Monday, April 7, 2014

A day at a Government Agency

For the past few months, Nansen has been working with a government agency in Washington DC, which is a new experience for me and the team. The team consists of myself, Markus Bereflod, Chris Sharp and Morgan Robertson. I've been focusing most of my time assessing their current setup and managing the project while Chris and Morgan have been working with site architecture and development.

This project differs a little bit from Nansen’s other projects. First and foremost, we conduct the work at the client’s location instead of own offices, which is normally the case.

For me, not being an American citizen, a day at the government agency starts at the security desk in the lobby. Going through a bag scan, signing in, then waiting for a person to escort me to the team room.

We didn't start the project with the mindset of changing many processes and ways of doing things, but people were really open to new ideas, and they really listened to our expertise and we saw room for improvements in multiple areas. In particular, we improved the deployment process from being a very time consuming task that involved manually created spreadsheets containing all the file paths for updated files to a very quick operation, simply by relying on the TFS (Team Foundation Server) and always making complete deploy packages containing all the files needed for the particular site and server. The next step was to start using Team Foundation Build (TFBuild) to automate deploys to the QA environment.

The team has also introduced an agile, sprint-based approach to the client and the development project. We are doing 3 week sprints that start with sessions where sprint tasks are being planned based on the client’s priorities as well as recommendations from the development team. Before things are deployed, the sprint items are tested in an QA (Quality Assurance) environment and approved by a board. We then collaborate with the IT department who manages the servers to deploy the package to production.

We have introduced “Tech-meetings” that aim to bring all departments up to speed on the different projects that are being worked on and how they may affect others. The web team gets many urgent requests and has to work at a high pace so the tech meetings have been very important in order to keep people informed.

Working in the corridors of power really makes you put in some extra effort – even more so these days when the Health.gov project has put IT on top of everyone’s agenda. It's fascinating to picture how many Americans and users will be affected by the services we will construct in the near future.