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Category Archives: Waterfall

California Digital Government Summit recap

Agile, Conferences, Digital Transformation, Event Recap, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Product Management, Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Waterfall


Photo credit: Techwire

By Dave G. Cornejo, MBA, CSM

For over 30 years, Sacramento has been home to some of the largest and most-anticipated government technology conferences on the west coast. This year’s Digital Government Summit was no exception.

About the Event

Hosted by Government Technology/e.Republic, the summit included key state and local government executives, technologists, and industry specialists to address the most important policy, management, and technology issues surrounding the future of digital government in the State.

This year’s event included an impressive line-up of guest speakers like Governor Newsom’s Advisor on Innovation and Digital Services, as well as representatives from the Department of Technology, the Government Operations Agency, and more.

Key Takeaways

Some of the most interesting topics from the breakout sessions included:

  • Re-inventing Customer Services
  • AI (machine learning and predictive analytics)
  • Census 2020
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Design Thinking in Action (putting focus on people when designing new services and products)

The overall theme for this year’s summit was on customer-centered technology, so it was not surprising that a large crowd gathered to hear the latest chapter on the Governor’s plan for the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI).

Governor’s Goals

Summit attendees learned that Governor Newsom wants the State to be more innovative on how it interacts with clients. He believes government is not focused on customers like private industry and he wants that to change.

Some of ODI’s innovation goals include the following:

  1. Encouraging agile and modular approaches to project management, rather than “waterfall” models.
  2. Bridging silos, not blowing them up.
  3. Developing talent, creating a community, and investing efforts in a culture change.

Final Thoughts

Working for a private sector consulting firm that supports many state public sector agencies to digitally transform, it was encouraging to hear the innovation-focused message from the Governor’s office and other guest speakers and summit attendees—and to know that we are on the same page when it comes to using technology to better serve Californians.

About the author

Dave G. Cornejo is a retired State executive having served as an Assistant Executive Director over Administration and Information Technology, Chief Financial Officer, and a Fiscal Division Chief. In these capacities, Dave successfully oversaw the implementation of multi-million-dollar technology projects. Dave has also taught Computer Information Science and Business courses as an Adjunct Professor with the Los Rios Community College District and served as a loaned executive to the California Performance Review team. Dave currently serves as a Financial Analyst for one of our public sector health care clients.

Improving the User Experience with Product Management

Agile, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Continuous Improvement, Healthcare, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Process Improvement, Product Management, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Scrum, Technology, Waterfall

By Jamie Spagner, PMP, CSM, CSPO

As a PMP, I have nearly a decade of traditional project management experience. I’ve worked on several projects and helped implement solutions into production using the standard waterfall methodology. With a very scripted plan, traditional projects have pre-defined scope and a definitive end.

Something I’ve recently started to work on is Product Management. In my current role, I am helping to plan the modernization efforts for a legacy system in the health care industry. The idea of Product Management is a relatively new concept for the public sector—it shifts the traditional way of thinking and is less prescriptive and more flexible.

You may be wondering how Product Management works, so I wanted to share my thoughts on Product Management in general, as well as some of its challenges.

  1. Product Management doesn’t stop. Product Management is customer-driven by nature—there is no fixed schedule or end date by which to release a product or system. Features are continuously added or tweaked to make the system or product function better for the end-user.
  2. Product Management is centered around the Agile approach. (Also true of some traditional projects.) Teams are self-motivated to determine how and when they’ll do the work. Product Management is not done in a vacuum—the development of the product is still structured using typical scrum tools like daily stand-ups and sprint planning.
  3. Product Management is not perfect. As with any new way of doing things, implementing a Product Management approach is not without its challenges. The idea of a product never being truly “finished”—because the product is continually improved to make sure it meets and exceeds customer needs—can be a tough concept.
  4. Product Management requires buy-in. Product Management often requires a culture change, as well. Coaching of executives and leadership is common—instead of directing their team, leaders should empower their teams to self-organize.
  5. Reporting Product Management’s progress. Another challenge of Product Management is reporting and being able to show progress against a plan. Since these are inherently waterfall tasks, there is a challenge in how to measure and show progress with a continuous process like Product Management. I believe using the tools of Agile can help in reporting and measurement. Developing a product roadmap, building a backlog, holding daily standup meetings, and overall accountability—you should trust in the agile process to develop and improve a great product.

Product Management is starting to be used more widely in public sector technology and innovation endeavors because it focuses on the people, processes, and technology. Product Management is a team effort to make sure a product thrives and meets the needs of the end-user community it supports.

Have you used a Product Management approach before? How is it working for you? Leave a comment and let us know!

About Jamie: Jamie Spagner is an Executive Consultant for KAI Partners, where she works as a Project Manager for a public sector health care client. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with the Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies/Public Relations. She is a loving mother of a teenage son named Wyatt. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, spending time with family/close friends, and working out.

