Agile for UXers

This weekend I was privileged to attend Canada’s largest non-profit UX conference, UXcamp in Ottawa. Quite a few themes emerged during the conference, but two resonated deeply with me… process and team.

Several presenters either directly or indirectly talked about the importance of applying UX principles to internal processes and teams. In addition to this, on more than one occasion, “big A agile” was explicitly mentioned and quickly dismissed… it seemed to me (perception alert!!) that many presenters wanted to distance their ideas from being in any way “big A agile”.

So I wanted to take a moment to offer up a quick overview of Agile for curious UXers out there. To begin with, I want to share how deeply committed I am to the idea that we (UXers and Agilists) are focused on the same goal of delivering high quality valuable solutions to our users.

First thing that I would like to share is that the heart of Agile isn’t process. Agile came to life with its first incarnation in XP or Extreme Programming… and if you dig a little into XP, you’ll come face-to-face with its values: feedback, communication, simplicity, courage and respect.

The next thing that I would draw attention to is the Agile Manifesto itself. Several leaders in the Agile community came together in order to define Agile’s four values: “Individuals and Interactions”, “Customer Collaboration”, “Working Software” and “Responding to Change”. These values apply to the software solution as much as the team itself. In support of this, the Manifesto also describes 12 principles that help define “how to be Agile”. The majority of these principles are focused on team.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of “practices and implementations” out there calling themselves “Agile”… but I would strongly question any practice that calls itself Agile that does not honour the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto or the origins of Agile in XP values. As UXers, you are in a unique position to see this on your teams… I would encourage you to help your “big A agile” teams reconnect with their core values.

3 thoughts on “Agile for UXers

  1. Nice post. I think some ‘UX’ers’ have a natural tendency to distance themselves from Agile because a lot of them treat it as a siloed ‘process’ to be undertaken by a User Experience ‘Expert’. In my experience there is also a tendency for ‘UXers’ to work very inefficiently by doing far too much upfront work (such as wireframes) without testing assumptions which is not sensitive to the Agile premise of communication over documentation. I’ve seem so called UX companies produce 100′s of pages of wireframe documents without a single customer of developer being involved. User Experience is simply not a single discipline and cannot be pegged down by an individual. User Experience design is a collaborative process, it’s all around us; developers, designers, product owners and end-users alike should all have valid voices when it comes to user experience.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I’ll admit that I am very keen to understand why the UX community would be eager to distance themselves from Agile.

      I did have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with two of the presenters at UXcamp and learned that “practice doesn’t always connect with values” in their experience. This is something that I think many of us in the Agile community can connect with… so I wanted to offer a quick primer on Agile values for UXers.

      As for the importance of exploring UX in all stages of a solution’s development, your comments align well with my own views. In my experience, all members of the team have a unique and important role to play in the effective development of UX. I think there’s another blog post in that… stay tuned 😀

      1. Thanks, I look forward to another post!

        I personally feel that part of the problem is related to the fact that ‘User Experience’ is a bit of a misnomer in itself. It’s a phrase created to define a single discipline or profession for the benefit of recruitment, an attempt to pigeonhole something which should span disciplines. I’ve been around long enough to know that we got on perfectly well before the term ‘User Experience’ was even coined. But these days, if you put ‘User Experience Designer’ on your CV instead of ‘Digital Designer’ or ‘Frontend Developer’ you can command salaries 30% + above the aforementioned.

        You might be interested in a blog post I wrote which has some relevance:

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