Big Bang or waterfall development has long been the standard approach to legacy modernization projects. However, government agencies are increasingly turning away from this approach, finding an incremental, agile approach to suit their missions and goals better. For instance, agencies such as Veterans Affairs stating they are moving away from Big Bang projects.
Issues with the Big Bang
In the Big Bang approach, agencies spent years gathering requirements and awarded projects to a single contractor. The contract was then delivered based on these requirements, leaving little room to adapt to changing requirements and needs. Further, since this frequently tied agencies to a single, large systems integrator, there was little opportunity to introduce small and emerging contractors with specialized expertise. The result was delayed, over budget, and underperforming modernizations.
Taking an Incremental Approach
Agencies are shifting from Big Bang modernization to agile, incremental, or bit-by-bit approaches. In this approach, they identify a minimal viable product (MVP), ensuring the solution first meets the minimum needs of its users. Then, its agile development teams add enhancements to the solution incrementally. This allows agencies to scale up and down, add new programs and features, and adapt to change requirements.
Modernization to Meet the Mission
The result is modernization that meets the agency’s mission. There are additional strategies teams can employ to ensure mission-oriented development. When experts modernize alongside domain experts, that collaboration supports an MVP that will meet the needs of its users. At Karsun, we use processes like event storming, human-centered design, and others to ensure we receive this feedback throughout our engagement. Moreover, working with a partner experienced in combining public sector experience with modern methodologies and tools enhances this synergy further.
The Karsun Approach
At Karsun, we take this approach to our modernization projects from the beginning. Critically, we also look beyond to understand the application’s purpose and its users’ needs after our departure from the project. This product mindset, which we call Modernization for Every Next, is an incremental approach that allows us to focus on meeting agency missions, introduce emerging solutions at the appropriate time, build secure architecture meant to last, and accelerate transformation with fit-to-purpose toolkits. Learn more about our modernization successes in the Acquisitions, Aviation, Fleet, and Grants industries.
Large-scale, complex transformation projects can be daunting for any enterprise, doubly so for government agencies. At Karsun, we recognize the mission comes first. We consider the technical requirements of our current modernization efforts and the goals and objectives of our agency customers. That includes envisioning every modernization effort as a product, acknowledging the product’s purpose now and its intended use in the future. We call this Modernization for Every Next.
Modernization for Every Next includes enhancing our customers’ capabilities throughout our engagement. Our toolkits play a crucial role in that process. These toolkits provide valuable insights into the modernization process, scale to support new objectives, and prepare the way for future initiatives. They ensure our subject matter experts can access the resources they need to introduce best practices and accelerate transformation. Managed and maintained by the Karsun Innovation Center, dedicated practice advocates within the Center ensure toolkits incorporate emerging trends and technologies, utilize proven approaches, and follow industry best practices.
GoLean for Greater Insights
Some Karsun toolkits build comprehensive insights around the development and transformation process itself. As part of a broader change management process, this enables Karsun and its customers to focus on the best practices and approaches for them. It provides a benchmark for future process improvements.
Imagine if you had a dashboard that could tell you if a particular type of testing was more effective, demonstrate the return on investment for implementing a new DevSecOps practice, or simply reveal your team was completing its work faster than ever before. This is the purpose of Karsun’s GoLean platform. This agile platform combines diagnostic and prescriptive metrics with automations proven to accelerate development, testing, and DevSecOps practices.
We are so confident in this approach that we use this toolkit in-house to identify opportunities to improve our practice. As a result, our software development process was appraised at CMMI v2.0 Level 5 (DEV). At this assessment tier, organizations use data-driven insights to drive their process improvement strategy. Less than a hundred government systems integrators nationwide received appraisal at this level.
Accelerate Migration with Cloud Runways
Another one of our toolkits, Cloud Runways, combines in-depth assessment with repeatable playbooks to accelerate certain migration projects. We begin with an assessment. This includes identifying target applications, determining dependencies, and analyzing available technology. This also includes future state analysis, ensuring the proposed solution can scale with you. Next, we build a “runway” for the project. Each runway uses proven playbooks, tasks, and resources.
