The Patrick Administration is tirelessly pursuing innovation in state government to improve service delivery to residents and to save taxpayers’ money. Several times a year, the Commonwealth hosts a project management forum (“PM Connect”), where project management experts share best practices on key topics.
A previous PM Connect meeting focused on innovation. In our most recent PM Connect meeting, University of Massachusetts’ Chief Technology Officer Patrick Masson (pictured, above) and Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office’s Chief Information Officer Kevin Coluci presented at the PM Connect meeting on their use of “Agile” project management techniques.
Agile is a project management methodology which promotes adaptive planning in project management, encouraging rapid and flexible response to change. Leveraging these types of management practices helps us to provide higher-quality deliverables in a more responsive and timely matter for taxpayers.
Both Patrick and Kevin highlighted in their presentations that they are using this methodology to streamline collaboration in their offices. Kevin’s comments focused on the importance of targeting incremental progress and the next step rather than being fixated only on the end goal.
To facilitate effective communication and collaboration, both Kevin and Patrick lead their project teams in a brief “stand up” meeting every morning. In the stand up, members briefly describe work completed since the last meeting, what they are working on today and any impediments. This daily “Scrum” meeting (totaling less than 30 minutes per week) keeps team members synchronized and productive — and avoids the drudgery (and untimeliness) of a weekly meeting (which might last several hours).
Kevin’s stand up meeting room is equipped with a Scrum story board. This whiteboard (with color-coded Stickie Notes) displays a clear indication of project progress. Armed with a common understanding of tasks and status, team members are infused with a friendly spirit of competition and work well together to achieve tangible goals.
In addition to these meetings, Patrick’s office also uses UMass’ system-wide communication portal, which all employees use (instead of e-mail) to communicate and collaborate. The communication portal gives team members a clearer view of key issues and project details, resulting in higher productivity and greater adaptability.
Agile development methodologies help the teams ship a minimum viable product which immediately provides feedback from the users, allowing the product design to be quickly iterated. In the long-term, this results in maximal usability, reduced costs and decreased risk.
In his presentation, Patrick also mentioned the following reference books regarding Agile methodologies:
- “Agile Project Management,” James A. Highsmith
- “Agile Modeling,” Scott Ambler
- “Agile and Iterative Development,” Craig Larman
- “Management 3.0,” Jurgen Appelo
Note: Commonwealth employees/contractors can get more information on PM Connect, or be added to the PM Connect distribution list, by sending an e-mail to PMConnect
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