Agile at Scale for GSA’s BAAR Project

Incremental Development and Deployment for the GSA's Billing and Accounts Receivable (BAAR) System

GSA’s situation

The General Services Administration (GSA) is the agency responsible for procuring office space, goods and services for U.S. government departments.

The agency plays a crucial role in government operations, both logistically and financially. As a result, GSA processes a large volume of financial transactions every day.

GSA’s challenge

The GSA has a financial system of record with billing and accounts receivable capabilities (BAAR). The BAAR system is used to record, store and present important and Business critical financial information to GSA agency clients.

All systems that interface and provide financial data to BAAR have to follow a specific data exchange specification to provide information in a format that can be consumed by BAAR.

Implementation of this important project was to take place on a hard deadline. When TechFlow was engaged on the project, the GSA wanted three platforms (one modernized platform and two legacy platforms) brought in line with data exchange specification requirements (all at the same time!):

  1. ASSIST: The centralized acquisition and financial platform for GSA Assisted Acquisition Services (AAS). ASSIST is a modern, web-based system. It provides AAS with mission-critical business functionality.
  2. Regional Business Applications: A legacy web-based system that facilitates the development of delivery and purchase orders to GSA Regions.
  3. National Business Applications: A legacy system that handles financial data for GSA AAS and GSA’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM).

Upgrading these systems to meet the BAAR data exchange specification requirements coupled with a hard deadline was a significant technical challenge.

The BAAR standards required changing several key areas of functionality in each of the systems. Further, the project required significant data migration and data cleansing to get the existing data into the BAAR system.

TechFlow's Solution: Incremental Development and Deployment

Going into the project, TechFlow knew the work would need to be divided into several components.

All systems had hundreds of thousands of lines of code, as well as several areas of key functionality. The project’s deadline complicated matters; all development would need to be completed by February 16th, 2016. Timing and the affect of change across systems added complexity to a crucial project.

In order to get the project developed in time, TechFlow opted for an Agile-at-scale scrum development methodology, which featured incremental releases.

Agile with incremental releases is a process that involves breaking a project into smaller, independently-functioning parts. The project is built in “small bits,” allowing the client to see and test individual features before the overall project is complete.

TechFlow planned for incremental releases on a quarterly basis, a pace suited to the government stakeholders. At the end of each quarter, the team would release a set of features to the client, allowing them to test and give feedback.

This process, known as “user acceptance testing,” helped the team stay on track, using client insights to guide development. This process minimized the amount of time spent revising completed work, allowed for continued use of critical business systems, and shortened the development cycle.

Results

TechFlow completed the process of modernizing the GSA’s systems on time and 20% under budget.

The client evaluated TechFlow’s work and determined all deliverables met or exceeded all project criteria. The client realized a significant cost savings thanks to TechFlow’s ability to deliver the project under-budget.

Conclusion

This case study illustrates the power of applying agile-at-scale, and leveraging iterative development with incremental releases by a company focused on delivering value and results.

By breaking the BAAR project into small components, TechFlow was able to complete the project with extraordinary efficiency.

Any organization that adopts a similar method for its project can expect to see stellar results, as the combination of agile, incremental development and a value focused firm allows for a more streamlined and efficient development cycle.