We have migrated 40+ applications using these runways. These migrations span use cases from low-code/no-code refactoring to container rehosting. As part of our Modernization for Every Next mindset, we offer runways that help you optimize and build new capabilities as you migrate. For instance, our CI/CD for Windows Apps Runway adds DevOps automations when we migrate Windows apps into AWS ECS or Redhat OpenShift.
While we offer vendor-agnostic solutions, we are also backed by three AWS competencies. To earn these competencies, Karsun proved the expertise of our migration teams through certifications. We also consistently delivered cloud solutions using AWS best practices for government, migration, and DevOps.
Design for Every Next
Karsun’s Digital Transformation toolkits are among the most recent additions to our toolkit library. Included in this set of toolkits are our UI/UX toolkits. This pairs our human centered design process with a component library to quickly identify and develop user interfaces as part of transformation efforts.
Building on the lived experiences of application users, we apply a domain driven design approach to UI/UX. That includes engaging technical and domain experts in collaboration from the start. We also build in feedback loops throughout application development. This way, domain driven design allows us to model and identify specific aspects of complex systems. For instance, using domain driven design with one grants management customer, we identified opportunities to build eligibility evaluation, fund distribution and reporting as sub-parts of the grants platform. In the next domain driven design step, we take the model one step further. Each of the platform subparts is comprised of the modular building blocks. These include the user interfaces.
We can then apply resources from our extensive component library to each of these UI building blocks. The resources in this library utilize proven REACT, Angular and other frameworks to quickly create new interfaces. Additionally, a modularized approach lets our teams extend or enhance capabilities as we receive feedback from users as part of the human centered design process. Throughout the design process we are Modernizing for Every Next.
We found using our toolkits dramatically accelerates the digital transformation process. Our experienced technical teams start engagements with proven tools, playbooks and resources. Our data driven processes further empower these teams to receive feedback, adapt and elevate capabilities as they build. Dive into our Innovation Center toolkits to discover how this process gives your agency the power to Modernize for Every Next.
Digital transformation accelerates government agencies’ ability to meet their mission and elevate their capabilities. Now more than ever, these agencies are racing to build secure systems that improve the citizen experience while preparing for future needs and users. To help agencies meet and continually address these challenges, Karsun delivers Modernization for Every Next.
As Karsun empowers these agencies for their Every Next, we enable our technology experts and problem solvers to Find Your Next. As part of our ongoing series, we are sharing how builders, experimenters, and innovators use technology to solve intricate modernization challenges at Karsun. When they join our team, they grow their careers while using their problem-solving skills to support government agencies in the acquisitions, aviation, grants management, and fleet management industries.
Our last post shared how our Karsun Innovation Center empowers teams to Find Your Next through experimentation. Part of that process was leveraging our toolkits based on mature technology solutions. Another component of those toolkits is their robust support for nurturing collaboration as part of the problem-solving process. Notably, this collaboration is centered on the customer and user experience, ensuring the mission comes first in every solution we execute.
A Collaborative Culture Adapts to Mission Needs
Nowhere is this commitment more evident than when we implement our Digital Transformation Toolkits. Using domain driven design, we focus on the mission of our customer and their users. Our assessment starts by engaging experts in the customer’s domain (e.g., users of grants management platforms) with our technical experts in an approach called event storming. We use the feedback from these collaborative sessions to build scalable, flexible applications using ready-made microservices resources developed by our Karsun Innovation Center. (We dive deeper into this approach in our recent Design for Every Next white paper.)
For one of our grants management customers, our collaboration-centered toolkits allowed us to build a platform that modernized existing legacy grants programs while adding new grants programs to meet that customer’s emerging needs. Our teams could do this because our process prioritizes collaboration and gives our builders and problem solvers the tools to adapt to new customer requests.
Empowering Self Guiding Teams
In the previous post, we also mentioned our GoLean Agile Platform, which provides data driven insights into the development process. The tools on this platform also support another core principle at Karsun, enabling self guiding teams. We ensure our teams have the autonomy to problem solve and build solutions in the best way for them.
