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Enterprise Agility in the Norwegian Government

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The Norwegian Labor and Welfare Directorate wanted to transform their IT department to be able to deliver value continuously and deliver faster, in line with users’ ever-increasing expectations. Torill Iversen, director, and Kjell Tore Guttormsen, team lead, spoke about how they went from bureaucracy to enterprise agility at the Atlassian Summit Europe 2018. InfoQ is covering this event with Q&As, summaries, and articles.

InfoQ interviewed Iversen about their journey to enterprise agility.

InfoQ: How did you make the transition from bureaucracy to enterprise agility?

Torill Iversen: We started out by setting ourselves some goals. They were all about how we can capture events in a human life and use that to meet the users with customized solutions and relevant suggestions based on everything we know.

Then we reorganized the IT-department to enable agile development and continuous deliveries, by making teams our main ingredients. After that, we looked at how we worked – our processes.

Moving into cross-functional teams was a huge culture change for the organization, and we are still working on agile adoption in our organization at large.

A key factor to deliver faster, better and cheaper was to strengthen our own competence in strategic core areas, like development, information and application platforms.

We built specialist environments to empower our own development, and to take over responsibility ourselves. We used to be a company depending on consultants to drive development, while we ran a procurement operation. Now we develop most of it ourselves.

InfoQ: What have you done to ensure alignment between the business and IT?

Iversen: One huge enabler for business alignment has been our new application architecture. We are working hard to move away from a complex architecture, with a lot of dependencies and mainframe solutions to self-developed applications that are Java-based - which all use NAV’s container platform, NAIS (NAV = The Norwegian welfare and labor administration).
Microservices are responsible for functionality and data within their area. Events and data become available for other services and for analysis through data streams. These data streams create loose couplings.

Our efforts with people, processes and the application architecture now make it possible for us to work in business domains, based on life events.

In short, teams within the domains can work decoupled from other teams, gaining development speed and without project overhead.

Each of these domains will be led by the business side, and will consist of several functional product teams, with one goal – to deliver value within their field.

InfoQ: What did you learn on your journey towards agility?

Iversen: Some of the things we learned include:

  • People are able to do things if they are allowed.
  • Changing culture is hard work, and has to continually be a focus.
  • Get business onboard - that makes it easier to get through the transition.

InfoQ: How do citizens of Norway perceive the results of the digitalization in the government services provided to them?

Iversen: We receive very good feedback from users of our new services. One example is how our citizens now can deliver digital sick leave applications.

Some numbers:

  • Of those who currently have the opportunity to use digital sick leave (there are still some unplugged groups), almost all (91 %) only send a digital application for sickness benefit.
  • Nearly 70% are satisfied or very satisfied with the solution
  • About 50% of the follow-up plans NAV receives now come through the new digital solution.

With digital applications, we get fewer applications that are incorrectly filled, which in turn saves time when processing, and means the user waits less time for his payment.

Earlier, InfoQ interviewed James Stewart about lessons from the UK Government’s digital transformation journey and published a summary on government guidelines for agile adoption.

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