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USS finds efficiency in Agile development

What not to do in project management:

What NOT to do on project managementBy Emily Rushton

Better communication and productivity are just a few of the perks University Support Services expects to see with its recent shift towards Agile development.

“I think one of the key things we kept seeing is that when we were developing under the traditional waterfall approach – where you bundle up all of your requirements at once and then build it out over the course of many months and years – a lot of times, by the time you’re finished with the end product, the requirements have changed,” said Jason Moeller, Associate Director for USS Engineering.

With Agile, projects are broken down and reviewed every two weeks so that developers don’t get off track. “You don’t end up building something at the end that you really didn’t intend or want,” said Moeller.

The department is starting slow at first, but hopes to eventually incorporate the new development method into more applications as time goes on.

“We’re starting with the web teams, and those are the Java developers. So right now, we have two pilot projects that are using Agile development,” said Debbie Rakhsha, Interim Director for USS. The two applications currently being tested are undergraduate admissions and scholarships.

The new method should help to increase employee engagement.

“Employees involved in the process can take better ownership of the application and development work,” said Moeller. “We’re looking for improved communication – all the players being involved on a regular basis throughout the project.”

Agile also allows Quality Assurance and User Interface teams to be integrated into the process, unlike traditional development methods.

In addition to integrating a UI developer with the Java development team, USS also plans to pull in a consultant designer from the Solution Planning and Design team. “They’re the ones that are getting the requirements from the end user, and they know what business units want,” said Rakhsha. “Having them in on the project helps us get a better product.”

Developers are happy and embracing the new method. “They really like it,” said Rakhsha. “They’re excited.”

USS is looking forward to bringing a trainer in next month so its developers will get a better feel for Agile. “We don’t want to just throw in an industry-determined Agile approach,” said Moeller. “We want a custom hybrid approach that works best for the University of Utah.”

Last Updated: 4/13/21