Design for Agile Sprints was discussed at UXSG Meetup #28 @ Singapore Press Holdings as part of an Open Space Topic.
There have been a number of conversations about Agile & UX over the last year at UXSG Meetups and I thought it would be interesting to try a different approach to the topic to gain a better understanding of the impact this would have to the people interested in it.
Let’s start by looking at the different approaches that have been used to explore the topic.
Back in Meetup #15, Tomas Li explored with his group on the topic of “About Traditional UX, AgileUX and Lean UX“. One big takeaway from the discussion was :
We all of us agreed that Collaboration is most important thing when we work together as a team; Effective communication makes information transparent;
In Meetup #20, Samantha Yuen tried to find out how to “Working productively (and mindfully) in a creative team“. This is likely one of our most well received write-ups on the site and in one of her tips “using Kanban to visualise work and maximise work done” seemed to help when working with others in a creative team.
Meetup #22, Benjamin Cheah asked “What is your team’s UX process? How does it fit with your Agile development Process?” and described a flow in which product, research and development could be linked together by story maps.
And finally at UXSG Conference 2016, Ace Nacional wondered how about “Finding the right balance between Agile Development and UX Development“. In this discussion, Ace collected the different view points and touched on the Sprint #0 concept when a team defines the backlog to do user experience design and feeds into the product backlog.
Back from reading all the various discussions? Let’s get started on “Design for Agile Sprints” …
The idea for the topic was born of my recent coaching experiences where teams almost always dive into following a process without understanding much of the different relationships and constraints of the team. Words like Scrum, Agile, Kanban are mixed around so frequently you can see why it can be confusing if you don’t understand the history and how it evolved over time.
Since most of the crowd at UXSG are designers, perhaps a better approach would be to apply some design to the process ?
If we focused our efforts on setting the stage and agreeing on certain boundaries, we can move towards a more collaborative way of work. So we started by asking a few questions to form an impact map:
- Why are we doing this ? The Goal
- Who will be impacted by this ? The Actors
- How should our actors’ behaviour change? The Impacts.
- What can we do, as a team, to support the required impacts? The Deliverables (for purpose of this discussion, the Challenges we like to resolve)
Who’s Here ? (28 folks)
- Marketing x 2
- Finance Strategy Consultant x 1
- Startup Founder x 2
- Analyst @ Startup x 1
- TA @ GA x 1
- Developer x 1
- Designer + Developer x 1
- UX Manager x 1
- UX Specialist x 2
- UI/UX Designer x 3
- Designer x 4
- Interaction Designer x 1
- Graphic Designer x 2
- Web Designer x 1
- Product Design x 1
- UX Design Student @ GA x 4
How do you work in your team’s today ?
- Waterfall x 4
- Waterfall person in Agile team x 1
- Scrummerfall x 1
- Solo Designer x 3 (team up with client)
- Pair Programming
- Remote Weekly Sync via Trello (Research -> Validate -> Design)
What Challenges do you face ?
- Selling agile to clients
- Process does not allow UX testing before handoff to implementation
- Engineering does not get involved with design process
- End users are in mines and heavy machinery (they don’t have time or interest to use complicated software)
- Last minute changes
- How to agree with developers
- Marketeers have no idea about design process
- Recruiting users
- How to introduce Agile to the team
- Slow speed / iteration
- Busy users
- Identify team member (experience + passion)
- Agile creates a mess in the looks & brand identity
- UX Designers can’t fit into the development process
- Product owner and stakeholder never agrees
- Selling UX ROI
- Selling own skill
- How design works in Agile x 2
- Building quality and interactive web site within a week with only 1 person
Why Design Sprints ?
- Time boxing ?
- Common standard then diverge since it is popular ?
- Learn how design fits with Agile team ?
- Faster validation of design solutions ?
- Does it work ?
- Sprints & usability testing ?
- What’s next after design sprints ?
- UX research takes time, will we end up as overhead cost / slow down agile development teams
- Want to hear about it being used in actual practice
- Balance of manageable workload and quality of website product
- How to align design sprints with agile sprints
- How to work successfully with a Agile development team
- Do sprints work for hardware products
- UX , taught to design according to user flows BUT what about developing perspectives? Troublesome?
- Who : Unfortunately we have a rather unbalanced mix of a group who are majority designers with only 1 or 2 developers and also no one from product management to help answer some of the challenges faced
- How : Surprise! Majority of the group were in waterfall processes or solo working with clients
- Challenges : A whole mixed bags which is not surprising considering we have 28 different individuals working in many types of environments
- And finally the most important Why : Most were just curious how Sprint worked!
At this junction, it would almost seem impossible to answer the questions everyone had seeing as the team mix was non-representative of an actual product team!
In the interest of making sure everyone got something out of it, the group broke up into 5 groups and attempted to discover for themselves a design challenge to help design their “Sprint”. This would be the best way for everyone to experience the sprint themselves if they chose to take up the challenge.
Introducing The Design Sprint
The Design Sprint is now so popular that even a book has been published about it after Google Ventures famously used it for working with their startups. I decided to introduce this as it breaks down the whole process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.
In doing so, I demonstrated how we just experienced a “Sprint” in a record time of 25 minutes according to the following stages.
- Setting the Stage
- What we did for the majority of the group to understand the impact we wanted to have in the discussion
- We grouped up the teams as best as possible to form design challenges to solve. Most teams seem to understand that collaboration and communication was key to this and spent most of their time getting to know each other
We did not have enough time to cover Sketch to Test but each team was encouraged to work together to find out more. Hopefully we will hear back from them in the next meetup as they do some research into the various personas who work in a product team!
My own experience as someone who is often asked to help teams through their Agile journey or find out more about User Experience is that very often, the teams do not actually know what they don’t know yet. I make it a point to uncover as much as possible through collaboration and transparency as quickly as possible so that they can make a good decision on the process to help them.
A good read by David J Bland on Designing Modern Teams describes teams as cross-functional and include at a minimum Product, Design & Engineering roles. If you were to imagine the different work streams for each role and time boxes (see Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule), it would seem only logical to examine in more detail how each team member currently works before attempting to introduce a new workflow or have a good open discussion about the topic.
Thankfully there is a perfect opportunity to do this at UXSG Meetup #30 + AgileSG + Product #beer at GovTech Hive @ SandCrawler!
“Design for Agile Sprints” to be continued …