Phase 1 - Plan
Total Duration: 3-4 months
Time: 5-20 hours/week
In the first few months, you will set the stage for your sprint. Along with building a coalition around your sprint topic within your agency, you will need to define your problem statement and recruit participants.
Duration and time are estimated based on 1 problem statement, an agency facilitation team of 2 - 4 individuals, and 3 - 5 tech teams (with a recommended maximum of 6).
- Form an agency facilitation/project management team
- Identify a senior-level champion
- Define the problem statement
- Recruit sprint participants: tech teams, community leaders, advocates, individuals with direct lived experience, and data and policy experts
- Prepare documentation for sprint execution
Step 1: Form a Team to Identify Your Problem
Total Duration: 2-4 weeks
Time: 5 hours/week
As you begin planning for your TOP sprint, you will need to recruit a team within your agency to help facilitate the project and work on day-to-day operations. Members of this team will all be considered ‘sprint leaders’ and you will see that term used frequently throughout this Toolkit.
You will also need to identify the problem you are seeking to solve through your sprint. Your problem statement should describe a challenge your agency is working to solve for the public. Challenges can be any priority within your agency’s mission. Tech teams from outside of government will build tools that use data to help solve this challenge.
Components of a problem statement:
• The background and history of the challenge
• Potential end users who would benefit from a digital product
• Some relevant datasets
Spread the word about TOP within your office and throughout your agency to generate interest and support for your project.
Consider holding an informational meeting, as well as utilizing agency newsletters, listservs, intranet, internal networks, and broader communications tools to generate interest and find collaborators.
Identify at least one senior agency official (such as a Senior Executive or even your agency’s Secretary or Administrator) who is aware and supportive of the sprint and can serve as your executive-level champion.
Build a staff-level facilitation team of sprint leaders. Facilitating a TOP sprint will require finding others within your agency, or other agencies, to help along the way. The size of your team will depend on each team member’s bandwidth, as well as the number of challenges and tech teams that will be part of your sprint.
Begin meeting weekly as a facilitation team to efficiently distribute responsibility and track progress.
Consider issue areas that are priorities for your agency, affect communities nationwide, and where open data could be part of effective solutions.
Develop a detailed problem statement.
To source problem statements, consider:
- Searching within your agency’s strategic plan, learning agenda, or government-wide documents like the President’s Management Agenda.
- Sending a broad request for possible topics to offices across the agency.
Identify 1-3 points of contact/sprint leaders who will participate in sprint milestones, address policy and operational questions, and provide feedback on the products to tech teams.
Sprint leaders are subject matter experts, special advisors, or others knowledgeable about the challenge.
Step 2: Recruit Sprint Participants
Total Duration: 4-8 weeks
Time: 20 hours/week
Collaboration is an essential part of the TOP process. Once you have identified a clear and compelling problem statement, it is time to recruit technologists, universities, data and policy experts, community leaders, and advocates to participate in the sprint.
Identify the start and end dates for your sprint.
Create a detailed sprint timeline, including the number and frequency of milestones.
If your sprint topic involves jargon or technical information that the participants will have to navigate, consider offering an orientation session to provide more information on technical terms, data, past solutions, and any additional relevant information.
Review the Sprint Roles resource linked below. A typical TOP sprint will include subject matter experts (e.g., sprint leaders), data stewards, tech teams, and user advocates.
Consider identifying experts from outside of government who can act as “product advisors” and offer tech teams product strategy advice.
Customize the templates to develop outreach emails and recruitment materials to recruit tech teams and user advocates.
Develop a list of potential participants.
Engage your agency’s outreach and partnerships team to leverage existing networks and relationships.
Reach out to potential participants by email and include tech teams or user advocate overview documents, problem statements, and a timeline. Consider reaching out with an overview first, and then follow up with details after receiving initial interest.
Follow up with interested parties and share further information through individual meetings and/or open information sessions.
Consider organizing a webinar or conference call to share information with many stakeholders at once.
Begin developing a list of likely participants.
For each problem statement you should aim to identify:
- 3-4 tech teams.
- At least 2-3 user advocates.
- Where possible, 1 data steward for every dataset.
Connect with the team you’ve assembled to be sprint leaders to ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities.
Sprint leaders should be available to address operational and challenge 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.
Step 3: Sprint Preparation
Total Duration: 3 weeks
Time: 10-15 hours/week
Once you have identified sprint participants, take a few weeks to prepare for the launch of your sprint.
Confirm participation of sprint collaborators.
Select the communication tools you will use.
- Select a digital communication platform. For agencies that approve of its use, Slack is a useful resource for collaboration. It allows users to share messages, tools, and files. Microsoft Teams also provides similar features.
- Make sure you have access to a phone dial-in number for facilitating milestone calls.
- Select a video conferencing tool that is approved by your agency, such as Zoom, Teams, Webex, or Google Meet. Some check-ins (e.g., demos) are better facilitated by video conferences.
When you’re ready to kick off, send a welcome email to all sprint participants. This email should include:
- Sprint timeline
- Finalized problem statements
- A sprint participant contact list to encourage email communication between participants, if all parties have agreed to share their information with one another.
Be sure to first ask if all participants are comfortable having their contact information shared with others, and provide an opportunity to opt out of the contact list.
Finalize the list of suggested open datasets and confirm data stewards
- In a word document, compile descriptions, data steward names, and data steward emails for each dataset. 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.