Embracing A Framework for Agile Transformation at NewWave’s Collaboration Center

February 11, 2020

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Enrollment and Payment Systems (MEPS) embarked on the Agile Transformation journey in November 2018. As they started training resources, setting up the processes, procedures, tools, and conducting the pilot projects, they quickly realized that they needed to embrace a framework for scaling agile across their large and complex program of seven (7) applications and about 18 agile teams. The Program Increment (PI) planning is a cadence based, face to face event that serves as the heart beat of the Agile Release Train (ART), aligning all the teams on the ART to a shared mission and Vision.

MEPS PI Planning Session – Solving for the Greater Good!

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Government Task Leads (GTLs) came to NewWave in a weekly Medicare Enrollment and Payment Systems (MEPS) Business Operations Support Center (MBOSC) weekly meeting in early October 2019. CMS was in a pinch finding a venue for the first ever in-person PI planning session for the seven Medicare Part D application systems teams/contractors to be held on October 22nd and 23rd, 2019. NewWave, being one of the first organizations to realize the benefits of SAFe, and having introduced SAFe at the enterprise level of CMS, quickly realized the significance of this request.

Through collaboration with NewWave’s Workplace Experience and IT Teams, we were able to facilitate the event at NewWave’s state-of-the-art Collaboration Center. The Collaboration Center was not CMS’s first choice for the event, as the original vision was to have everyone co-located in a large lecture style room; however, the non-conventional format proved to be just what the group needed. The bright colors and unique layout of the space inspired creativity, and the various separate conference rooms of the Collaboration Center allowed the teams to balance group collaboration in the common area with segmented breakout sessions to drill down on Epics & Features. The walls became the planning and program boards. The kitchen counter and coffee machine became the center for discussing the risk management strategies as the contractor team members enthusiastically adopted collaboration. The massage chairs helped some of the scrum masters to ease their (back) pains as they participated in the Scrum of Scrums.

A few years ago, such a large scale gathering of CMS GTLs, Business Owners, and contractor personnel would have been unfathomable. The 2-day session at the Collaboration Center was a massive hit for the 130+ participants who repeatedly mentioned how much they loved our workspace! The result was CMS asking us to host the event again in January 2020.

NewWave’s Collaboration Center in Windsor Mill, MD

CMS successfully hosted its second in-person PI planning session on January 14th and 15th, again at the NewWave Collaboration Center. The purpose of the meeting is to plan the next 12 weeks of MEPS Operations and Maintenance (O&M) and Modernization Releases for all Agile teams supporting the Risk Adjustment Suite of Systems (RASS), Drug Data Processing System (DDPS)/Payment Reconciliation System (PRS), Medicare Enrollment and Premium Billing System (MEPBS), Medicare Beneficiary Database Suite of Systems (MBDSS), and Medicare Enrollment Prescription Drug (MARx) systems. Nakia Heard, CMS Information Technology Manager, again noted how pleased she and the participants were with hosting the event at the NewWave Collaboration Center and asked if we could make this an official quarterly event!

We are confident that all these compliments will augur Goodwill for NewWave. Agile transformation requires a unique level of collaboration, and the Manifesto for Agile Software Development tells us focus must be placed on individuals and interactions, over processes and tools. This will lead to uncovering better ways of developing software and helping others to do it. By providing a space designed for such collaboration, NewWave is providing a new model for how government and contractors can work together in this age of rapid technological change. Groups are now challenged with responding to change versus simply following a plan. We are helping CMS and its partners focus on customer collaboration and asking “how can we help” and “what can we do.”

Todd Vance

Todd Vance

Sr. Program Manager

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