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Police Department Uses Customized Agile Workshop to Gain Clear View of Workload, Accelerate Response Time

Challenged with workflow and prioritization, the St. Louis County Police Department Computer Services emerged from a customized three-day workshop at WWT with a more purposeful and efficient approach to their work.

Challenge

Agility is paramount for police, whether on the streets or in the IT department. 

The Computer Services division of the St. Louis County Police Department, already drowning in support calls, found itself constantly shifting focus to sporadic urgent requests, or what the division calls “blue flame missions.”

Without a formal process in place to handle such requests, the department lacked the agility to work the blue flame missions while efficiently addressing new development needs for the county. Among their responsibilities, which includes responding to support tickets for software and computer hardware, the Computer Services division designs, builds, deploys and supports many custom applications for police departments and municipalities across Missouri. 

Police Sergeant Mike Wilson, director of the unit, said the division was “jumping from one blue flame emergency to the next,” without putting a dent in the mounting support calls list.

The department needed to make a change and reached out to WWT to learn about industry best practices and support. 

The department’s daily challenges included:

  1. Overwhelming number of support calls.
  2. Calls going directly to team members instead of being routed through the call center.
  3. Constant change in priorities.
  4. Not enough people to address the mountain of new development work being requested.
  5. No processes to address any of the above.

The entire Computer Services team took part in a three-day Agile Workshop hosted at WWT’s Application Services office in downtown St. Louis — WWT has found off-site to be more effective for organizations as distractions are minimized and a different environment helps open the mind for enhanced learning. 

Using an Agile methodology and approach, WWT was able to deliver value early and often with limited costs.

Customized approach yields immediate results

The workshop — tailored to the department’s specific needs — was presented from a practitioner’s perspective and used real scenarios and issues the department was experiencing, allowing for immediate implementation

For example, Sergeant Wilson’s team used a Kanban board — an agile project management tool designed to help visualize work, limit work-in-progress and maximize efficiency (or flow) — to visualize their work to be done, work in progress and completed work. However, the St. Louis County Police Kanban board was constructed in such a way that they were unable to distinguish the difference between “active work” and “work on hold.” 

WWT’s Agile Transformation Coach’s suggested a modification to the board to distinguish between the two, as well as adding a work-in-progress (WIP) limit so that the team could shift people from development or analysis work over to testing (aka Quality Assurance or QA) to make the process flow much smoother.  

These simple suggestions yielded immediate results, with the long list of tickets piled up in “testing” reduced to just two tickets as other tickets began flowing through the Kanban board much faster. 

Agile as a mindset, not a process

The first two days of the workshop focused on agile basics, with the team learning about: 

  • Agile values
  • Agile principles
  • Leadership models in an agile organization
  • Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset
  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Lean
  • Team roles and responsibilities
  • Technical best practices
  • Popular agile frameworks.

Day three was completely focused on the unique needs of their shop. WWT’s Agile Transformation coaches had worked with one of the department’s team leads prior to the workshop to bring in a new feature they intended to work on soon. WWT worked with the team to help form a product vision, write clear and concise features, and create strong stories with well-defined value statements and acceptance criteria. 

Real-time feedback

Throughout the three days, the Agile Transformation coaches periodically paused the workshop and asked them to write down how the ideas they had just learned that might benefit them. At the end of day three, the collective team talked about all the ideas gathered during the workshop. The team voted on these items and came up with a list of changes they would implement over the next month to help them grow. 

They left the workshop with two great achievements:

  1. Real stories written for their upcoming feature.
  2. The next steps/changes needed in their agile journey.

Results

With a future road map and newfound processes in place, the team closed more tickets in the two weeks following the workshop than in the two months prior. The team continues to make improvements in their process to be leaner. 

One department team member said, "I can’t express how much this has helped our organization. We are for the first time understanding what the entire staff is committed to, and it is helping control making promises we can’t deliver on right out of the gate. On top of that, we are very quickly identifying recurring maintenance issues that can be permanently resolved in less than two times the effort to address the issue each time. We will have recovered the cost of this training within two months, and that is a way better recovery than I would have ever predicted."

Contact WWT Agile Coach Joe Jacob if you have any questions or would like to learn more. 

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