KAI Partners’ Agile Services [INFOGRAPHIC]

ADKAR, Agile, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Digital Transformation, Infographic, Innovation, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, KAIP Academy, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Prosci, Public Sector, Sacramento, Scrum, Technology, Training, Waterfall

Did you know KAI Partners provides comprehensive Agile services? Check out this infographic to see what Agile is, why your organization should think about going Agile, and how KAI Partners can help.

Defining Roles and Responsibilities as a Certified Scrum Product Owner

Agile, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, KAIP Academy, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Prosci, Scrum, Training, Waterfall, Workforce Development

By Denise Larcade, CSM, CSPO, LSSGB, Prosci

I recently took the Certified Scrum Product Owner course through the KAIP Academy. As you may remember, I also recently took the KAIP Academy’s Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course and have found use for both methods on the project I currently consult on.

Over the years, I have assumed multiple agile/scrum roles on several different teams. I’ve taken on the role of ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and Team Member.

Having been in multiple roles on all kinds of teams, I’ve seen the waters get muddied when it comes to agile. Agile can get watered down or manifest into something unrecognizable. An organization that has managed projects using a waterfall methodology often makes a shift to agile and without proper training and established roles, the methodology can turn into something like “Water-Scrum-Fall,” “Scrum Falls,” or “WaterScrumming.”

Something that was covered in this course was, as a Product Owner, what to do when your stakeholder(s) don’t review the work the team is completing in each sprint. If the stakeholder identifies what they want and gives support for development, then they must be willing to take the time to see the results. As a Product Owner, it is your responsibility to communicate requests of the stakeholder and support the team as they share and present the results. It is difficult for the Product Owner to gain team trust if the stakeholder(s) don’t review the products delivered at the close of each sprint.

As a Product Owner, you have the ability to maximize business outcomes—a key skill for this role is communication. Whether it’s communication with stakeholders or communication with the team, communication is essential to success.

True agile can result in success, but manipulating roles and responsibilities in agile can result in a diminishing return or results. Ultimately, the CSPO training provided both a refresher to CSM and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities related to scrum. This course helped me to better understand what I know about each role and where I have an opportunity to learn more.

Interested in taking the KAIP Academy’s next Certified Scrum Product Owner course? A list of all our upcoming courses can be found here. Remember, there is no exam associated with becoming a Certified Scrum Product Owner. The 2-day course with Certified Scrum Trainer (via the Scrum Alliance) is all you need to get your CSPO!

About the Author: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to one of KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise grew up in the Silicon Valley and relocated to Utah and Idaho before recently returning to her native California roots.

7 Smart Ways to Make Your Sprint a Success

Agile, Best Practices, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, Scrum, Training, Waterfall

By Michael Bosch, CSP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO

KAI Partners is excited to share a guest blog post by Michael Bosch, Agile Services Director of Brightline Solutions, Inc., a locally-based firm offering Agile Delivery and Change Management Services to public sector organizations and private sector firms.

Remember, KAIP Academy offers Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training courses! For more information or to register your team and take them to the next level, click here.

Establishing all the components of an Agile framework (even a lightweight one) can be a daunting task for any organization. If yours is one that has decided to take the transformation plunge, then you’re likely planning (or have already started) your iteration cadence.

Timeboxed development periods, known as iterations or sprints (the latter promoted in the Scrum methodology), are the foundational rhythm to the “groove” of Agile. Supported by other elements such as roadmapping, release planning, demonstrations, and retrospectives, sprints are the dominant architectural feature of the Agile framework. And for good reason:

Sprints are where all the work is performed and where the innovation occurs.

The best sprint lengths are one to three weeks. If multiple Agile teams are working in your organization, the common wisdom is to have them running on a synchronized sprint schedule. The most critical aspect of running an iteration is that the team is formed in such a way that it can perform the work foreseeably asked of it, that the team is empowered and entrusted to a sufficient degree, and that the entire product community (not just the team, but everyone involved in its work) understands the mindsets, roles, and expectations required in Agile.

With that foundation in place, you’re ready to start looking to optimize your team’s sprint so that success becomes predictable. Below are seven things high-performing Agile teams do that you can use to ensure your sprints are optimized for business-driven delivery.

1. Create and Promote a Sprint Theme or Goal: One of my favorite ways to focus a team on the sprint is to ask the members to put together a headline of what is to be produced, accomplished, and attained in the upcoming iteration. I’ll ask, “If this next sprint was a newspaper article, what is its headline?” This technique allows the team to:

  • be concise and pithy,
  • create understanding amongst themselves,
  • share insights; and
  • have fun putting a “brand” on their effort to keep a sharp focus on what’s being delivered and why.

2. Encourage the Product Owner and Sponsors to Address the Team: Another stand-by technique to promote success in a sprint is to allow time for the product owner, sponsor, or both to speak to the team about why the planned work is important. Have them speak about the features that will be created and why these are important to the organization, its customers, and their users. I once had a sponsor talk to a team before a sprint about the importance of the new feature set to the world—you have never seen such commitment as I saw in that team in that timebox. Have your sponsor and product manager make the visit—the time invested can translate to delivered value.

