Best role for UX in Agile/ Scrum - Customer vs. Implementer?

25 Jan 2010 - 4:16am
4 years ago
12 replies
3489 reads
Kostanija Petrovic
2009

We are currently discussing what the best process role for UX within
in Agile/Scrum would be.

What is your experience? Which role would you recommend based on your
experience and why?

Comments

25 Jan 2010 - 5:10am
Queen Catherine
2009

I've found that in Agile (as in most environments), unless there is
an already existing respect for the importance of UX, that one needs
to be first and foremost an advocate for UX.

The role is not confined to a title really. I have found the need to
push CE and time spent on user analysis and testing.

In Agile I've found this much easier due to the nature of the
methodology. Hold workshops, present all ideas, get feedback,
collaborate collaborate collaborate. Get feedback, iterate, Get more
feedback.

An Experience Architect is the best term I could conjure. But it
involves much more than interaction design / visual design.

The Agile methodology is very user centric, however, many
institutions are still to practice this part. And this is where we
come in. To tell them what "involving the user" is all about.

Contextual Enquiry is only going to happen if you make it so.

You need to be an analyst, and a bit of a Project Manager, and of
course a designer. You need to drive the vision towards usability.

Erm, yes, so what I'm saying is - Agile is a brilliant environment
to advocate usability. However, a methodology needs to be lived and
breathed by an organisation before we can actually benefit from such
concepts.

I suppose that I have the question: How many "Agile" organisations
practice real Agile? How many butcher it?

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25 Jan 2010 - 10:33am
jrrogan
2005

Scrum is great for communication within a team, as such, definitely UX
should be a "Chicken" as much as possible, ("Chickens" talk and "Pigs" get
slaughtered or something like that right?).

Also as Design would probably be an iteration ahead of dev, and subsequently
need to focus on the "new", "Scrum Master" probably isn't the best role.

Successes with scrum I've had revolve around teams being "pragmatic" not
"dogmatic" in regards to Agile methodologies, I think this is the
overarching key that will lead to success.

Rich

--
Joseph Rich Rogan
President UX/UI Inc.
http://www.jrrogan.com

On Sun, Jan 24, 2010 at 8:16 PM, kostanija petrovic <
kostanija.petrovic at googlemail.com> wrote:

> We are currently discussing what the best process role for UX within
> in Agile/Scrum would be.
>
> What is your experience? Which role would you recommend based on your
> experience and why?
>
>
>
>
> --
> Joseph Rich Rogan
> President UX/UI Inc.
> http://www.jrrogan.com
>

25 Jan 2010 - 1:14pm
Davin Granroth
2009

Kostanija, for the last year or so I've operated in two roles for my
employer. I work with a pair of agile/scrum teams.

In general I'm UX Lead for the company, but also the Product Owner.
Product Owner in this case is pretty hands-on, taking care of some
activities that a scrum master would, in addition to representing the
customer.

Here are some pros and cons from my own experience.

Pros for UX person in PO role.
* UX concerns/user advocacy get attention.
* Because PO is part political, UX can be represented to execs.

Cons for UX person in PO role.
* If there aren't other UX people in company, real UX work barely
gets done because being a PO takes a whole lot of time.

Ok, what I'm trying to push for is to have someone else take over
the Product Owner role (and angle for this person to be UX-inclined),
so I can be freed up to cultivate a healthier UX presence in the
company. In part, I'll be able to do the work, advise POs on UX
concerns, and mentor UX practitioners and developers on integrating
user experience into the iterations.

My fear is that by relinquishing the PO role, the priority for UX
work will slip. I don't think that will happen, though.

To help keep UX thinking active, I've declared that every Wed
morning will include a usability test. Informal and largely internal,
but at least to get UX and developers into the habit of doing
usability work. I think this will help shift thinking and awareness
across the agile teams.

I'd be curious about what other UX practitioners in agile teams have
to say.

