As the world moves quickly from the industrial age into the information age, new challenges have arisen and demands on government have increased. The Agile Government Center has collected case studies from across the globe that evaluate agile principles in action.
In 2014, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, or DATA Act, became law. The goal of the DATA Act was to provide more accessible, searchable, and reliable spending data for the purposes of promoting transparency, facilitating better decision-making, and improving operational efficiency. Tracking more than $4 trillion in annual federal spending on a quarterly basis in a clear and consistent way that the public will understand from the entire federal government is a large task. The scale of the effort is overwhelming even with the most modern technology – but the federal data that the DATA Act required Treasury to collect was scattered across hundreds of disconnected systems across the federal enterprise. The new law only gave Treasury three years to collect this data from more than 100 Federal agencies and display all this information for the public. Treasury needed a new approach to accomplish so much work in such a short timeframe. In 2014, agile development, user-centered design and open source code were relatively new concepts that were just getting traction in government. Treasury was an early adopter of these principles to guide the DATA Act Implementation.
Australia Post faced both disruption and opportunity as the digital era began to shift consumer demands towards ecommerce. The government business enterprise needed to adjust to these headwinds, so in 2012, it embarked on a reinvention of how its Digital Division operated. On a quest to improve customer experience, the Division grew from 15 to 270 open and collaborative people in a couple of years. The Digital Division consciously adopted the Agile methodology in setting out on its transformation.
Australia Post presents as an interesting case when thinking about Agile Governance. Its primary purpose is service delivery, so in this regard it is also a useful case when thinking about Agile Government implementation. Australia Post is not directly involved in policy development or regulation. Australian Post operates quite differently to government departments, as it is government-owned enterprise focused on service delivery in a competitive market. But there are many transferable lessons for other contexts. In particular, for government organisations who operate in an environment shifting towards digital service delivery. The main success of this shift to Agile Principles can be seen in the organisation-wide to be customer-driven in everything they do. This is particularly pertinent for Australia Post as its customers have the option of using another delivery service. This change in focus also helped create shared understanding across all the internal stakeholders of Australia Post, assisting in breaking down divisional silos in the process.
Tyler McBrien drafted this case study based on interviews conducted by Alyssa Denzer and Jennifer Widner in February, March, and April 2020. The case enables the rapid dissemination of ideas at an important time and rests on fewer interviews than the ISS standard. Case published June 2020.
Enhancing its own efficiency and effectiveness was front and center on the World Bank’s agenda in 2015. An internal survey revealed staff concern about how long it took to develop and complete projects. The middle managers, team leaders, and specialists were better positioned to spot problems and solutions than senior leaders, Bank strategists said. Why not turn them loose on the problem? To assist, a small unit within the Bank introduced some principles the tech sector used in developing and adapting software, initiated three pilots that invited staff to develop their own proposals, and created a way to scale the best of these across the institution. Five years after the initiative began, the Bank considered how to make managers more comfortable with delegating and collaboration, and how to foster broader cultural change within its ranks.