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High-level 18F project lifecycle

Projects at 18F begin as opportunities. An opportunity can arrive in a variety of ways. For example, a potential partner agency can contact us directly to ask about working together, the director of business development or a portfolio director may reach out to an agency to follow-up on a recent news story that indicates a need we may be able to help with, or a previous partner agency that was happy with our work together spreads the word to their contacts in other agencies.

However it happens, when a new opportunity comes in, the business development process kicks off. To help keep track of it, it is added to the BD Opportunities tab in the 18F Dashboard🔒. The new opportunity will begin with a stage of Identified.

Depending on the category of the opportunity, the director of business development, a portfolio director, or a domain champion will then take over as the BD lead to shepherd it through the process. They will look into the lead, doing some background research to understand the need and talk to project leads, account managers, and other folks who have any history with the partner or have knowledge or experience with the project or space. Once they feel like they have a good initial idea of the need, the Dashboard is updated and the opportunity is moved into the Prioritized stage.

The BD lead will schedule a meeting with the potential partner agency, the business development reps from the chapters, an account manager, and appropriate portfolio directors. This meeting is about making sure 18F understands the agency’s needs, that our offerings fit their needs, that we have the right expertise to help them in the right timeframe, and that the project fits with what we value. After this meeting, if everyone on the 18F team agrees that we should move forward, the Dashboard is updated again to move the opportunity into the Qualified stage, meaning that we believe it’s a project that we should try to take on.

Once an opportunity is qualified, the account manager writes up a short proposal to get aligned on the partner need, desired outcomes, and general shape of the work. This proposal can include input from the BD lead and/or portfolio directors. They then send it off for the partner agency to review. There can be some back-and-forth ironing out all the details, but once both sides agree on the proposal, the dashboard is updated. The opportunity gets moved into the Scoped stage. Additionally, a Project🔒 is created in the Dashboard, also staged to Scoped. This reflects our optimism that the opportunity is going to turn into a real project that will need to be staffed.

NOTE: A project can be related to multiple opportunities, which means the project is ultimately funded by multiple consecutive IAAs. Similarly, an opportunity can spawn multiple projects, depending on the partner agency’s needs.

In addition to updating the Dashboard, the account manager may also create a preliminary staffing issue at this point. It will be tagged with Needs IAA so staffing leads know it can’t be staffed yet, but it can give them a heads-up that a need may be coming and help them with other staffing decisions.

The next step in the process is for 18F and the partner agency to sign an interagency agreement (IAA). The IAA process can take a little time as it bounces back and forth between all the appropriate signatories on both sides, but once it’s signed on both sides, both the opportunity and the project in the Dashboard are moved into the Executed stage. At this point, the opportunity has reached the end of its lifecycle and business development hands everything over to staffing to get the project started. If there is already a staffing issue, the Needs IAA label is replaced with the Staffing Request tag; otherwise, a new staffing issue is created and tagged with Staffing Request.

The chapter staffing leads now look at the staffing issue to understand the more specific project needs and scope. They then consider the particular skills and availability of the people in their chapters to decide who will be able to work on the project and when it can start. Collectively, they staff the project and set a tentative start date.

Once the project team is all together and ready to start, the project is updated in the Dashboard to the Launched stage.

There are two other project stages: Paused and Landed. A paused project is one that was launched but we’ve had to stop work on, often temporarily. Projects can be paused for things like a lapse in funding, an IAA expiring before a new one could be signed, or a mismatch in project team skills or working styles that needs to be restaffed. Paused projects usually go back to the Launched stage, though sometimes they are ended completely. Projects that are finished, for whatever reason, are moved into the Landed stage.

Questions?