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25 Jan 2010 - 6:38am
minnesotaj
2009

UX in Agile Scrum works best when Product Owners can use that bundle
of skills to help craft backlog --- and then have that same bundle of
skills get deployed on teams during sprints. If you have a good
culture (which Catherine rightly points out is more important than
the method), and you are lucky enough to have the breathing room, you
can often accomplish this by having a Sprint - 0 that's just UX
Product Owners, then start rolling the process with UX on teams.

But you do need both: I have noticed that whenever UX become more
product owner, they lose site of struggles teams are having (or good
questions they are generating) & the teams tend to "stray."

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25 Jan 2010 - 9:06pm
Jeff Wright
2009

I manage UX for my company. We have had some success with UX recently.

Our UX team is six people. One dedicated to first-person usability
testing (every two weeks), one dedicated to the care and feeding of
the help system (and other written content).

The rest are in services to three cross-functional development teams,
providing strategy, workflows, wireframes, and design work as needed.

We used to have our team members as full members of those development
teams, but we found that siloing them away from each other made them
ineffective. UX is a cross-functional discipline, and works best in
strong collaboration.

We sprint just like the development teams, but one sprint ahead
(sprint zero), so we're working now on UX deliverables that the
developers will need to start building next sprint.

A standalone UX team, sprinting alongside the dev teams, one sprint
ahead is a new configuration for us, but so far, so good. We're
really seeing some signs of success. Let me know if I can offer any
specific insights that might be helpful to you.

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26 Jan 2010 - 6:05am
Kostanija Petrovic
2009

Hi everyone,

thanks for the comments so far.

We had a discussion around it yesterday and our conclusion was that
UX should be a specific role and not just summarized to categories
that actually don't fit.

I am curious to learn what your think about that approach.

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25 Jan 2010 - 4:10pm
Shaun Adams
2008

Quite the loaded question.

A role within a Scrum project is difficult to prescribe without fully
understanding the product your trying to produce.

First of all, it's important to recognize the product owner. This
role is very simple to identify: this is the person that sets the
priority of your backlog (your user stories) and has the final word
of approval.

It's okay for UX to not be the product owner; in fact, in your
organization, it's likely that this role might be filled by a
business analyst or product manager.

Similarly, Scrum Masters are a role that is very much dependent upon
each team and project. A Scrum Master should be elected by the
members of the team and not appointed unless every member of the team
is unfamiliar with the working environment.

Based on my experience, I would stay focused on your product. What
will it take to produce it? Write stories capturing every aspect of
what you seek to build, and then build a Scrum team or teams that
organize every party needed to produce that product.

If you can't get every resource you need on your Scrum team, that's
okay. In fact, those additional resources are actually referred to as
SMEs (subject matter experts) and are part of the Scrum organization.

To summarize as much as possible, focus on proper story-writing and
the creation of a backlog. When writing those stories, be sure to
work with the product owner (the ultimate decider, if you will). At
the same time, ensure that your Scrum team(s) have the members fully
allocated to produce the product you're after. Every sprint should
be about taking additional steps towards a releasable product, and
every team member should be able to share what the one big goal for
the day is in the daily stand-ups.

Focus on work more than roles, and focus on getting your UX team
aligned with the fellow stakeholders and developers that can help
achieve what your after.

If the project you're working on is UX born-and-raised (let's say,
a project to implement a flexible width layout), then UX will find
itself in the product owner position as only the UI developers on the
UX team will be able to make the call on whether or not the work fits
the bill. If the project you're working on is to implement a new
payment system, then the product owner will likely be the business
analyst or program manager that is most familiar with the
requirements of that product.

I hope this crash-course was helpful as it was very much a
stream-of-consciousness dialogue.

I'd highly recommend that you and your company consider some
training in Scrum. A couple of days in a focused course and you'll
be thinking about Scrum as a pathway towards better products and
working environment rather than a fixed process.