One component of that process is giving those teams the tools to assess their productivity. Our GoLean toolkit provides over 25 health and diagnostic visualizations to help teams better understand their work. These visualizations include measurements like lead time, release frequency, and failure rate. Our toolkit also provides these teams with eight statistical models to help them better predict outcomes.
In addition to these technology resources, we support self guiding through our commitment to workplace flexibility. Most roles at Karsun allow teams to determine whether they wish to remain fully remote or hybrid. Our headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, has collaborative workspaces for those that want to gather in person. However, all resources, from training to toolkits, are available virtually, and most of our teams are fully remote.
At Karsun, we support our collaborative community with the resources and flexibility to solve problems effectively. Our teams are mission focused and passionate about technology’s ability to deliver better government to the citizen. If you, too, are passionate about building better technology for the government, then Team Karsun is where you will Find Your Next. Learn more about our open roles at KarsunCareers.com/jobs.
Every day over 21,000 people use U.S. government websites. Given this, incorporating the needs of millions of users while modernizing on a large scale can be daunting. Karsun Solutions President Terry Miller joins John Gilroy and the Federal Tech Podcast to share how a product mindset combined with Karsun’s Digital Transformation toolkits enable agencies to meet their mission while meeting the expectations of its users.
The Product Mindset
In the interview, Miller describes how legacy application modernization can get bogged down by a focus on adding functionality over a focus on the product as a whole. He notes by taking a product mindset, technology teams instead consider the purpose of the product and what it is supposed to do for its users. This goes beyond adding features or modernizing to meet new requirements. Instead, product mindset oriented modernization considers the long-term vision for the product. It involves stakeholders from the beginning to ensure their vision is part of the collective vision. This includes adopting feedback loops, like those used in human centered design, to ensure consistent input from the beginning.
Toolkits Accelerate Transformation
Miller explained the second part of Karsun’s approach to design at scale is its Digital Transformation Toolkits. These resources and playbooks accelerate transformation as Karsun begins its modernization process. For example, the Digital Transformation Design Toolkit uses a system of 40 different components enabling our developers to quickly create U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) standards compliant interfaces. This allows rapid interaction from prototype to production while engaging the frequent feedback cycle needed for product mindset development. Miller mentions Karsun’s new Design for Every Next whitepaper dives deeper into this relationship. Produced by the Karsun Innovation Center, the paper examines user experience throughout the modernization process.
The podcast is out now. Tune in to the Federal Tech Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or at https://www.theoakmontgroupllc.com/ep-73-how-to-build-federal-systems-for-scale-and-resilience/.
Over 21,000 people visit U.S. government websites each day. The annual paperwork burden for executive departments and agencies exceeds 9 billion hours. Adopting next-generation user experience practices can address these challenges. By considering the needs of all stakeholders, designing for scale can improve the user experience, reducing paperwork and empowering agencies to meet their mission no matter the changing digital landscape.
In 2021, the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government called on agencies to improve government performance while using proven best practices such as human centered design and service delivery models. We must embed the user experience in the process to meet these requirements as early as possible. It compels us to take a long view. We should take a product oriented mindset that asks not how we can introduce a particular feature or functionality but how the product itself will be used past the completion of a modernization project.
We have applied this approach to modernization projects for our customers in the acquisitions, aviation, and grants management industries. Aligning to industry standards, some of our applications see more than 1 million registered users. Using repeatable processes, we enable User Experience/User Interface (UI/UX) on a massive scale as we modernize complex systems for our agency customers. We collect our best practices, resources, and components into toolkits used by our teams. Now we have assembled our insights into a white paper from our Karsun Innovation Center.
Our new Design for Every Next white paper takes you step by step through this process. From building your data capabilities to effectively analyzing stakeholder needs to creating effective feedback loops. We also share best practices and strategies for leveraging emerging technologies to implement new enhancements quickly. We also share our component-based approach to rapidly iterating and prototyping interfaces. Part of our Digital Transformation Toolkits, our Design Toolkit ensures teams have the resources and expertise to accelerate transformation with a comprehensive view of stakeholder needs and wants. Download the white paper at https://karsun-llc.com/resource/design-for-every-next-2/.