Agile Engineering, SAFe and DevOps: A Roadmap to Adoption at the Potomac Forum

Agile Engineering, SAFe and DevOps: A Roadmap to Adoption at the Potomac Forum

Most Agile transformation efforts in the government begin with the Scrum process. However, many agencies feel that they have reached a plateau and are ready to move through to the next logical steps. Improving digital services delivery and getting working software into the users’ hands shouldn’t stop with just Scrum. As agencies progress in their Agile transformation, they begin to see the value of adding the Agile engineering practices, such as Test-Driven Development and Continuous Integration to improve code quality and the downstream delivery of fully functional and tested software. And what about the challenges of scaling Agile for very large projects?  What might a strategic progression for Agile transformation look like? This will be the focus of our ninth Agile in Government workshop, Agile Engineering, SAFe and DevOps: A Roadmap to Adoption at the Potomac Forum, Willard InterContinental Hotel on Thursday June 14, 2018.

Full Agenda and Registration can be found here.

Although our headline says Workshop VI, this is actually our seventh engagement with Art Chantker’s Potomac Forum on Agile in Government.  I love being part of these workshops on so many levels.  The historical Willard is so elegant and Art is a gracious host.  But the real value of the Potomac Forum Agile workshops is the in-depth expert knowledge provided by the trainers, guest speakers, panelist and interactive audiences in attendance.  For this latest workshop our instructors were David Patton, Government Practice Director, and Ashok Komaragiri, Senior Technical Consultant, both from CC Pace.  Our keynote speaker and panelists included senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  A very diverse audience included some people from industry and government representatives from NIH, National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, Library of Congress, Social Security Administration, FDIC, and other Federal agencies.

We kicked off our 2016 series with the topic DevOps – Taking Agility in Government to the Next Level.   Now that more and more agencies are starting to employ some Agile principles and seeing good results, the concept of better integrating the development teams with the operations teams is starting to garner more interest. David Patton took us through the basic precepts of DevOps, and painted a clear value proposition for considering this approach.  He helped the attendees to understand that both DevOps and Continuous Delivery are part of Lean Thinking, which has its roots in the manufacturing industry, and which has long been recognized as essential for process efficiency improvements.

Our keynote speaker posed the question that our government attendees were anxious to hear the answer to – Can DevOps Work Here?  His agency is proving that it can, with a combination of specific Lean-Agile practices combined with innovative procurement methods for facilitating the acquisition of the necessary resources to make it work “here” – in government.

An intriguing all-graphics presentation was the delivery approach of one of our other senior government officials.  In speaking about Lean-Agile architecture she highlighted the importance of keeping it simple, emergent, modular and loosely coupled.  This approach builds the framework for changes that we know will come.  She also emphasized the importance of using seasoned coaches for knowledge transfer as a key part of the successful implementation of these concepts.

After our working lunch David Patton facilitated our government panel of experts on how they are making DevOps work in their respective agencies.  He then continued with a presentation on the Lean concept for managing the flow of work and identifying bottlenecks and constraints in processes known as Kanban.  Finally, Ashok Komaragiri, Senior Technical Consultant for CC Pace, took us through a DevOps roadmap in his presentation A Guide to Your DevOps Journey.  He encouraged the attendees who want to begin adopting DevOps practices to break knowledge silos, integrate code continuously, and automate deployments as much as possible.

Reviews of the workshop coming in from government attendees have been outstanding.  One government official said that it was “One of the most informative training workshops I have attended”. If you haven’t attended on of these Agile in Government workshops, you should.

As most of you who operate in the Federal space are probably aware at this point, many Federal agencies are now utilizing Agile methods such as Scrum to manage their software development efforts. The goal for most of them is to reduce risk and accelerate system delivery to their end users. By using Scrum with the development team they have achieved part of their goal. But major risks and speedbumps still exist after the software is developed. These are encountered during deployment by the operations groups and are normally outside the purview of the development team.

The de facto approach to this issue in the private sector is Continuous Delivery and DevOps. That same approach is now being successfully applied to the public sector. Just how well is the government doing in its attempts to adopt this private sector best practice?  On November 18th Dr. David Patton, Federal Practice Director, and Ashok Komaragiri, Senior Technical Consultant, both with CC Pace, will be joined by Joshua Seckel and Jaya Kathuria from the Department of Homeland Security, Tina M. Donbeck from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and John D. Murphy, with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, to take an in-depth look at the state of DevOps in the Federal government.

