A Focused and Collaborative Approach Produces Powerful Results for Clients: CTO, Mike King, Discusses the Agile Framework

As Halfaker and Associates Chief Technology Officer, Mike King’s business growth leadership has focused on delivering tailored technologies and methodologies to Government clients who seek rapid, low-risk approaches to solve their organization’s challenges. Due to the dynamic nature of government contracting and the turbulent economic climate, Mike has introduced and championed the Agile framework in all aspects of Halfaker’s operations. The Agile approach to project management and software development activities have provided Halfaker an effective way to align closely with Government clients seeking flexibility and reduced risk as they pursue mission success.

Join us in taking a closer look at the Agile Framework with Halfaker’s CTO, Mike King:

Mike, can you describe the Agile framework for those not familiar with the process?

The Agile framework focuses on several key tenets. Two of these tenets include:

  • Increasing how fast solutions get into the hands of our clients through two to four week timed iterations that force prioritization, focus people’s energy, and produce incremental work products, and
  • Dramatically reducing risk by continually collaborating instead of relying solely on scope documentation to guide our priorities.

Furthermore, there are many methodologies that fall under the umbrella of Agile. These methodologies define some great tools including: project charters, estimating techniques, product backlog, meeting rhythms, test-driven development, burndown charts, and velocity graphs. We have used the Scrum Methodology on several projects and Kanban on internal projects. For more information on Scrum, check out this ten minute introductory YouTube video: http://bit.ly/OHMduk.

How does Halfaker use Agile concepts to improve how the company operates?

At Halfaker, we have found the greatest value of Agile in its ability to simultaneously increase the quality of the services we deliver and lower the risk to both Halfaker and our clients in delivering services. In addition, we are maturing our internal business processes by building on best practices from Agile and other process-driven frameworks such as CMMI and Lean Six Sigma. This process has revealed that each framework has strengths, weaknesses, and conflicts with each other. However, by building Halfaker’s business process architecture around our clients, we are able to reconcile these conflicting frameworks and continually improve how our clients experience Halfaker.

What Halfaker project has been most distinguished by this process? 

I’m very proud of the work we’ve done on VetGovPartner (VGP). We created a powerful web application platform that supports the small business Government contracting community at the intersection of social networking, market research, and conference experience. The tool allowed over 4,000 National Veteran Small Business Conference attendees to build their agenda from among the hundreds of conference sessions and navigate the chaos of such a large event. In addition, VGP allowed the Government acquisition, small business, and large business communities to connect with each other through the social layer of VGP. This was a powerful addition to the conference experience–it brought order to a large agenda and offered a powerful social layer that people used to connect effectively with each other.

Is the Agile framework commonly used across the industry?

Agile is an increasingly common buzzword that people throw around, but finding ways to apply these concepts effectively is still an immature process. Agile depends on teams working effectively both internally and with their clients. The stereotypes of the Government contracting industry do not align well with Agile teams—this framework breaks down when you don’t have a collaborative client relationship and a team that is able and encouraged to self-organize and attack challenges. We have found that there are great opportunities for organizations to use Agile for powerful results, but it’s a challenging undertaking.

What are Halfaker's long-term plans with Agile?    

One of Agile’s principles is iterative refinement; we embrace that as a way to constantly improve Halfaker as an organization. Because Agile is a mindset and not a set of specific methodologies, we will continue to use it to improve our organization. My vision for Halfaker is that we will continue to grow closer to the ideals of a purely Agile organization that effectively prioritizes its clients over other priorities.

Mike King is a 2012 NVTC/Washington Technology Government Contractor CTO Innovator Awards Finalist. The CTO Innovator Awards honor chief technology officers within the region's government contracting community for their critical contributions to achieving results for their customers and their leadership within their own companies.