systems.

A primary focus at MESC is claims management by Medicaid Management Information Systems (MMIS), provider management, and benefits eligibility management.

MESC is a critical meeting point for thoughtful dialogue, workshops, and demonstrations of new technologies. Over the course of three days, the KAI Partners team participated in several informational sessions, attended workshops, and had discussions on the trade show floor with new contacts and potential partners.

The conference provided insight into the various issues confronting systems across the nation and a valuable opportunity for us to share our knowledge working with MMIS technology, data warehousing, analytics, and business intelligence.

The themes of this year’s event centered primarily around the following:

  1. Health Care Innovation
  2. Medicaid Innovation
  3. Operations and Compliance
  4. Procurement and Contracting
  5. Interoperability
  6. Data and Analytics

These themes appeared throughout MESC sessions, where topics included the role of AI, Robotic Process Automation, Program Integrity, Modularity, Data Analytics, Organizational Change Management, Modernization, Outcomes-based approach to successful Medicaid system programs, and more.

From discussions at MESC, as well as our work here in California, we know the goals are to develop Medicaid solutions that are qualitative, supported by relevant technology, and that meet the needs of those who rely on these critical medical services.

One discussion centered around outcomes and encouraged technology vendors to be more active in pushing their technology further to achieve the desired outcomes—and to not be content with checking boxes on contract requirements.

Technology vendors were encouraged to engage in greater depth in understanding the limitations of the proposed system and to work with their public sector partners to achieve results that will have a meaningful impact on the populations served.

We were very encouraged by the session themes and with our discussions during the conference—they play to our company strengths and support our goal to serve a greater segment of the Medicaid enterprise. We look forward to pursuing opportunities that provide excellence in health care consulting and helping Medicaid departments achieve the programs and member outcomes for which they strive!

Attending MESC on behalf of KAI Partners this year were:

Ryan Hatcher: Ryan Hatcher is a skilled communications and management consultant with over a decade of experience campaigning for government, public affairs, and political clients. Ryan serves as an executive consultant providing communications support to one of California’s heath care agencies. He resides in Sacramento with his wife, Nikki, and their two dogs; in his spare time, Ryan enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and tinkering/building things in his garage.

Alexis Kalman: A graduate from UC Davis, Alexis spent over 10 years working with State Medicaid and other health and human service departments to develop, implement, and operate analytic warehouses and decision support systems. In her current role with KAI Partners, Alexis works as a technical project manager for a statewide education agency. Alexis is a board member at the YMCA of Superior California representing the Yolo YMCA. She also participates in both Boy and Girl Scouts with both of her children.

Lucie-Anne Radimsky: Lucie-Anne has over 15 years’ experience in communications and business development in the U.S. and Europe. She has represented clients within the technology, energy, and telecommunications sectors to government agencies, press, and industry analysts throughout the world. Lucie-Anne is an active community volunteer and has served on numerous non-profit boards and led alumni groups in Paris, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Irvine. She resides in Sacramento with her Brazilian husband and two boys.

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