OBJECTIVE: The Huntsman Cancer Institute Research Informatics Shared Resource (RISR), a software and database development core facility, sought to address a lack of published operational best practices for research informatics cores. It aimed to use those insights to enhance effectiveness after an increase in team size from 20 to 31 full-time equivalents coincided with a reduction in user satisfaction.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: RISR migrated from a water-scrum-fall model of software development to agile software development practices, which emphasize iteration and collaboration. RISR’s agile implementation emphasizes the product owner role, which is responsible for user engagement and may be particularly valuable in software development that requires close engagement with users like in science.
RESULTS: All RISR’s software development teams implemented agile practices in early 2020. All project teams are led by a product owner who serves as the voice of the user on the development team. Annual user survey scores for service quality and turnaround time recorded 9 months after implementation increased by 17% and 11%, respectively.
DISCUSSION: RISR is illustrative of the increasing size of research informatics cores and the need to identify best practices for maintaining high effectiveness. Agile practices may address concerns about the fit of software engineering practices in science. The study had one time point after implementing agile practices and one site, limiting its generalizability.
CONCLUSIONS: Agile software development may substantially increase a research informatics core facility’s effectiveness and should be studied further as a potential best practice for how such cores are operated.