From my earliest days as a systems developer, business analyst, project manager and back, I was interested in the various aspects of app dev making something genuinely useful. It takes a variety of skills to do this and I gained valuable insight in these roles. But these projects were for mostly the enterprise (a captive audience if you will) and not necessarily the consumer market. There were no designers or even anything close to a designated user experience (UX) role. The devs fashion a UI, test it against workflow and functional requirements and viola! Done.
For me, one of the reasons for taking on various roles was to bring a wider perspective (value) to the table to whatever role I was in. Today, my challenge isn’t so much on how to build, rather building the right thing. Meaning, building something usable, that delights, and fills real need. To do this I think you’ll need to borrow from the areas of human centered design (thanks IDEO and Standford’s D school), UX, and mixing it with the most prevalent development methodology in use: Agile/Scrum. Problem is, I’m not certain on how to do this.
As consumer devices become more and more prevalent, the end-user customer becomes more comfortable with technology and their expectations on technology rise. Software is king as everything from wearables to refrigerators use (or will use) software. I think this means in order to create relavent, useful software, you’ll need to focus more on the end-user customer and their needs as opposed to staying with the “build it (anything) and they will come” attitude.
If your goal is to build usable valuable software in the shortest amount of time, current thinking is that you can do worse than adopting Agile. But, I sometimes thought there was something missing. How do you know that your design is worth building? How do you know goals will achieved? How do you know that your prospective customer will find what you have built valuable, usable, or even worthwhile? This is where I think that Design Sprints, UX can be great – it helps get you pointed in the right direction. You start with the cusomter needs, prototype, test, learn, repeat. The trick is to somehow integrate this into the Scrum process.
IBM is changing the way they do business. Did you hear that IBM wants to ramp up and hire over 1,000 designers? [IBM’s Design-Centered Strategy to Set Free the Squares] They are also training management in Design Thinking in hopes of transforming and adapting their business model. Why? Corporate America is jumping on the Design Thinking bandwagon as a way to drive innovation. Google, “hbr design thinking” for some good reads on this.
Great. But on the execution side the question is, HOW do you make this happen? Typically Agile backlogs only contain user stories or epics and are void of any design artifacts. Do Agile teams even have designers? Also, your starting point may dictate different approaches:
- Are you creating a brand new product for a market that does not exist?
- Are you looking to add more “delighters” to an existing product to gain market share?
Here is my answer: I don’t have a clue. Then I came across this video “How do UX and Scrum Fit Together” from Roman Pichler, the Author of “Agile Product Management With Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love”. Here, Roman gives some practical ideas, tools, and makes a case for how to incorporate UX into Scrum. You might be able to even take his thoughts on the topic and substitute Google Venture’s Design Sprints for a more structured approach:
“Design sprints are a framework for teams of any size to solve and test design problems in 2-5 days. The idea of sprints originates with the Agile framework. The idea of design thinking was developed at IDEO and the d.school at Stanford.”
I like the Design Sprint approach as it seems to create structure around design, which to me is generally a creative and non-structured discipline. They published a great overview of the process.
For the consumer space in particular, I think incorporating Design Sprints with Scrum is a great way to build the right thing.
Cliff Gardner, CSGardner Consulting