Volunteer Spotlight: Agile Enhancement Team

November 29, 2022

Volunteerism has always been the cornerstone of AASHTO. From the beginning, it’s been an organization driven by its agency volunteers. AASHTOWare began as one of the early outputs of the Cooperative Computer Software Development program when Infotech sold AASHTO its Bid Analysis and Management System (BAMS) software in 1985. Since that time, the AASHTOWare Project software has evolved to one web-based application with a unified database and mobile options to become a mission-critical system. Agency volunteers come together to create software that would likely otherwise be beyond the reach of a single agency working alone.

Over the past 37 years, agency volunteers have continued to work together to document and prioritize features, define requirements, and test software. The tools and techniques have evolved, now including video conferencing, real time messaging, and hosted or SaaS software where all team members can share data and experiences.

At the head of AASHTOWare’s volunteer groups is the Project Task Force (PTF). Among many other responsibilities, this team of nine volunteers manages the inventory of enhancement TMRs submitted by agencies.  In the past, the development team would draft requirements for review and refinement. Feedback was typically via email or ballot. Discussions were limited to a few meetings. Then, the development team would code the software and offer it to the team to test. Occasionally, this limited the window for feedback on anything but obvious bugs.

Beginning with the most recent release cycle, the process of reviewing TMR features is handled by a new volunteer group: the Agile Enhancement Team (AET). Once a TMR is selected, the new Hybrid Agile process begins as an agency volunteer team is selected to work closely with the Infotech development team. An Agile Enhancement Team is formed for each enhancement TMR.  All Enhancement TMRs in the 4.10 Release will be handled through the Hybrid Agile process.

Hybrid agile brings the full team of analysts, developers, testers, and business stakeholders (agency volunteers) together every other week to review what the development team produced since the last meeting. Seeing results and providing feedback every two weeks makes it easier to fully review the software and provides the opportunity to further influence the final product.

To further augment teamwork and collaboration, the team uses the Slack messaging service to communicate between meetings. While Slack allows for real time conversations, it is equally useful for time sensitive conversations with conversation threads that can span days, allowing volunteers to find the best time in their day to check in with the team and provide feedback.

The agile approach calls for a small team of engaged and committed team members. For AASHTOWare Project, this means two to four business stakeholders for each enhancement TMR. While volunteers typically come from the Technical Review Teams (TRTs), a TRT member can nominate a non-member from their agency that would have specific knowledge on the enhancement. This method is particularly useful when developing complex functionality where the TRT member lacks the in-depth business knowledge required to create the best solution. And while this process may sound like it requires a significant time investment, we’re learning that it only takes a few hours per week. Agency volunteers are happy to invest the time to help create the most valuable enhancement.

It is never easy to blaze a trail. When you’re the first team through a new process, you not only need to get the work done, you also have to help refine the new process. We would like to thank the AET for our first Agile TMR:

Charles Groshens (MN) was the Product Owner, and Kirsten Reyes (MN), Kathy Terrio (MT), Brent Slade (KS), and Ron Cook (NE) served as Business Stakeholders. They all agree that APR-23115, Subcontract Payroll Approvals Need to Follow Parent Subcontracts, delivers a much better user experience and more value than if it would have been developed under the old process. To see the volunteers working on other agile TMRs, see aashtowareproject.org/aet#open-agile-tmrs.

If you’re interested and want to learn more, review the information at aashtowareproject.org/aet. If you’re a TRT member, watch your email for an invitation that will include details for volunteering. If you’re not a TRT member, check to see if your agency has a member in your area of expertise at aashtowareproject.org/trt. If so, reach out to them and let them know you would like to help. If your agency doesn’t have a TRT member, you should consider signing up there is a TRT Application form at the same location.

Fun fact: according to the information on the AASHTOWare Project website, there are over 1,000 agency volunteers in various roles. We thank them all. Even with that many people involved, there is room for more – consider volunteering today!


Charles Groshens, PTF Website Subcommittee Chair, Minnesota DOT

Russ Barron, ‌Director, Infotech AASHTOWare Products/Program & Project Management Department