Agile methodology and development teams that subscribe to this mindset aim to answer the question, “Can we build this product?” But they might be missing the mark by not asking, “Should we build this product? Do our customers want or need this?” An all too common practice ingrained in Agile developers is: we know our customers and what they want. But how could they really know what customers want without asking them? This is called ‘assumptions-based planning’—when teams build products based on assuming that they know what the user thinks.
Avoiding the Assumptions-Based Pitfalls
That’s where user experience researchers come in. UX researchers are responsible for understanding the user’s questions and needs. For example, UX researchers have to think about what questions the user might have while interacting with the User Interface (UI), while UX designers think about how to answer those questions through the UI. While researchers and designers may be the same person, they require two types of thinking caps. Through the use of surveys, interviews, A/B testing, workshops, and other UX research methods, UX researchers and designers eliminate the frustration of trying to define what the user needs are. This, in turn, helps Agile teams by allowing them to prioritize work based on evidence found through the research methods.
Achieving UX and Agile Development Integration
Integrating both UX and Agile development cohesively requires a major culture change in an organization. It’s certainly not easy to change a culture, as one of the biggest roadblocks to full cohesion is time. Agile development mandates work be done in small sprints in which each sprint has tight deadlines. Thus, a major concern lies with the time involved in UX research and design development. The process includes: developing an understanding of the user, defining the problem that needs to be solved, brainstorming potential solutions, designing a prototype, and finally testing the design. All of which takes time, which is why these steps must be broken into small tasks. Following the agile methodology allows teams to be reactive which in turn makes it easier to test, change new features or adapt to change in direction. It can also prove the effectiveness of implementing UX research to a client’s process. Data from a usability test or a survey result can show the importance of UX research to the client allowing more time for better quality results.
An organization’s UX maturity level also plays a big role in whether or not the teams can work cross-functionally in harmony. As an organization’s UX maturity grows, stakeholders embrace UX thinking and methods, and a commitment to delivering the best user experience is baked into how the organization works at all levels. Ideally, every team would be in the Lean model of development, in which teams work collaboratively through discovery and delivery, and feedback is obtained as early and in a regular cadence. Teams are now thinking in terms of, “What works for our customers?”, rather than, “We like this so our customers will.”
UX Design is about Solving the Right Problems
In the end, all teams have a mutual goal of building the best product or feature for their end users. UX can add impact and value to agile teams’ product development. On its own, Agile teams build and change direction when necessary, sometimes conforming to decisions based on assumptions, rather than decisions based on the insight gathered from actual users. As an advocate for the end user, UX keeps teams at the forefront of customer needs. Successful teams aren’t just about delivering features faster but delivering the right features done well.
If you are interested in learning how to best integrate your agile and UX teams, contact our experienced teams today. We can help get your company on the right path to lean maturity to better define customer and product needs.