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Pre-Sprint Planning

The first few months of TOPx involves pre-sprint planning. It will be important to form a team within your agency that will work on day-to-day operations, spread the word about TOPx within your agency, and identify a senior-level champion. Next, your team will engage others in the agency to define problem statement(s) for which sprint participants will develop solutions. After problem statement development, you will recruit sprint participants, who include tech teams, community leaders, advocates, individuals with direct lived experience, and data and policy experts from government.

Step 1:
Form a Facilitation Team

Time: 2-4 weeks


As you begin the process of planning a TOPx sprint, it is important to build a coalition around your sprint within the agency.

This step and the following (Define Problem Statements) can be done in any order, or concurrently.

Key Actions


Spread the word about TOPx within your office and the broader agency

Consider holding an informational meeting, as well as utilizing agency newsletters, listservs, and broader communications. A modifiable information sheet is provided in Resources below


Identify at least one senior agency official (up to your agency’s Secretary, Administrator, etc.) who is aware and supportive of the sprint and can serve as your executive level champion


Build a staff-level facilitation team. While a TOPx sprint may be facilitated by two people or eight depending on bandwidth, facilitating a TOPx sprint will require finding others within your agency to help you along the way

See Resources below for a list of roles, which may be combined or adapted to best meet your team’s structure


Begin meeting weekly as a facilitation team to efficiently distribute responsibility and share out progress


Modify this template email depending on the audience to spread the word about TOPx within your agency

TOPx Overview for Agencies

Attach this information sheet when spreading the word about TOPx within your agency

TOPx Facilitation Team - Potential Roles

A list of potential roles for a TOPx facilitation team, which can be modified as needed

Step 2:
Define Problem Statement(s)

Time: 2-4 weeks


TOP aims to solve real-world problems facing individuals and communities. Problem statement development leverages your agency’s unique policy expertise to articulate specific national challenges requiring innovation, for which tech teams develop solutions. Each problem statement will outline the background and history of the challenge, potential end users who would benefit from a digital product, as well as some relevant data sets.

Be sure to review the Resources section below for guidelines, examples of past problem statements, and a template for writing your own.

Key Actions


Consider issue areas that are priorities for your agency, affect communities nationwide, and require data or technology innovation


Develop 1-3 detailed problem statements


Each problem statement should include 1-3 points of contact/problem statement leads who will participate in sprint milestones, address policy and operational questions, and provide feedback on the products to tech teams

Problem statement leads are subject matter experts. They may be directors of policy offices, special advisors on policy areas, or others with expertise in the challenge


What Makes a Good Problem Statement

Read guidelines for which problem statements are most effective and impactful

Past TOP Problem Statements

Explore past problem statements to help you brainstorm and get a sense of the typical language

Problem Statement Template

Use this template to draft problem statements

Step 3:
Recruit Sprint Participants

Time: 2-4 weeks


Collaboration is an essential part of the TOPx process. Each sprint includes technologists from industry and/or universities, data and policy experts from government, community leaders, and advocates. The recruitment process gets these collaborators on board to participate in the sprint.

To get you started, we have provided essential outreach materials as templates under Resources below.

Key Actions


Identify start and end weeks for your sprint

To approximate a start date, consider that after you finish recruitment, you will need another 2-3 weeks to finalize sprint facilitation preparations. To decide on an end date, consider that a typical sprint is 12-14 weeks


Create a detailed sprint timeline, including the number and frequency of milestones. See Resources below for a template

Some agencies will choose to increase the number of touch-points, for example by including a weekly check-in call, while others will have fewer touchpoints, for instance only two or three milestone calls. If your challenge involves technical information that would help orient the tech teams, consider offering a Problem Statement 101 session where you would give more details of terms, data, past solutions, and any additional relevant information


Review explanations of sprint roles on the TOP website. A typical TOPx sprint will include policy experts (e.g., problem statement leads), data stewards, tech teams, and user advocates

Consider also identifying technologists from outside of government who can act as “product advisors” and offer tech teams product development and deployment expertise


Modify the templates found under Resources to develop outreach emails and recruitment materials


Develop a list of potential participants. See Resources for information on what to look for in potential participants

Engage your agency’s partnerships team to leverage existing relationships


Reach out to potential participants with relevant outreach emails and materials, including tech team or user advocate overview documents, problem statements and a timeline.


Engage with interested parties and share further information. Set up individual briefing calls

Consider also organizing a webinar or conference call to share information


Begin developing a list of likely participants.


Connect with problem statement leads within your agency to ensure they understand their role

Problem statement leads should be available to address policy and operational questions throughout the sprint and participate in all milestones


Connect with data stewards to be sure they understand their role and identify additional data stewards as needed


Sprint Timeline

High-level timeline of the sprint, which you can modify to work best for your agency

Sprint Roles

Review the TOP website to learn more about each role in a sprint

Tips for Identifying Potential Sprint Participants

Information on what organizations sprint participants come from and what skills to look for

Modify this template email to recruit tech teams and user advocates

Tech Team Role Overview

Explain TOPx and outline the tech team role

User Advocate Role Overview

Explain TOPx and outline the user advocate role

Step 4:
Sprint Preparation

Time: 2-4 weeks


Once you have recruited sprint participants, take a few weeks to prepare before launching the sprint. Confirm participants and organize the communication methods you will use throughout the sprint.

Key Actions


Confirm participation of sprint collaborators


Develop a technology communication infrastructure


Send a welcome email to all sprint participants.


Begin finalizing data list and confirm any last data stewards

In a word document, compile descriptions, data steward names, and data steward emails for each data set. This document will be shared with participants after the User Research Milestone


Set a date for a kickoff call and send a calendar invitation to all sprint participants


Slack Community Guidelines Template

A set of standards to guide Slack communication during the sprint