Agile coach at the Renewal of the Basic Land Registry (BRK)

By Aart-Jan Eenkhoorn

The Dutch Land Registry registers information about buildings, land, pipes, ships and houses that are sold. Because of the Dutch Basic Land Registry (BRK), you know for sure to whom what belongs. The Land Registry has recently renewed its BasisRegistratie (BRK) system. The previous system was not future-proof and needed to be revamped to ensure continuity of its services. The renewed system offers better opportunities to implement customer requirements, product and process improvements and legislative changes. The modified BRK deed processing process increases the quality and timeliness of registration.

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Scrum working method and question to Highberg agile coach

The Land Registry used the scrum working method for software customization and renewal of the BRK. It chose this because the method is focused on developing new products. Scrum is based on fixed multidisciplinary teams that deliver results every two weeks. The Land Registry asked Highberg (formerly VKA) to support the five scrum teams in professionalizing their collaboration.

Scrum teams already reflect, why need professionalization?

Wagenaar: 'A scrum team has a retrospective every sprint in addition to a delivery. This is intended to evaluate and (where possible) improve team cooperation. With teams that have been working together for a longer period of time, the retrospective is usually not or hardly ever carried out. The incorrect perception is that working together longer means that reflection no longer has any added value. The BRK scrum teams had been working together for a long time, but they did manage to take time every 2 weeks for a retropective. Despite the fact that sufficient time was taken by the Land Registry for a retrospective, Highberg was asked to boost professionalization. Our image after the retrospective was that during these retrospectives (1) few concrete points for improvement were formulated, (2) the collaboration with other teams received too little attention and (3) the application of existing tools from Agile frameworks such as LeSS and scrum were insufficiently discussed. Therefore, there was insufficient objective picture about the functioning of each team, so that professionalization mainly got stuck in discussions.'

Impulse to professionalization through team assessments

The Land Registry works organization-wide with scrum, and had a team assessment format available for the BRK teams. But in all the pressure and frenzy, the teams had previously found it difficult to carry them out. Wagenaar: "We started by facilitating a team assessment with each team so that the teams and management would have an objective and comparable picture. During the assessment, each team member was given ample opportunity to reflect on the cooperation within the team, the program and his/her own part in it. The assessment provided insight into the extent to which the teams adhered to the scrum framework. This was not good or bad, but a reason to talk to each other about, for example, how important it is to us to see what other teams deliver at the end of a sprint.

Result impulse professionalization

A week after the last team assessment, the first result was already visible. A joint sprint review immediately replaced the separate sprint reviews per team. This took as long as each individual sprint review, so it took some getting used to for the teams. They now had to present their results attractively and comprehensibly in 15 minutes, instead of 60 minutes in front of their own audience. Still, everyone was immediately excited, because you could see what the other teams had done. Also, the product-owners could explain choices of prioritization on the backlog; this was clear to all involved at once in a short time. Also, the joint sprint review led to the presence of more stakeholders, creating knowledge exchange.

Wagenaar on other impulses to professionalization: 'The joint sprint review was a quick-win, other improvements needed more preparation. Each team's scrum masters arrived at improvements that could be implemented across all teams. We coached in this phase on formulating concrete actions on a joint improvement backlog for the BRK teams with an owner for each action. In the realization phase, we brought in Agile knowledge, and helped (free up) time to realize improvements.'

Results realized in the assignment period as a result include:

  • introduction of measurement tools from agile frameworks to measure team productivity and effectiveness,
  • an unambiguous way of writing the work inventory (backlog hygiene) which relieves product-owners and at the same time gives them more overview,
  • a shared Definition of Done (DoD) and also acting on it (!) so that every completed software has the same quality standard,
  • one-on-one agile coaching of the program manager, client, product owners and scrum masters on specific points so that they function even more powerfully.

Wagenaar; "The updated BRK is an example for other governments of applying the scrum working method correctly. The modern adaptable Land Registry is a concrete usable result, with the ability to respond to social developments in the future. Wonderful that Highberg was able to contribute to this important service for Dutch society. '

Aart-Jan Eenkhoorn can tell you all about Agile innovations. Contact him for more information.

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