For additional information visit:

Art Chantker, President of Potomac Forum, LTD and CC Pace cordially invite you to our next exciting Agile in Government Workshop V, May 20 at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC.  Workshop V will have something for everyone, from new adopters just getting started with Agile in their agencies, to seasoned Agile practitioner scouring the landscape for new horizons in Agile disciplines and trends in the Federal government that they can put to practical use now.

Art has led the Potomac Forum in training thousands of government and industry professionals throughout the country on a wide variety of information technology, acquisition, financial, and management subjects of importance to our government.  Over the years, Art has invited CC Pace back again and again to present on the full spectrum of topics around Agile software development and Agile project management along with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, USDA, the VA, Department of Education, NGA, GSA and many other Federal agencies.

On May 20th we will be conducting our next Agile workshop at the Willard Hotel for the 2015 Potomac Forum series.  The focus will be on Agile and Lean best practices, including Scrum, Kanban and scaling Agile for larger projects and programs.  In addition to the seasoned Agile trainers from CC Pace, our confirmed government speakers include Karen Ritchey, Assistant Director Applied Research and Methods
U.S. Government Accountability Office; Bill Pratt, Office of the CIO, Policy & Planning-SELC/Agile IT, Department of Homeland Security; and our keynote speaker Greg Godbout, CTO of EPA, and co-founder and former Executive Director of 18F, the government’s new center for inter-agency Agile services.

There is a tentative agenda already posted on the Potomac Forum website, pending some agenda changes once other invited officials are confirmed.  If your agency is starting down the path of agility, or you want to bring your adoption efforts up to the next level you should attend this workshop.  We look forward to seeing you on the 20th.


On January 28, CC Pace and the Potomac Forum collaborated once again to present their latest in the series, Agile Development in Government Training Workshops.  In addition to CC Pace’s presentations and training sessions, speakers and panelists included officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  Several other Federal agencies were represented in the audience.  The workshop participants were challenged to take a fresh look at what agility, “being agile”, really means.  One top Federal official posed five questions for us to consider:

  1. Can we have a Lean bureaucracy? If you had one more incremental dollar for your project, what would you spend it on? Right now we’re spending that dollar on oversight and documentation instead of valued results.
  2. Shouldn’t we be looking at best practices, cutting edge approaches instead of arguing about Waterfall vs. Agile?
  3. Why not benchmark to leaders in Industry like Netflix and Amazon?
  4. Why doesn’t top IT talent think the Federal government is the best place to work?
  5. Why is it acceptable to spend billions of dollars and take forever to build software?

One of the key Agile principles that was emphasized throughout the day, both by CC Pace and the government officials, was the value of empirical learning.  By building software incrementally and taking advantage of short feedback loops facilitated by continuous communication with end users and other stakeholders, the developers can apply what has been observed and commented on to improve the process and more accurately inform the schedule, requirements and production as they go forward. This approach greatly reduces project risk while improving quality and usability of the finished product.

Officials from some agencies that are successfully implementing Agile practices already, cited recent initiatives like the publication of the TechFAR, and the Digital Services Playbook, as well as the establishment of GSA’s 18F (a Federal Agile services group), that are beginning to remove some of the roadblocks to agility in the Federal Government.  Since there were a number of workshop participants who were new to Agile and Lean Thinking, CC Pace included an excellent session on Agile Basics, laying the foundation for our working lunch session,  What challenges will your agency face when trying to implement Agile?  The working groups came up with five common challenges: 1) Cultural resistance to change, 2) Regulatory issues (all the way up to Congress), 3) Old measures that may not be relevant in the new environment (EVM), 4) Need for training of executives and middle managers, and 5) Inability to attract top talent to government from the private sector.

Our panel discussion included comments on these five issues as well as on the fact that Waterfall project failures have soared into the billions of dollars over time.  There has to be a better way.  However a note of caution was sounded since many vendors are claiming “agile” when there is nothing agile at all about their approach. Agile is not a “silver bullet”.  Agile is not going to fix a poorly managed project.

CC Pace wrapped up the day with a presentation by their Federal Practice Director on cutting edge practices in Lean and Agile in the session What’s on the Agile Horizon and Why it is Important for Government, followed by the final presentation Putting it All Together – An Agile Roadmap, by CC Pace’s Managing Director.  The workshop received excellent evaluations from the participants.  We hope you can join our next Agile in the Federal Government Workshop at the Potomac Forum this coming spring.