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County IT Teams Go into the 'Tank' for Agile Event

Technologists teamed up to present proposals and proofs of concept to a team of judges, who "invested" in some of the teams' ideas. The idea was to spur creativity among the county IT team and to emphasize agile methodology in IT innovation.

The IT group from Los Angeles County’s Internal Services Department recently held their first “Agile Shark Tank” event — an opportunity for employees to present a project or proof-of-concept which involved some degree of agile development.

The group — formally Information Technology Services (ITS) — is the operational IT provider for Los Angeles County and has close to 1,100 employees. Six brave teams presented in front of an audience of 175 employees to “sharks” (judges), who asked questions of the contestants and invested Shark Bucks.

Teams had five minutes to present their ideas and five minutes to respond to the judges’ questions. Attendees were also allowed to “invest” and collectively had the equivalent investment power of one judge with Shark Bucks, which were hidden under audience chairs.

The event was designed as a fun way for teams to share ideas and their collective understanding of agile development. Beginning in 2017 and supported continually by Streamlyne Inc., the Customer Applications Branch (CAB) of the department began incorporating agile development.

Trinh Mac, deputy general manager over CAB, summarized the department’s reasons for looking to agile: “We invested in agile as a better way to connect with our customers and to, ultimately, deliver solutions that not only get to the customers faster, but are exactly what they ask for and want. What we found is that agile not only impacts our end product to our customers, but our teams as well.

“Everyone gets to be agile, whether they’re working with new technology or maintaining our customers’ critical legacy applications,” Mac said. “Teams huddle daily and engage with their managers for prioritization. Through these efforts, our teams are engaged, connected and much happier.”

A significant amount of thought and work went into each team’s presentation and their suggestions for how to improve the organization. Although the expectation was simply for an idea or proof-of-concept to be presented, the teams went above and beyond, in most cases having a fully developed and operational product to showcase. The judges were so impressed that they decided each team would be paired with a mentor to coach their project through development.

“I am very proud of the progress our team has made toward transforming into a highly Agile culture,” said Dave Wesolik, general manager of ITS. “Both our managers, project teams and external partners have embraced this innovative approach to developing IT solutions that will assist county departments as well as the resident of the county directly.”

Teams, their concept, and assigned Shark Mentor:

  • ATeam (Containerizing) 1st Place and GM Award — Dave Wesolik, General Manager, Information Technology Services, Internal Services Department
  • Epic ePS (QR Codes) — Trinh Mac, Deputy General Manager, Customer Applications Branch, Information Technology Services, Internal Services Department
  • IDD Internet Applications (Automated Tracking and Reporting) — Stephanie Todd, Chief Engagement Officer, Business Relationship Management, Information Technology Services, Internal Services Department
  • pyMixin (Parking Queue) Runner Up — Benny Chacko, Deputy General Manager, SSB
  • Shark Bait (Voice Recognition/Coop Drill) — Mark Diorio, Division Manager, Customer Application Branch, Information Technology Services, Internal Services Department
  • TheUIGuys (Web App Modernizer) — Chris Pailma, Section Manager, Customer Applications Branch, Information Technology Services, Internal Services Department
ITS leadership plans to share updates on the progress of these projects and about more events and forums where additional employee ideas to support collaboration and innovation can be shared.

Rebecca Friedman is the Founder and President of Koru Strategies, a public sector business development advisory firm.