This is a great resource that can provide Certified Scrum Master
Training as well as many helpful blogs: http://danube.com/training

If there's something more specific that you're after, I'll be
happy to lend some additional insight should you want it.

Good luck!

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26 Jan 2010 - 9:20am
Charles Hannon
2008

See the recent thread by Dave on this talk by Cooper:

http://www.cooper.com/journal/2010/01/an_insurgency_of_quality.html

Cooper specifically advocates that a "senior interaction designer"
take on the role of product owner. And also the role of pig, not
chicken--Cooper's summary of that metaphor is very different from
Rich Rogan's above.

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26 Jan 2010 - 9:40am
Dan Greenblatt
2008

My organization is in the middle of a shift towards agile; some
projects are there others have not fully made the jump yet.

I would agree with others that the best role for a UX person is not
the product owner, but a dedicated role on the team. POs really have
to have many faces: they're accountable to customers for
understanding their wants and needs, to upper management for
justifying the existence of a product and making sure that there is
enough time and money to build it properly, and finally to the
development team for making final decisions on any number of
features, scope, etc. I would think that it would be very difficult
for a UX person to handle all of these responsibilities (though there
is some overlap with what we do) as well as all the detailed work of
discovery, design and validation.

That being said, I think it is really important for the PO to rely
heavily on the UX person/team in informing some of her decisions;
these two roles need to be tightly coupled together so as to best
reconcile multiple incoming streams of information pertaining to
customer needs (i.e. from a marketing/business perspective, any
ethnographic and usability work that has been done, etc.). I think
that the product owner and the UX person need to understand the
customer in different (but equally valuable) ways, but both these
levels of understanding need to be taken as a whole when making
decisions.

One more comment about UX in agile: I've found it very difficult to
participate fully in the agile process (task boards, standups, being
assigned stories, etc.) as I often have many projects I'm working
on at a time (as opposed to a developer's single focus for any given
sprint). It can be more difficult to commit to tasks/stories in a
given time frame because there are a lot of competing priorities, not
just unexpected blocks.

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26 Jan 2010 - 11:19am
jrrogan
2005

I stand corrected, UX'ers should be Pigs! and definitely should talk!
The main point I would take out of any of this discussion, is that the
methodology is a framework to help a team communicate and create in a timely
and effective manner.

It should not become a dogmatic entity unto itself, (it often becomes
obvious when a process has hit it's limitations and/or is being abused).

There's not a long track record to Agile processes, so IMHO Agile/Scrum,
it's best to keep it flexible and adapt the process for what works for you.

Rich

On Tue, Jan 26, 2010 at 1:20 AM, Charles Hannon <channon at washjeff.edu>wrote:

> See the recent thread by Dave on this talk by Cooper:
>
> http://www.cooper.com/journal/2010/01/an_insurgency_of_quality.html
>
> Cooper specifically advocates that a "senior interaction designer"
> take on the role of product owner. And also the role of pig, not
> chicken--Cooper's summary of that metaphor is very different from
> Rich Rogan's above.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=48601
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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--
Joseph Rich Rogan
President UX/UI Inc.
http://www.jrrogan.com

3 Feb 2010 - 5:10pm
Mike Long
2007

On January 30th, 2010 at the Cooper offices in San Francisco, CA,
practitioners of agile software development and user experience
design met to see if common ground could be found.

http://emergentdomain.com/reports/agile-ux-retreat/

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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3 Feb 2010 - 5:19pm
mcaskey
2008

I'm wishing this were in Denver Colorado! This is exactly what I've been looking for.

Mike Caskey

On Feb 3, 2010, at 2:10 PM, Michael Long wrote:

> On January 30th, 2010 at the Cooper offices in San Francisco, CA,
> practitioners of agile software development and user experience
> design met to see if common ground could be found.
>
> http://emergentdomain.com/reports/agile-ux-retreat/
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=48601
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

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