Many agile teams follow good scrum techniques, but fall short of delivering a quality user experience. Roles on a scrum team are often described using the story of the chicken and the pig, which illustrates the difference between team members who are involved (chickens) and team members who are committed to the point of sacrificing for the project (pigs). Scrum teams can integrate UX into traditional methods by designating a UX pig to focus on the user.
If you have a dedicated UX person, he or she should be a committed member of the scrum team (a pig). That implies involvement in key scrum activities such as:
- User Story Definition
- Backlog Grooming
- Sprint Planning
- Development Decisions
- Sprint Review
If you do not have a dedicated UX person, a core member of the team should have a user-centered focus. This could be the product owner or even a developer who has the flexibility to take some time away from coding. The diagram on the right shows one way to incorporate UX into a scrum team when a dedicated UX person is not available. Here, the product owner commits time to UX responsibilities and represents the voice of users and other stakeholders to the team.
Scrum teams that currently operate without a UX pig may have a difficult time understanding how this person would integrate with the team. Here is a breakdown of key scrum activities and the UX responsibilities associated with them.
User Story Definition: Prior to the start of a project, the UX person should work to understand users’ needs and communicate them to the team. Reality maps and personas are some tools to help with this process. Ultimately, this work should result in the creation and ongoing refinement of user stories to drive development.
Backlog Grooming: Throughout a project, the UX person should iteratively involve users in evaluating completed stories and prioritizing upcoming stories. The knowledge gained from this process should be a key decision-making factor in grooming sessions. A visual backlog helps the team understand the implications of new insights gathered with each sprint.
Sprint Planning: At the beginning of a sprint, the UX person should facilitate a planning session to ensure that the entire team has a common understanding of the stories for the upcoming sprint and the way they will be accomplished. Design maps are a good way to facilitate this process because they take advantage of both technical expertise and knowledge about users’ needs.
Development Decisions: Throughout development, technical limitations or capabilities are often uncovered. When faced with decisions that impact user-facing designs, developers should incorporate the UX person to help determine the solution that balances technical quality with value for users. These interactions improve developer efficiency, decrease frustration, and ensure continued communication of user needs.
Sprint Review: After a sprint, the UX person should evaluate how well the team’s solutions meet users’ needs. This ideally includes incorporating users into a review of new features and performing usability testing. Results from this interaction can help drive backlog planning and story refinement for upcoming sprints.