Public and Utilities
In 2015, the Dutch government passed the Environment and Planning Act, which outlines the management of the country’s physical environment at national, regional and municipal levels. To increase access to information and improve regulatory compliance, the act simplifies and merges thousands of laws and regulations into a single governmental digital system (DSO), which needed to be fully operational by 2021. The project provided a much longer lead time for official authorities to join (by 2029) and there was a multitude of stakeholders involved. This, coupled with the breadth and complexity of the system, threatened that timeframe and the overall success of the project. The Dutch government, specifically Kadaster, the land registry and national mapping agency of the Netherlands, brought Xebia on board to expedite DSO adoption.
Moving Past Analysis Paralysis for Long-Term Gains
The 6-year DSO program was already a complex undertaking, but it was further challenged on three levels: communication, overspending, and underdelivering. These are common issues with major government programs and can often lead to what is called “analysis paralysis,” a situation where work on a project stops because of the extensive inputs involved.
In particular, the DSO project needed help moving past culture of endless discussions, with a focus on completing program increments (PIs), onboarding users, and improving the way partners worked together.
From Waterfall to Agile
Before partnering with Xebia, the DSO was working according to waterfall principles, which can slow down processes, especially in large and complex environments. By contrast, Agile is a proven method that offers structure and a shared language, with a focus on collaboration between stakeholders, exposing and solving dependencies, creating a joint vision, delivering results, and sharing knowledge. Xebia suggested implementing the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), known to increase productivity and shorten time to market. While Scrum may suffice for smaller players, SAFe offers a better fit for larger organizations dealing with large-scale mission-critical programs. SAFe applies systems thinking, builds incrementally with fast learning cycles, bases milestones on working systems, reduces work-in-progress, and decentralizes decision-making by organizing around value.
Sprinting Towards Trust-Based Delivery
To move away from endless discussions, Xebia introduced a “pressure-cooker” approach, starting with the first PI session just weeks into the transition. Over 60 stakeholders attended preparatory training. Once everyone was able to move past disagreements and uncertainties, Xebia supervised the SAFe implementation. “The results speak for themselves: DSO has transformed its approach from creating one massive project through tight contract-driven project management to incremental delivery based on trust, cooperation, timely adjustments, and actual use,” said Jeletich. With new standards, test environments, continuous delivery, and service management, DSO has also noted a quality increase and significant improvements in stakeholder collaboration.