Using Agile ways of working in the Housing and Land team
Our Housing and Land team are using ‘Agile’ ways of working to deliver a substantial new project: replacing and improving the IT systems which manage their affordable housing and land projects.
Lucy Owen, from the Housing and Land team, explains how Agile works and what it’s like to start working in this way.
Sprints, scrum master, burn down rate – no, not a new fitness craze, but a new methodology for delivering projects.
The Housing and Land team have a number of very old, very creaky IT systems which manage and monitor all of its spend on affordable housing and land projects. This old, creaky head of area took on responsibility for a project to replace them – and alongside it I’m learning a whole new way of working. It’s called Agile – and a lot of us had a taster of this when the new website was developed.
I am learning lots – and really enjoying it. In short, the Agile methodology is about working in partnership with suppliers and a team to develop a new system in real time and as we go. This is rather than defining everything up front, letting the supplier get on with it and getting to an end project which doesn’t really meet our needs. Instead we define how we need to use the system – our 'user stories' – what we need to do with it, and take the development from there. It’s a bit scary plunging into the unknown, as it were, but also a lot of fun and it’s making us challenge the way we do things and improve our processes.
Central to the Agile way of working are regular planning meetings and 'retrospectives' (every two weeks), where we look at what’s happened and see how we can improve things. It’s such a good tool we have started using it for the team generally, to see how we can improve our projects and ways of working.
What I really enjoy about it is the great team work – we’ve got a fantastic team all bringing ideas, innovation and enthusiasm to the project. There are lots of meetings, but they are all focused and delivery driven. We’ll soon be running regular 'show and tells' open to all staff, to give anyone interested the chance to see what we’re up to (and to let us know how we can improve it!).
We’ll be blogging regularly on how Agile works and the benefits it’s bringing to the project, as I really believe this way of working can be applied to many of City Hall’s projects and can bring great results.
Lucy Owen, Head of Area South, Housing and Land Directorate