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Case Studies - DHS USCIS

Creating high performing development teams to deliver human centered biometric and identity validation solutions

The Challenge.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency that oversees and administers the country’s naturalization and immigration system. On a typical day, over 19,000 USCIS employees work to adjudicate over 25,000 requests for immigration benefits, field over 50,000 phone calls, serve 2,200 customers at 86 field offices across the US, and welcome 2,000 new citizens at naturalization ceremonies. On average, USCIS.gov hosts 335,000 unique sessions daily, and at over 130 application support centers, fingerprints and photographs 13,000 people as part of the identification verification process. 


Genesis was tasked to lead the agile development teams that are providing a modernized system and environment to facilitate the centralized collection and development of a single authoritative source of trusted biographical and biometric information. As with any federal program of this size, introducing and implementing meaningful and enterprise-wide change can be quite difficult. Success with a SAFe® approach is all about collaboration, breaking down silos, and communication. At the onset of the project, we found multiple siloed teams under different contracts, and vendors had been developing components of solutions with no portfolio view of entire enterprise. The organization was trying to create complex solutions with integration dependencies on biometrics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and APIs with no single solution architecture guidance and end to end integration visibility to the teams. With diverse needs across multiple offices and stakeholders, and dated processes and documentation, there is no single source of data for biographical and biometric information to allow for real-time visibility into data.

 

The Solution.

Genesis personnel led the first Scaled Agile Framework transformation initiative within USCIS Office of Information Technology (OIT) Identity, Records, and National Security Delivery (IRNSD) Division by launching three Agile Release Trains (ART) (with 100+ team members per ART) for the first time within the Agency. This resulted in greatly increased business agility and delivering workable integrated software solutions within three OIT Branches. We also established a Division Level Enterprise Solution Architecture and Architectural Runway by defining new standards and rationalizing existing Microservice APIs to enable a DevSecOps approach with a continuous delivery pipeline and release on demand. Genesis Consulting is the Prime Contractor for this work and this Task Order was competitively awarded to Genesis under the Services for Enabling Agile Delivery (SEAD) BPA. To achieve these successes, we broke down the project into multiple task areas on which to focus our efforts.

Agile Development, Project/Program/Product Management

  • Developed a framework promoting collaboration and alignment across the B&PCS teams and launched Agile Release Trains for Identity Management, Content Management and Biometrics and Scheduling

  • Performed a Team Health / Maturity Assessment using AgilityHealth monitoring tools and established baseline scores using Health Radars and identified areas of concern

  • Set up 12 teams and over 160 people to conduct online assessments on the agile practices and maturity of the teams worked with them to conduct a retrospective on the results to analyze the data and develop a plan for growth opportunities

  • Created an improvement backlog with the items that teams committed to improve

  • Agile Coaches developed a coaching backlog based on the results of the assessment


Systems Integration, DevOPs, and Continuous Delivery

 

  • Modernized Kafka libraries by developing enterprise-level APIs that centralized communications between producers and consumers of data, and improved system security

  • Implemented new CI/CD automation codes reducing deployment time from 3 days to six hours

  • Utilized SAFe to establish “Deliver Early and Often” best practices through CI/CD pipeline automation 


Agile Software Development, Quality Control/Assurance, and Testing 

 

  • Introduced and led implementation of best practices such as Agile testing, Behavior-Driven Development, Test-Driven Development, refactoring, spikes, peer review and Definition of Done

  • Used Jenkins to work an integrated code base with other teams working on the same product, allowing the teams to continuously integrate and continuously deploy functioning code to production environments

  • Utilized pair programming as a team-building exercise and to ensure consistency in the way we designed, built and tested the software


UI/UX Design 

 

  • Took a customer-centric approach to realize consistency and quality across the board by focusing on Desirability, Feasibility, Viability, and Sustainability

  • Developed a dynamic progress report dashboard for business and IT leadership to review the Portfolio Roadmaps at any time

  • Worked with Product Owners and Development Teams to allocate portion of their capacity in each PI on developing mock-ups and prototype

  • This customer-centric team strategy resulted in accelerated development of prototypes which directly resulted in increased design feedback


Business Analysis and Requirements Support

 

  • Trained more than 40+ Product Owners (POs) across three USCIS divisions, and delivered over 30 classes to over 600 participants on agile best practices, product management, backlog management, business agility, and feature and story writing

  • Agile Coaching team facilitated the Epic Decomposition workshops where Epics were prioritized based on business need by facilitating conversation with all leaders and stakeholders to drive teams to establish Business Value and Time Criticality of each Feature

  • Solution Architecture Teams ensured the prioritized Features were in alignment with the Architecture Runway

  • Developed Epics, Features and User Stories in Jira, and conducted multiple workshops to refine backlogs and develop tangible acceptance criteria

  • Supported the Product Managers, Product Owners and Business Analysts to facilitate impact mapping sessions to develop user stories that meet DOR and SMART guideline to drive better product development and better customer experience

The Result.

 

We developed business operational performance metrics (value, meeting business needs, productivity, service quality, system effectiveness) using the Agility Health assessment tool. Agility Health enables us to get an initial benchmark measure of our agile team’s health and performance to identify Team Growth Items and Organizational Growth Items. In addition, Atlassian SMEs built multiple Jira and Confluence dashboards at team, program and portfolio levels to evaluate how each ART is meeting their business and technical objectives. As a result of these dashboards, ARTs are able to forecast their capacity and more accurately commit to reasonable PI objectives. In addition, Genesis delivered analytical reporting and multiple workshops (inspect and adapt, budget planning, and impact assessment) to support lean budget/business case justifications for system enhancement/modernization, consolidation, and/or disposition in alignment with the IT Strategy and roadmap. 


Using our metrics-based approach and new dashboards, Genesis established a Lean Agile Budget processes which enabled IT and Business Leadership to be more predictable and flexible. As part of this process we noticed that the cross collaboration between Business Owner and OIT leadership resulted in identifying new work that had higher priority and was initially not scheduled when an unanticipated event occurred, such as COVID- 19, mid-development. Our changes in processes allowed USCIS to reprioritize the Value Streams and adjust the budget plans based on the new changes. Changes were quickly communicated to the Program and Team level mid-PI to allow for immediate action. As an example, during COVID-19, PCIS budget was reduced by more than 20%; however, the leadership team was able to provide mitigation strategy for each value stream and changes such as updates to the Features/User Stories and Acceptance criteria took place within a single sprint.


As a result of our work, USCIS teams are transparent and collaborative in their planning of work, and have established a 90% confidence rate through Program Increment Planning.  Program Increment (PI) planning includes cross-team and cross-ART collaboration by identifying dependencies coupled with proactively mitigating issues which resulted in a reduction in the overall cost to deliver.  The teams have accelerated their ability to deploy to production on demand and reduce the time to market for business initiatives. 

© 2019 by Genesis Consulting  |  Disclaimer

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