Lean Documentation in a Federal Government Context: How an Agile team can meet mandatory Federal IT governance documentation requirements

Many Federal government agencies are implementing Agile methods in addition to or in lieu of traditional waterfall lifecycle models.  However, comprehensive documentation is often still required by Federal IT governance, legal, regulatory, or statutory frameworks, or to meet outside audit or “watchdog “ requirements.   The Agile Manifesto values “working software over comprehensive documentation,” but that does not mean that Agile teams cannot or should not produce valuable documentation.  Although there are some well-publicized Agile success stories in the federal space, some agile federal projects are receiving criticism for failing to meet applicable standards when it comes to documentation deliverables.  With Agile’s emphasis on small, lean teams and intensive technical practices such as pair programming, meeting documentation requirements set forth by Federal IT governance poses challenges for Agile teams in the Federal space.  This session will review the documentation that is typically required in a heavily regulated environment, and discuss specific techniques for reducing, replacing, generating, or “slimming” the document deliverables.  Specific tools, techniques and best practices will be reviewed and analyzed with “before” and “after” snapshots and a look at cost versus benefit.    Documentation generation is an area of intensive activity with some very exciting new developments that can change the game significantly for the better!  Tune in to share insights and discuss strategies for breaking down one of the last big barriers to significant agile adoption in the federal space.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

  1. What are the document deliverables required by typical Federal Government IT governance?
    1. Management plans
    2. Requirements
    3. Technical documentation
    4. Configuration management
    5. Test documentation
    6. Release documentation
    7. End-User documentation
    8. Management Reporting
  2. What is the Agile approach to documentation?
    1. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. What does CMMI and PMBOK have to say about documentation?
    1. Process tailoring
    2. Template tailoring
  4. Solution: change the process
    1. Recognize documents a first-class work items, with their own user stories added to the backlog, and get peer review just like code
    2. Document as-is state rather than to-be state
    3. Document in real-time during conversations (whiteboard, wiki)
    4. Track and report percentage of time spent on docs, make it visible to the customer
    5. Update technical documentation as part of the “definition of done” for each user story
    6. Strive to capture information in one and only one place: single-source information.  Either reference it or generate both documents from a single source
    7. CMMI and PMBOK both allow for template customization

                                               i.     Create more agile-friendly templates for technical documents

                                              ii.     Combine documents where possible

                                            iii.     Refactor documents in order to segregate docs with high level information that changes slowly from docs with all the details that need constant changes

                                            iv.     Decide carefully when to add a new document versus add to an existing one

  1. Replace documents maintained by hand with generated reports wherever possible
  1. Tools
    1. Wiki
    2. Customized work item tracking system
    3. BDD toolkit: Specification by Example
    4. System Management tool
    5. Information Radiators for the team
    6. Management Dashboards to reduce reporting requirements
    7. Generated Tech Info: Design Diagrams, Code Comments
  2. People
    1. Add a QA/tech writer to the team
    2. Add a toolsmith who is an expert at generating reports from your management tool.  This person should have skills such as SSRS, HTML, XML/XSLT, SQL, SharePoint
    3. Add a UX designer to the team to help design the generated reports
  3. Review of Examples
    1. Refactored design document
    2. Functional specification generated from SpecFlow BDD toolkit
    3. “Agile RTM”
    4. Asset Tracking report generated from system center
    5. Installation documentation generated from PowerShell and wiki
  4. Conclusion
    1. What we started with
    2. What we ended up with
    3. Estimated savings

Next steps    

Learning Outcome

  1. It is possible to adopt Agile in the Federal context and still meet standards of IT governance
  2. We will review specific techniques for streamlining documentation
  3. We will review new technologies and toolkits for generating documentation
  4. We will identify the roles required to make the transformation successful
  5. We will explore cost vs benefit for recommending agile alternatives to traditional handwritten documentation.  Where does it make the most sense to push back?  We must pick our battles carefully.

Target Audience

Federal managers, project managers, contract officers, vendor managers, technical leaders, QA practitioners, software engineers

schedule Submitted 3 years ago

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