Thursday, April 23, 2009

Two nights on the town: UX and QA/Agile peer-to-peer groups

I'm lucky to have access to some great resources in town for career-related learning. Communitech, the Waterloo Region Technology Association, host many peer-to-peer groups focused on a variety of areas of interest to people working with technology. I've mentioned the UX Group of Waterloo Region in previous posts. This month's meeting was an entertaining night of UX-related videos (and accompanying popcorn)

This week, in addition the movie night, I also attended the Waterloo Agile Lean peer-to-peer meeting on Testing in Agile - a QA’s journey. Guelph-based Innosphere shared their experiences with QA and Agile over the last 2+ years. The thing that I enjoyed most was hearing how similar many of their experiences are to what we've found with integrating QA and Scrum at Primal Fusion. It's reassuring to hear that others are on the same path and have arrived at similar solutions to the various challenges.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lights! Camera! Interaction!

The User Experience Group of Waterloo Region is having a movie night on Wednesday April 22, starting at 5:30pm. There's the promise of "a variety of movies about our relationship with the tools and technologies that surround us" as well as munchies! As my second post for this blog floated my theory that The Dam Busters is a great metaphor for a start up, I'm looking forward seeing to what folks have to bring to the cinematic UX mélange.

If you haven't been to one of the UX Group meetings before, come on out. It's a great opportunity to meet with like-minded folks.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

On your mark, get set, oh wait...

This week at Primal Fusion we decided not to release an update to our thought networking service.

We had a completed update ready to go, but as we reviewed our work prior to release it was clear that there were design issues that we were just not comfortable with, and we didn't have an obvious solution. How did we end up in that situation? To be honest, we made design decisions in haste without fully thinking them through. That became obvious during the review.

The decision to not release was tough because we had gotten into a great rhythm of regular releases. It was also easy, though, because we knew that we had another release in the very near future and correcting the issues was the right thing to do. In fact we have since corrected the issues and we'll deliver our next update soon.

In my last post I wrote about the challenges of integrating UX with Scrum. I have to say, though, that once you get into the habit of regular releases after each sprint, it's a great feeling to see a new one go out the door. A new release is a great motivator.

The flip side of that great feeling is the less-than-great feeling that comes with deciding not to push a release out. We've learned, though, that it's not fatal to decide to not release the work that we do in a sprint. A course correction is acceptable once in a while.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Finding the Scrum/UX balance

At Primal Fusion we use Scrum to manage the development work that we do. Since launching at DEMO in March we've released weekly updates to our Thought Networking product, and sometimes released more often! That's a brisk pace that we plan to maintain, as a great benefit of Scrum is that you get functionality out in increments and start to get feedback right away. It's quite a rewarding approach, and as a development manager I love the challenge.

As a long time user experience designer, though, I must confess that I do find it a challenge to reconcile Scrum with user-centered design practices. I've spoken with industry colleagues who find it a challenge as well, which is, I suppose, comforting at some level. Even so, it feels like we're figuring out the right balance at Primal Fusion. One reason is that we're always willing to try something at least once in our sprints to see if it helps us be more effective. Another is that we're not afraid to make mistakes as long as we can learn from them and get better.

I'm still sorting out how we're doing with the balance and how to articulate it. As I get clarity on it I'll share what I discover.