3. Establish and Drive an Effective Product Backlog Grooming Process: Disaggregation (a term Agilists use to describe the defining a set of items that will result in the production of the whole) of the product into logical components, commonly referred to as “epics,” and the subsequent disaggregation of those epics into producible items (or “stories,” in Scrum) is the chief responsibility of the product manager (“product owner” in Scrum). This role works in close coordination with the development team, usually working with the Agile Coach (in Scrum, it may be the ScrumMaster) and/or other team members to prioritize the items listed in the product backlog, or PBL, prior to each sprint as part of its planning process.

There are several techniques that can be employed to support and mentor the work of a product manager (stay tuned for future blog posts on this topic!) and there are multiple resources on the Internet to get a good PBL up and running. The take-home message:

Make sure there is a close, communicative connection between the development team and the product owner throughout product development, and that the PBL is the central point of that connection.

4. Champion and Facilitate both Individual and Communal Commitment: A critical component of the translation of items from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog (SBL) is a clear understanding on the team’s part of what each item is, how it will be produced, the criteria of satisfaction for its acceptance, and how it fits into the larger whole. As discussed above, this is fostered by a sufficiently-groomed PBL; another way to help facilitate this understanding is promoting a team-level mindset.

One of the steps in translation of items from PBL to SBL is the volunteering of team member(s) to perform the work involved in the item. This is the individual commitment necessary to produce the work. Great Agile teams, though, don’t stop there: They also commit communally as a team to all individual commitments.

To promote this, have the person(s) who has taken responsibility to produce the feature or component discuss:

  • how the feature will be produced (remember W. Edwards Deming, the father of modern quality management: if you cannot describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing)
  • what impediments may be encountered
  • what information gaps needs to be filled, and any foreseen dependencies, risks, or issues.

Then have the team ask questions, give feedback and suggestions, and (if warranted) recite back the work as described. This will ensure a critical common understanding: Not only do the persons doing the work have a clear plan, but the team also understands—and can help if needed. This adds surety that all the work the team committed to in the sprint gets done, which is one definition of a successful iteration.

5. Coach the Team in the Beginning, Coach the Individual in the Middle: As Lyssa Adkins points out in her book Coaching Agile Teams, interruptions—even in the form of well-intentioned but ill-timed coaching—can seriously impact a team’s flow during a sprint. One way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to prevent ad-hoc “mini-retrospectives,” “team teaching sessions,” and other events from occurring during the iteration. You should save that type of teaching for the planning sessions and lessons learned reviews that bookend it (see #6 for more on this topic!). While the sprint is active, it is best to keep coaching at the individual team member level, and even that should be limited to directly supporting an immediate need in the sprint.

6. Leverage the Opportunities for Retrospective: Keep your retrospectives fresh with some easy modifications: Change up the agenda, location, facilitator role, and other elements to keep your team interested and engaged. Come prepared, but be flexible—I usually come to a retro with an agenda in mind (for example, something observed during the sprint that indicates a need for review of an Agile principle), but I check with the team first to see if there’s something they’d rather review. Check with the team on where in the Sprint cycle they’d like their retrospective. Many teams like to hold it directly after the review, some like to do it just before, still others like to wait until just before the beginning of the next iteration. Find what works for each team, but continually impress the importance of the retrospective. It is more than mere ceremony—it is a vital step to allow your team time and space to reflect on the past iteration in order to improve future ones.

7. Foster Urgency and Fun: One of the most productive aspects of an Agile production environment is the consistent, predictable, confining nature of timeboxed development. It creates a sense of urgency that can almost be sensed, like a feeling in the air. The regular performance of sprints helps with this—it creates the downbeat that helps everyone stay (or get back into) rhythm. It is the chassis on which the other elements of the Agile framework are attached (as they owe their intrinsic value to the sprint itself).

Foster that sense of urgency in your teams, but balance it with the need to maintain a sustainable pace. Moreover, make sure that your team is having fun! Agile is fun—getting things done that provide needed value to our customers quickly is intrinsically rewarding. Let that shine on your team in whichever way you find works—they will reward you with sprints jam-packed with innovative product delivery!

About the Author: Specializing in transformation and disruption services for companies looking to improve, Michael Bosch has been providing high-value delivery services for more than 15 years. An Agilist with more than 10 years’ experience in the incremental development of complex digital solutions, Mr. Bosch has served as a Scrum Master, developer, and Agile coach for multiple sectors and lines of business, is a recognized Agile services technologist, product developer, and staff development expert. He specializes in creating breakthrough, team-empowering, lightweight communication and delivery frameworks for organizations of all sizes. Mr. Bosch is a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Product Owner (CSPO), and an accredited Project Management Professional (PMP). He holds multiple degrees, including a masters in computer information systems. He has served as a professional trainer and speaker for more than a decade and is a published author and regular contributor to multiple information sources.

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