In the media

Turning policy into action, faster

By Anne Sofie Hylgaard, Tina Hjort Ejlertsen

03 March 2021

The Danish Agricultural Agency’s strategy to deliver user-friendly solutions on time to customers was not being realised, as the process of turning policies into action was taking too long. This was naturally frustrating for customers, but also for the employees being affected by the inefficient and incoherent processes.

At the same time, the Agency was facing transformative EU reforms, where rules, regulations, and IT-solutions needed to be rethought. In order to prepare for this, the Agency needed to change its ways of working. We collaborated with them to develop an agile operating model ready to adjust faster to future reforms and ensure faster time-to-market.

The key successes were:

  • ability for management to prioritise initiatives across departments.
  • increased level of automation in IT-solutions based on digitisation-ready regulations.
  • higher quality and fewer defects in deliverables to customers.
  • improved employee satisfaction and a more collaborative culture and mindset change across the organisation.

Long lead times slow down delivery

The Danish Agricultural Agency is responsible for implementing laws and regulations, from handling farmers’ grant applications and giving them advice on green pesticides, to monitoring how well they look after livestock.

Each decision made by the Danish government or the EU needs a tailor-made IT-interface for farmers or other customers to use, whether it’s to apply for funding or report on how they’re following regulations. But it was taking up to 18 months to go from policy being developed and agreed, to a new website being ready to use. The agency wanted to cut that down to six months for simpler policy schemes, to speed up time-to-market and keep customers satisfied.

Creating cross-functional agile teams

We’ve helped the agency transform its ways of working. Before, a project would pass through several departments one by one, from policy teams, to IT, to case managers. Each division pulled it in different directions depending on their point of view. Now, all departments with a stake in putting policies into action are sitting as part of an agile team or act as a shared service. Bringing together cross-functional capabilities speeds up decision making and makes the development of everything – from instructions to IT integrations – more coherent. This reduces project lead times, ensuring long waiting times and handovers between departments are a thing of the past.

Further, the cross-functional teams ensure greater collaboration across the value chain, allowing for better quality solutions with fewer errors and a better experience for customers. And that makes success much more likely, whether it is farmers getting an easy-to-use website or the agency being better at communicating regulations. 

Ensuring higher transparency and predictability

To support their teams and reinforce the coherence across the value-chain, all relevant leaders are now involved in breaking down the deliverables for the agile teams to work on. This has helped the Agency gain transparency in deliverables across the value-chain, which in turn makes it easier for senior stakeholders to align and prioritise together.

The joint efforts to prioritise across the value-chain also helps shield the teams from reprioritisations, which provides less interruptions and rework for the teams. Also, the team now agree priorities directly with senior stakeholders in the agency, which helps set expectations up front and leads to fewer last-minute changes. The teams also interact with the senior stakeholders on a continuous basis, enabling them to demonstrate and deploy the emerging IT and other deliverables as they go.

Ensuring the Agency has higher predictability in deliverables and can respond with timely care if deadlines are to be exceeded, enables this communication to both customers and the political landscape much earlier than before.  

Speeding up time-to-market and pleasing customers

Our operating model and agile transformation experts devised the approach by implementing a new agile operating model based on Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and combined it with in-depth coaching to ensure people across the organisation understood the value of the transformation. This included shoulder-to-shoulder coaching with team members on how to embrace agile methodologies and build up agile development practices. By coaching at a team level, we were able to support both individuals and teams in performing their new roles and ways of working.

All our efforts were carried out in close collaboration with the Agency to ensure the transfer of both knowledge and responsibility is in the right pace – supported by coaching at all levels of the organisation. This also meant that the involved leaders and employees experienced a real capability uplift, supported by our agile experts, which made them feel self-confident and empowered. We believe this is instrumental to making sure our clients can carry on the transformation themselves and realize the long-term benefits.

Already, leaders say dialog between departments has increased more in a few months than the previous two years. The Agency aims to push up customer satisfaction by 20 per cent by 2022 and expects to lower time-to-market by two thirds in turning policies into actions.

We are very pleased with the transition to agile working methods in the agency. We have been doing this for a while now and we can feel how fast we are evolving and getting better at being clear about our capacity and plans. Close collaboration, where the business is directly involved in prioritisation, moves us on and increases our competence, so that we now have a much better understanding of each other's work - what takes time and why it does so. It also means that the products are more sophisticated and better quality – to the benefit of our customers.”
IT Deputy Director, Danish Agency for Agriculture

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