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There is a lot of love out there for the symbiosis between Agile and UX these days. More often than not, companies that are using the likes of Scrum or XP (eXtreme Programming) as their software development methodologies are including user experience professionals as part of their delivery teams. So why am I writing yet another blog post about this very topic? Well, from my experience, this marriage doesn't work quite as smoothly as advertised...
The acceptance of user experience in agile organizations is a relatively new concept. Being able to quickly research, perform IA work (typically task flows, wireframes and sitemaps), create high-fidelity prototypes, perform UT (usability testing) for a story and then be able to serve it up to software developers is enticing to every development manager out there. And while this concept may work from a theoretical perspective, when it comes to execution and deadlines, it quickly becomes very clear that if the team falls behind, there are typically two areas that suffer: user experience and scope (and ultimately quality). Development managers are delivery driven (rather than quality driven), and for them delivery means one thing: code. As a user experience professional working in an agile environment, how many times did you hear a development manager telling you that you no longer have time to spend with the end users for user research, and that those deliverables (be it wireframes or high-fidelity prototypes that are required by developers for a particular story) are now due in less than 24 hrs or even worse, not needed altogether because the functionality is fairly simple and the developers will be able to go straight to code without them?
In my career, navigating the extent of my involvement within agile teams has sometimes been rocky. Yet at this point, looking back at projects ranging from the success stories to those that were quite simply narrowly avoided disasters, two distinct themes have emerged, and are going to be the focus of this article.
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