At 18F, we partner with government agencies to help them deliver new or modernized digital services and help set them up for success after we conclude the project. To support these outcomes, we set up our work to track on four levels:
- Project management
- Product development
- Post-18F sustainability
- Learning to the broader government community
Building a healthy 18F engagement
Building a user-centered product
|Current work||Near-term work|
Building a partner environment for delivery
|Short term capacity building||Post-18F sustainability and capacity building|
|Learn from the work|
Throughout the engagement, we want to make sure that we are aligning stakeholders, monitoring our budget, and providing the appropriate resources to a project. This can mean introducing new agreements, adjusting staff, or revisiting the project scope or deliverables as the project progresses. We make sure we have the appropriate paperwork and support to kick off the project.
We aim to have a productive working relationship within the 18F team and with the partner. In the kickoff phase of our work, we align with the partner on the scope from the initial agreements phase. Then, in our discovery phase, we align with our partner on the first slice of product development work and capacity building, and determine if that is within 18F’s capabilities. As we roll off an engagement, we ensure the partner is not reliant on 18F tools, and resources are transferred to the partner.
The ultimate goal of our product delivery work is to introduce a new or modernized digital product that will reduce administrative burden for the public. We use human-centered design to validate the mission and problem or identify a need, and lean methodology to prioritize a first slice of work. We conduct end-user research, stakeholder research, and technical discovery to see what might be the highest value and most feasible place to start.
We then mitigate both project and product risks by starting to build out initial feature sets of working software: either as throw-away prototypes or as slimmed down versions of the future production product. We test those assumptions through usability testing and iteration of the product. We work with our partners to define a product roadmap from the learning of our initial iterations. We also determine whether our initial prototypes will meet the long-term needs or technical constraints of our partner and either scrap them for a pre-production software or mature the codebase from a prototype into pre-production. We also use our initial product development to chart a course for security authorizations.
We then work to mature the product for launch by developing the minimum set of features that will provide the most value to our users at launch, undergoing security testing, and establishing product metrics, and system operations like release management. We launch the product and continue to deliver the product in production. Our partners face certain challenges, and there are times when an industry partner may make more sense to conduct the product delivery, development, and design.
We want to build products that our partners can successfully manage in production after our 18F engagements conclude. We often think about coaching and what the agency’s product management capabilities are in our work from the beginning. In our discovery work, this means identifying a critical first slice of capacity building which is often around introducing a government program manager to digital product ownership and agile methodologies. As we conduct our initial product development, we establish a baseline of the skills and resources needed for the partner to sustain their work.
For some projects we support our partners in launch since there are a lot of security, compliance, and user support activities required for a launch in government, and our experience helps us mitigate those risks. We also support our partners to learn how to deliver continuously in production. Before we conclude our partnerships, we work to ensure that our partners are capable of managing digital products in production without our staff, and transition tooling to the partner.
Learning to the broader civic tech community
In our work, we also want to facilitate curiosity within 18F and in the broader civic tech community. We work in the open so others can use our code and resources, such as documentation on our architectural choices and user research summaries. We update our resources and templates throughout projects so that we can deliver better and faster as we build from our experience. We share our work within 18F via presentations and project reflections so that we can all benefit from an individual’s project experience. We also think about what lessons might help other digital service teams and agencies and publish guides and posts on this blog to facilitate broader adoption of modern digital services.