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The Benefits of Integrating User Experience (UX) With Scrum

September 26, 2019

Does your firm exceed your customer's expectations regularly? Is just meeting expectations good enough in your market?  Businesses pursuing an improved ability to deliver customer value using Scrum face numerous challenges. Scrum's focus is on producing a potentially releasable product increment after each Sprint (a Sprint is one time-boxed iteration of one month or less during which a potentially releasable product increment is created). It can be challenging to integrate User Experience (UX) activities into a framework involving delivery in small-batch cycles.  

Lean UX focuses on applying iterative methods to user experience design, whereas Scrum focuses on completing a potentially releasable product increment each Sprint. Organizations should aim to integrate Lean UX practices into their Scrum team workflow despite these challenges. If this incremental product is not delivered to the user, it is just an output. Moving from a focus on "output" at Sprint completion to validating outcomes can save both time and money.

Josh Elman of Greylock Partners who focuses on investing in entrepreneurs building new consumer products and services,  believes that the only metric that matters is related to your customer's use of your product. Are your customers using your product? At what frequency are they using it? Are they using it in the way you expected? To learn about our customer or user behavior, we need to validate outcomes after our Sprints end. Our leaders need to shift their focus from being "efficient" to being effective. It may be efficient to assume we achieve the desired outcomes, but planning future work may not be very useful if our assumptions were incorrect. We need to bring together the best Agile methods and user experience design to ensure that we are producing products that our customers want.

Deliver Better Value to Users

When it comes down to it, the users are the ones who decide whether or not a product is a success or failure. The Scrum Team can work hard to develop and fulfill a list of requirements as specified, but this does not guarantee that the result will be a hit with users. Developing features, as requested, doesn't ensure that the product will be used.

On occasion, the Scrum team may overlook an element or two that is crucial for user satisfaction. When teams solve the wrong problem from the user's point of view, the result will be a product that is underutilized or not used at all. However, by including elements of Lean UX in work performed by the development team in Scrum, the resultant product will have a far higher probability of success. Including user-focused requirements will increase the chances that the product can deliver the most value to the user base.  

Save Time and Money

Have any teams in your firm ever said something like, "The product works as designed"? (Was it in a defensive context when responding to a product complaint?) Even if the product worked as designed, it probably required some number of change requests to adapt the product to meet the needs of the end-user. Many of these change requests could have been prevented in the first place had the Scrum team incorporated UX activities from the start. 

Some people estimate that developers spend almost half their time fixing simple UX issues found after a product has been delivered to customers. Fixing production problems not only wastes time that could be spent helping to develop other products but also consumes a significant portion of budgeted funds. Product Owners need to be concerned with maximizing value. The wasted effort on the part of Development Teams and poor customer/user experience is not helpful when pursuing business agility. 

Get Designers Involved

One of the best ways to make Scrum teams as effective as possible is to get people who are from a variety of backgrounds to be part of the team. Each person thus brings a different skill set, which makes the team more cross-functional. However, many Scrum teams tend to leave out designers, either due to a lack of people with designer skills or a perception that we need to focus on developing the code. With the "focus on code" mindset, people with an in-depth knowledge of UX are not involved in the design and development of the software. This lack of involvement of people with user experience design skills will often lead to products that are completed on time, within budget, including all scope but fail to achieve customer engagement. Have you ever had the demoralizing experience of working on one of these efforts? 

A big part of Scrum is the act of participating in various learning activities. Remember that there is value in learning. Learning becomes an even more significant part of the process when UX activities are included within each Sprint. Allowing the designers to lead some of the learning activities helps teach and socialize valuable insights regarding user experience to the entire Scrum Team. 

A big part of many Agile practices is the act of participating in various learning activities. Every event in Scrum provides an opportunity for the Scrum Team to lean something new.  Remember that there is value in learning. Learning becomes an even more significant part of the process when UX activities are worked and refined within each Sprint. Allowing the designers to lead some of the learning activities helps teach and socialize valuable insights regarding user experience to the entire Scrum Team. 

When Development Team members pair up with a UX expert working on customer-centric activities, this will broaden their skills. These team-based learning opportunities focused on outcomes will position the team with new insight related to building a product that has a much higher probability of leading to high engagement rates in the marketplace.

Are you ready to begin integrating UX activities into your Scrum workflow? Not sure how? To better position your Scrum teams to thrill and delight your customers, contact the Professional Scrum Trainers at Agile-ity today. 

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