Modern application development is supposed to be about agility and speed. So why do so many government IT teams feel so bogged down?
The truth is that the promise of application development is different from the day-to-day reality. DevOps-powered application development promises fast, economical app development, with solutions speeding their way toward users. But in fact, application development is often time-consuming and costly. This is due, in part, to challenges around aligning DevOps, IT and security teams, as well as mission owners, so they work in concert to achieve the desired results. These challenges are only exacerbated by the volume of tools these teams have at their disposal.
Most agencies use a vast array of communication, collaboration and project management tools. But the disparities among these solutions often make managing tasks and alignment among stakeholders difficult to achieve. For these tasks, technologies such as email have become obsolete, while instant-messaging apps have proliferated with abandon. The result is stakeholder confusion, project delays, increased costs and people moving in different directions.
To overcome these obstacles and achieve alignment among teams, agencies must create a central point where people, processes and technology converge. The key is to focus on three core areas: teams, tools and time.
Let’s look at each of these “three T’s” to see how agencies can use them to improve alignment and collaboration and achieve greater efficiency.
Agencies often have disparate stakeholders working on a single project—stakeholders that include organizational leaders, technical experts, contractors and more. All have their own role to play, yet for their mission to be successful, they must all stay on the same page. That can be challenging to achieve with multiple teams, and even more difficult when some teams are working remotely.
It’s important for engineering and IT leaders to have complete visibility into who’s on the team and what their roles and responsibilities are. They need to understand who has access to which information, who will take what action at what time, who’s responsible for which phase of development, and more. Everyone should have access to the files, documents, links, and other resources they require to support the project.
It’s just as important for every team member to understand one another’s responsibilities. Visibility into team-member actions can foster an atmosphere of understanding and collaboration, because it helps people know who to go to in a time of need. It also drives better comprehension of where tasks stand at a given moment, which keeps teams in alignment and promotes higher efficiency.
Stakeholders could be using literally hundreds of tools for a single project. That breeds confusion, miscommunication, and inefficiency.
The answer is to make all tools, used by all teams, accessible from a single location. Essentially, agencies should collect their tools into a centralized command center so that any stakeholder can see what other team members are doing. This command center should serve as a hub for at-a-glance communication, project management and workflow orchestration to keep everyone in close alignment without the need for productivity-killing context switching. With everything in one place, stakeholders don’t need to hunt down the information they need, and they always remain informed on the status of projects.
Every project involves workflows that occur within different timescales: real-time, intermediate and long-term. Some workflows even extend across multiple timescales.
Team communication, for instance, must take place in real time, over seconds, minutes or hours. The project itself might have a defined beginning and end, but it will also involve intermediate steps and milestones, such as testing and quality assurance, that must be completed over hours, days, or weeks. There are also long-term timescales, such as planning and road maps, that take place over months, quarters or longer.
It’s important to match the right tools to the right timescales. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to use an instant-message app for long-term planning, or a Kanban-style board for real-time communication.
It’s also important to document timescales and process steps for repeatable activities like releasing new software and for interrupt-driven events like a service outage or security breach. Once documented, these timescales should be shared with all stakeholders so they understand which tools to use for which timescales and how various phases of the project fit together.
Ultimately, a unified collaboration platform dedicated to DevOps breaks down not only information and technology barriers but also the organizational silos that impede so many digital transformation efforts. By making it easier for all your stakeholders to align and work together, you can help ensure that application development happens quickly and cost-effectively while supporting your organization’s mission.
Ian Tien is the CEO and co-founder of Mattermost.