Steven Koh’s day job is Assistant Director, Agile Consultancy and Engineering at GovTech’s Government Digital Services (GDS) team.
But meet the Innovation Champion Bronze Award winner in person, and you realise he is a 24/7 passionate champion of the Agile movement who is always hands-on.
Agile can be quite a complicated subject to summarise, but in general, it refers to a ‘method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.’
And that is how adroitly Steven (Top Photo, third from left) guides and leads his colleagues at GDS to deliver major projects for the Government, constantly improving and constantly updating.
Agile, he firmly believes, ‘brings out the best in people!’.
In the vein of Bill Gates and his (alleged) famous quote about the benefts of choosing a lazy person to do a hard job as the lazy person will find an easy way to do it, Steven believes that innovation might best be driven by laziness.
Tongue firmly in cheek (we think!), Steven says: “In geek speak, laziness inspires innovation. If everyone works hard to be lazy, then that’s one way to scale innovation!”
(Editor: Insert smiley face here)
Q: How do you feel about being one of the winning Innovation Champions in the PS21 ExCEL Awards?
It’s an honour to be one of the winning Innovation Champions in PS21 ExCEL Awards
Credit goes to my team, Mark (Lim, Director at GDS) and everyone in GovTech for the opportunity to work with awesome people on meaningful and impactful projects!
Q: How would you describe your role in GDS?
In GDS, my team & I are responsible for delivering high-quality digital services that delights our citizens and businesses.
As a tribe lead, I help our people become more resourceful and capable in their work and lives, every day.
(Editor: Tribes are actually teams in GDS.)
Q: Tell us more about Agile: What is it exactly, and how does it work in practice?
Agile is a 21st century mindset that transforms the way we look at businesses, society and people.
I like to look at it through various perspectives.
From a business value perspective, Agile delivery is about harnessing change for competitive advantage, through early and continuous delivery of business value over following a big grand plan.
From a team dynamics’ perspective, Agile brings out the best in talented individuals. I truly believe that.
When people are collocated and work together in cross-functional teams, they collaborate instead of merely coordinating and cooperating.
From a talent development perspective, Agile accelerates learning and cross-pollination of ideas, through rapid iteration and tight feedback loops. You quickly learn what works or what needs to be changed or tweaked.
Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design raise the quality of value creation. It improves learning agility that compounds across the organization.
The worldwide adoption of Agile software development has been enormous over the past decade.
Agile development is now mainstream in US and UK, and we are just starting in Singapore.
There’s plenty of work to be done and I’m excited about what’s coming!
Q: What’s an example of an Agile project that was completed by your team?
The Business Grants Portal (BGP) is the flagship WOG (Whole of Government) Agile product, developed by our team in GDS.
(Editor: The BGP is a joint project by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), and GovTech. It won the ‘Best Adaptation Award’ at the recent GovInsider Innovation Awards, notably for its ground-breaking use of the Agile methodology.)
BGP is a convenient one-stop portal for SMEs to apply for grants, but it was a challenge to make it a reality.
It spans across nine government agencies and has more than twenty grant schemes. It also has to interface with the existing grant systems hosted by Government agencies. Its business and technical requirement is extremely complex.
We assembled a crack team of super talented designers and engineers to surmount the challenge.
They chose to join us over other competing companies because they want to help rebuild technical capability in the government.
I’m super proud of them for believing in this vision. The rest is history.
The magic in Agile is the culture that comes with it. Agile creates a culture that is very empowering and collaborative.
After working in the tech industry for more than a decade, I have yet to see another approach that is so humanistic and brings out the best in people.
Q: What’s your personal definition of innovation?
To be innovative is to introduce new ideas or methods into our lives.
It starts from dissatisfaction with the status quo and constantly looking for different ways to get things done, with minimum human intervention.
So stay dissatisfied and keep innovating!