Post it notes of agile team member

Fund teams, not projects

A lot of teams work in an agile way. Many organisations “are agile”. But in the public sector, there is a crucial element of an agile approach that is rarely conquered. Funding.

This post is a collection of three articles from across the web which explain why organisations must fund teams, not projects.

Projects are unpredictable

First, David Thomas wrote about this in 2017 in his DEFRA digital blog post “Let’s fund teams, not projects

He does an expert job of breaking down the fallacies behind funded projects

The traditional approach is to write a business case and create a project. Funding is found for that project, for a fixed period of time. When the predicted timeframe ends, so does the funding…..

…The project model says: “We can predict what we’ll be doing for the next few months, how much that will cost, and the benefits we’ll get from that work.”

His posts developed into a series – “Funding teams is hard” and “Funding product teams, not projects“.

Durable teams add value

Next, Anna Shipman highlights the value that durable team bring, writing about her experience with the Financial Times.

As with any tech organisation, we have a tech estate that we need to keep sustainable, supportable and operationally reliable, while also freeing up as much time as possible to deliver value to our customers and the business…

That all sounds very familiar. Later she goes into the detail behind while a durable team works better:

We can create teams that between them own our entire estate. Each team can take responsibility for the strategic direction of that area and kill things that no longer add value. We will no longer have unowned tech, which leads to security and operational risk.

Durable teams mean we do not waste effort stopping and starting teams every quarter.

Durable teams help people build domain knowledge, mastery and vision, help build organisational memory and fine tune effective ways of working.

Legacy ticking time bomb

Going back to 2018, Dafydd Vaughan wrote about the challenges government faces in ‘doing digital’ well. He sees funded teams as the cure to the curse of legacy systems which plague the public sector.

Tackling the legacy ticking time bomb
Legacy technology is a huge and complex problem, wrapped up in huge and complex contracts. It’s a massive blocker to the delivering good services and it’s only going to get worse. These old systems need to be replaced, the contracts disaggregated and the way they’re funded changed.

Fund teams not projects
It’s no good funding large up-front capital expenditure based on a 5 or 10 year business case – these are full of false certainty and don’t match reality. Government needs to fund teams and focus on ongoing iterative development. Without this, we’re just building a similar problem for the next decade.

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