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Relay vs. Rugby:  Behavioral Analytics for Agile Teams
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Relay vs. Rugby: Behavioral Analytics for Agile Teams



The notion of the agile "Scrum" has drawn inspiration from the game of Rugby, where a series of team "sprints" drive the ball forward from one end of the field to the other. This metaphor has been the ...

The notion of the agile "Scrum" has drawn inspiration from the game of Rugby, where a series of team "sprints" drive the ball forward from one end of the field to the other. This metaphor has been the image most people have of how Agile development works.

For User Experience and User Research professionals, however, the agile "scrum" is a tough construct to work within, always begging the question "where does research and usability testing fit into Agile?". In many ways, user research (and many aspects of user experience design processes/approaches) are difficult to integrate into the Agile development methodology. This is in large part due to the fact that there is the expectation that a complete, validated product will be produced in every sprint.

With this in mind, I submit a contrasting metaphor for how these two wildly different processes can intersect: the track & field relay. The place where user research can have a real positive impact on product design is when it is done as a paralel process to development, gathering insights that will influence the next sprint. The key is finding the equivalent to the track relay transition zone, where runners pass the baton to the next. How these user insights are transitioned into the pre-sprint planning and design activities in a constructive way is key, and requires a multifaceted approach as well as development culture that is receptive to user insights.

This presentation was initially presented as a case study at the Agile Experience Design Meetup in New York City, March 28th 2012:



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Relay vs. Rugby:  Behavioral Analytics for Agile Teams Relay vs. Rugby: Behavioral Analytics for Agile Teams Presentation Transcript

  • User Research forAgile TeamsJason Valdina | Head of Customer Experience | @s1gnal
  • Overview 2WORKFLOW.DATA.OBSERVATION. Confidential
  • A lean, mean UX machine 3 Confidential
  • A Tale of Agility 4 Confidential
  • a vs. A: recognizing varying degrees of “agility” 5The Challenge: aA vs. Agile was focused on as a means for speed ofdelivery, and the first thing to go was customer centricity. Introducing userresearch into the process was a tough sell, as it represented nothing but losttime to those who were pushing for Agile the most. Confidential
  • Easy to go down the Idea rabbit hole 6 Confidential
  • Our research model 71.Customer Experience Feedback Forum: remote user testing lab that allowscustomers to provide feedback on product features before, during and after developmentcycles.2.Field research: partnering with w/ Sales and PS to gather market insights throughmultiple channels that can help inform day-to-day product decisions3.Customer Archetypes: transforming market insight and feedback Confidential into personasthat represent our customers at a macro level, and adjusting them over time.
  • Workflow: Inserting UX into the Product Development Lifecycle 8 ConfidentialAdapted from model by Desirée Sy | Autodesk
  • Workflow: Inserting UX into the Product Development Lifecycle 9 Refusing to be a direct member of the scrum "team" can be controversial  There is value in working horizontally across projects  Two pathways for projects: coached or completed If you are outside of this process, it is really hard to know how to interject key findings at the right time  Be in the meetings as often as is reasonable to understand the issues  Use the same systems: Jira, etc. Work hard to get ahead of the process start gathering user insights early and often  Broader research can always be done concurrently.  you just have to know that you won’t always be able to effect the outcome of current development cycles Confidential
  • Relay vs. Rugby 10 Confidential
  • Relay vs. Rugby 11 “exchange Confidential zone”
  • Relay vs. Rugby: “rapid waterfall” 12 Ideas have a whole slew of experiences before they come into the transition They come into the transition zone at full speed; how the translation of that idea into reality happens in a sprint is the crux of UX’s role in successful Agile teams Hypothesis refinement: a handoff in slow motion. There is never a point when the baton is in only one person’s hands Finding the “exchange zone” for customer insight is the key. Confidential Sometimes, it simply doesn’t exist.
  • Pivot around what qualifies as “research” 13 traditional best practices told us that we should test before releasing to users  Test, Refine, Launch this becomes difficult in an agile environment, as Agile teams break this mold  Launch  Test, Refine, Test, Refine, etc. need to change your sense of "research” Confidential
  • Behavioral Insights via Data Analysis 14Data-Driven Design Decision Making:Implementing tools that would allow for real-time behavioral analyticsaround how users are currently interacting with existing productsProvided reference point for key insights that could help guide thefunctional design process in the midst of SCRUM work sessions Confidential
  • Heat map as customer fingerprint 15 Confidential
  • Behavioral Insights via Data Analysis 16 POSITIVES:  fast implementation  data gathering can be quick  fast and iterative access  common language across projects DRAWBACKS:  security issues  customer approval sometimes required  limitations with complex code  and of course not the same as “being there” with the customer Confidential
  • Collaborative Design vs. Contextual Inquiry 17 Two types of questions come up that can almost always be solved via user research:  “Is this the ‘best’ way to do this?”  Can be answered via collaborative design or testing  “Do people really do that?”  Can be answered via contextual inquiry and observation  This is much tougher to pull off quickly  (but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try) Confidential
  • Customer Experience Feedback Forum 18 rather than start out of the gate with field-based observational research and contextual inquiry, we set up a mechanism that would allow a core group of customers to get involved in the requirements definition and design process on a regular basis (at least once a Quarter, but sometime more often). This did wonders for the developers who were looking to get more contact with the our customers also showed the value of hearing real user stories as part of the SCRUM process.  Panel of customers  Regular cadence of tests run each month  Large customer gathering every 6 months  90% remote. Confidential  10% on the coattails of sales visits or working with the “die-hard fans”