SBA Certify and the Digital Services Division

SBA Certify and the Digital Services Division

US Small Business Administration

Organizations Involved

US Small Business Administration (SBA)
US Digital Service (USDS)
Telesis, Inc.
Enquizit, Inc.

Working Example Description

In 2015, the US Small Business Administration (SBA) had little to no experience with agile frameworks. Yet, the organization had ambitious plans to modernize aging applications and infrastructure on a limited, small-agency budget in a relatively short timeline.

Rather than try to build agile expertise organically via Seed-To-Oak, the SBA employed Cutting and Replanting in creating a new Digital Services Division tasked with many of the modernization efforts. Unlike past efforts to modernize, the Digital Services Division:

  • Reported directly to the Chief Administrator of the SBA, not to the CIO.
  • Was staffed by new individuals who were either experienced with or open to agile.
  • Focused on achieving major new initiatives over day-to-day operations.

Separating out the Digital Services Division from the rest of the organization and staffing it with agile-friendly staff (an example of Grafting) allowed agile practices to flourish. Shortly after its creation, the Digital Services Division delivered a number of successes, including the launch of SBA Certify, which triggered a 176% increase in the number of Women-Owned Small Business applications in its first year of operation, according to a US Digital Service report to Congress.

Over time, agile spread beyond the Digital Services Division, as IT, the Small Business Certification Programs and the Office of the Chief Administrator visited the Digital Services Division to see agile being practiced (an example of Cross-Pollination). Each adopted agile techniques to improve their own performance and increase success.


Submitted by:Donald Patti

Example Authors

  • Donald Patti

Additional Notes

  • Play #1

    Cutting & Re-planting

    Slice off a branch of people, change it & re-plant it, building a new organization around the team.
  • Play #2


    Expose new teams to experienced teams, allow them to learn through observation, asking questions.
  • Play #3


    Graft an agile person (or team) onto an existing branch of the organization.