The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) recently hosted a Flexible Agile Support for the Homeland (FLASH) procurement challenge geared toward small businesses with Agile capabilities. About 120 companies were selected to participate in the challenge by demonstrating strong Agile capabilities, and 13 winners were pre-approved to provide a one year contract of Agile development services for the DHS.
According to the DHS announcement, “FLASH was an innovative and unique procurement conducted under the auspices of the OCPO Procurement Innovative Lab (PIL). This innovative approach allowed the Offerors an opportunity to demonstrate their Agile expertise in a Technical Challenge Exercise.” Team ADEV, part of SuprTEK’s SE&D business unit located in the Metro East area of St. Louis, assembled an Agile team to participate in the challenge, and they were very pleased with the experience – even though they were not one of the final awardees.
The Agile Challenge
The Technical Challenge Exercise was basically to create, using Agile Methodologies, a Minimal Viable Product, then demonstrate the product and answer questions about it – all in one business day. The exercise included creating user stories, assigning stories to developers, writing and testing the code, tracking effort, and then doing final builds and integrations. The code was staged online so evaluators could access it.
All the teams participating in the challenge worked from the same requirements list, and Product Owners (POs), one assigned to each team, were highly trained to avoid giving any one team an unfair advantage. Teams were also audio and video monitored by evaluators during the challenge to assess the team’s performance.
The SuprTEK team completed the task and presented its product to a Technical Evaluation Panel at the end of the day – something only a fraction of the participating teams were able to accomplish.
The extensive experience the team from ADEV had in executing Agile development was critical in successfully completing the challenge. Every team member understood their role and filled it professionally. Great teamwork was also in play, as any time a team member ran into difficulty they were quick to seek advice or ask for help so blockers and wasted time or effort was avoided – very important in such a time critical exercise.
Another highlight of the experience was the way the team interacted with the PO assigned to the ADEV team. “We asked very straightforward questions and dealt with the PO in a very open and honest way,” explained Scrum Master Wayne Keiser. “My intuition was that they were not accustomed to such a direct approach and seemed somewhat pleasantly surprised. I believe it was a very positive reflection of our culture and our way of doing things. I also think it comes from the great relationship and open communication we have with our ADEV customers and product owners,” continued Wayne.
The Future of Contract Awards?
Since this was the first time a SuprTEK team had participated in such an exercise, there were a number of important lessons learned. Since such challenges might be a trend in evaluating Agile contractors going forward, SuprTEK hopes to build on the successes of the FLASH challenge as well as learn from any mistakes and perform at an even higher level at future challenges.
Besides being a way of finding new business opportunities, it was also a way to build and flex Agile muscles to be a better Agile development provider for our customers in order to deliver higher value and exceed expectations.
Don Reed is a Senior Technical Writer and Project Support Specialist with the ADEV program. His background includes engineering and programing, project management, quality and business improvement, and business-technical communication. Don has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a M.A. in Communication from Saint Louis University.