Transforming government services with agile principles

Scrum (skɹʌm) or scrummage (skruh·muhj), is an ordered formation of rugby players. Like in rugby, scrum is a software methodology that combines both direction and iteration to direct efforts towards an user outcome, integrating flexibility between design and implementation like advancing on the pitch whilst still being able to pass the ball backwards. 

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Scrum masters, Praveen Karadiguddi, CEO and Mark Duncan, Chief Digital Officer of Scrumconnect belong to the golden years of agile delivery having spent over two decades working with and for central government. As Government Transformation Magazine recently attended their TechNext event in Newcastle, we wanted to get the pair on their own to discuss how small teams with agile principles manage to have the stamina and flexibility to take on huge challenges for government. 

Large-scale service delivery with agility

Praveen KradiguddiWhen it comes to government transformation, bigger isn’t always better. Karadiguddi began his journey of Scrumconnect at the beginning of the agile delivery golden years in the public sector.

Observing the shift away from big tech and towards small, multidisciplinary teams, Karadiguddi made the leap from the Government Digital Service (GDS), towards his startup Scrumconnect. “I wanted to lead a small entrepreneurial team that could add the value that we needed when I was in government. I’ve kept that consideration with me, where the majority of our people have over a decade of experience in agile software development and have worked for the public sector.”

Marc DuncanDuncan, Chief Digital Officer of Scrumconnect joined this business philosophy six years later having consulted for HM Revenue & Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions, Ministry of Justice and Central Digital and Data Office. At Scumconnect, he helped to secure the contract for DWP’s largest online service, ‘Get your State Pension’.

On the delivery of the service, Duncan emphasized, “Our 80% take-up of digital claim service with 95% customer satisfaction wasn’t delivered in spite of our practice-led, agile principles but because of it. Our bespoke, collaborative and multidisciplinary approach allowed us to be closer to the end user and client, situating technical needs within the wider experience of the citizen”.

The normative government approach of minimising contracts to a handful of large corporations largely has its benefits in simpler commercial management for procurement teams product management at the senior level, but the trade off needs to be understood between the cookie cutter approach versus the more bespoke and collaborative service a hands-on SME can offer.

Common platforms and putting the 'connect' in Scrumconnect

For Duncan, the pathway to digital transformation begins with using existing API technology to connect fragmented data silos and widen the data pool through common platforms.

“When a citizen aims to get their state pension, it relies on both their national insurance contributions from HMRC as well as citizen data from DWP. These two data silos must be unified in order to create a single interface for citizens to engage with. Similarly, in our latest Criminal Justice System Common Platform Programme, with HM Courts and Tribunals Service, we created a common platform in an environment of disparate IT systems including integrating government agency and police force systems, supports case management and progression all through a single, secure window for legal professionals and the judiciary.”

It is only at this stage that the emerging technologies can be built on top of that- the obvious being artificial intelligence.

Newcastle TechNExt event

In the midst of Scrumconnect’s event, we wanted to ask why Newcastle was the right place to explore the future of government service delivery. “Newcastle is a thriving, vibrant skilled technology community,” Karadiguddi shared. “TechNEext is also an organisation that in supporting the regional technology sector, share our values of sustainability, accessibility and inclusivity and diversity”.

Engaging in this community in the event, Duncan shared that Scrumconnect will be one of the vendors involved in the the Crown Commercial Services’ new Digital and Legacy Application Services (DALAS) Framework, with a potential new partnership on the horizon with a larger vendor to support digital integration and programme application services in the region.

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