Transforming The Way the SEC Works: Building a Business/Technology Partnership

Trying to transform an 86-year-old agency to an Agile mindset requires innovative as well as tried and true strategies. There are blueprints for moving an organization from waterfall to Agile development, but the government approach to contracts and projects provides challenges to the “better, quicker, faster” selling pitch. The attorneys and accountants at the SEC have carried out their mission for decades using familiar tools; data scientists, economists and technology leads are now providing new tools for discovery and examination. Agile provides a blueprint for building a partnership between the business and technology, but requires teaching new teamwork and communication skills to maximize the Agile experience. The SEC transformation was initiated by its CIO, but the transformation is happening organically throughout the organization, by staff and contractors who recognize its value and see the benefits of working in a collaborative team to deliver results.


Outline/Structure of the Case Study


State of the SEC

Transformation Efforts

What’s Worked; What Hasn’t

  • Senior Engagement
  • Communication
  • Agile Development
    • Agency Agile success: SEC Data Catalog

Continuing Challenges

  • Senior engagement
  • Business engagement
  • Moving the needle to the right: Dev/Ops

Roadmap for the Future

*******In lieu of a powerpoint deck, which I cannot technically provide without agency approval, my proposed talk is below****


  • My background
  • My role as co-lead of the Agile Transformation at the SEC
  • Goals for this talk: Share the challenges and plans for transformation

State of the SEC

  • 86-year old agency staffed primarily by lawyers and accountants
  • Implementation of technology over the last 20 years with little engagement between business and technology
  • Lack of communication between business and technology results in slow development, frustration, and lack of confidence in systems.
  • A digital transformation, envisioned for the agency, requires new approaches that Agile can deliver.

Transformation Efforts

  • In 2017, OIT published the SEC’s IT Strategic Plan, which included the following initiatives:
    • Strategic Initiative 5: Implement Agile Delivery
    • Strategic Initiative 11: Adopt Strategic Approach to Procurement and Vendor Management of IT Resources (Including Agile)
  • In 2017, an Agile transformation Working Group was formed, with only staff from the Office of Information Technology. The importance of involving the business was quickly clear, and the working group was reconstituted in January 2018 with representatives from OIT and most of the divisions and offices in the Commission.
  • The Agile Working Group engaged in fact-finding across other agencies, and worked to engage a contractor to assist with the transformation effort. The contract sought assistance with conducting a current state assessment of the agency and its readiness for change, a roadmap for the transformation effort, the development of an Agile Playbook, and providing training and coaching for several Agile pilot projects.
  • A contractor team was engaged by July 2018, and by December, the Playbook and assessment and roadmap were complete, and several project candidates for Agile project coaching were identified.

What’s Working; What’s Not

  • Senior Engagement
    • CIO initiated and supported the launch of the Agile Transformation; part of the OIT Strategic Plan
    • Her departure in 2018 left a gap with an Acting CIO
    • COO’s 2019 Operations Strategic Plan now supports implicitly the ongoing Agile effort
      • Priority #1: Continually innovate to make the best use of limited resources: Improve planning and program and project management to enhance the agency’s ability to plan, develop, implement, manage and eventually close out program and projects. This effort should help the agency better identify outcomes programs should achieve, improve collaboration among stakeholders and enhance understanding of the resource impacts of a given path forward.
    • Communication:
      • Established a bi-monthly newsletter that goes to business and IT staff and contractors, providing Agile terminology, a discussion of a relevant article, and news of upcoming events internal and external to the agency.
      • Conducting Monthly Agile Brown Bags / Lunch and Learn with good audience attendance across divisions and offices
      • Engaged with three project teams who wanted to “do Agile.” Projects included a business-driven software tool building enhancements, an OIT-led project to re-imagine and rebuild a governance process and tool, and a business office looking to implement Agile methods into its product delivery.
      • Initiated SEC Agile Community of Practice: Monthly meetings focusing on the Voice of the Practitioner, sharing Agile projects and stories.
    • Agile Development
      • Still working to educate Product Owners and teams on how to work together
      • Inconsistent engagement with Security team – results in delayed security reviews and delayed releases
      • Engaging Quality Control/Testing Control (508) team in Development team has been very successful.
      • Agency Agile success story: SEC Data Catalog
        • Team Member Testimonials (Product Owner, Scrum Master, Testing Lead)

Continuing Challenges

  • Senior engagement
    • Lack of a CIO has left a gap in visible support for the Transformation
    • Business COOs have been encouraged to take training and learn the value of Agile projects – initial results are promising
  • Business engagement
    • Still educating on the value of business engagement in a project
    • Some excellent but isolated results to date
  • Moving the needle to the right: Dev/Ops
    • A continuing challenge given security concerns at the agency
    • Implementation of CI/CD looks to be a 3-5 year effort

Roadmap for the Future

  • Identifying Agile-appropriate projects, recognizing there will still be waterfall projects
  • Facilitating the adoption of agile tools (JIRA/Confluence, Gitlab)
  • Continuing to develop the Agile Community to support communications, coaching support and sharing of challenges and successes

Learning Outcome

An understanding of how a small agency is addressing the challenges and building successes in its Agile transformation.

Target Audience

Government staff and contractors who are beginning an Agile transformation in their agency

Prerequisites for Attendees

Basic Agile concepts

schedule Submitted 1 year ago