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Hi everyone! My name is Melissa Keene. I'm the Director of Experience Design at Annalect. My colleague Christina is also here; she'll be participating in the panel later. Christina is our Creative Director.
We work at Annalect. Annalect is a technology company within Omnicom Media Group. We provide media data analytics and visualization tools.
We are a capital &quot;A&quot; Agile shop. We have daily standups, we have pre-planning and planning meetings for every sprint, at the end of every sprint we have a show and tell and a retrospective. We track all our user stories and tasks electronically, and we burn down our hours every day. We are serious about Agile.
We are also a Lean UX shop. Jeff Gothelf wrote a great article a while back in Smashing Magazine, called &quot;Lean UX: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business.&quot; That is what we're trying to do every day here at Annalect. We want to deliver great experiences, not shiny deliverables.
This talk is about collaboration, both in and outside the sprint cycle.
I don't believe in unicorns!
I do believe in these.
This is a T-shaped person.
You may also have heard them called Generalizing Specialists. T-shaped people have deep expertise in one area, that’s the vertical of the “T.” They are also interested in related disciplines. They have shallower, cross-disciplinary knowledge – this is the crossbar of the “T.” Having some fluency across disciplines enables these people to play well with others.
At Annalect, we take our T-shaped people and group them into a cross-disciplinary UX team. The teams have a UX Lead who is responsible for User Research, Interaction Design, and Usability Testing; a Front-end Developer and a Visual Designer.
We put a team like this on every product, in addition to the other Agile roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master, Technical Lead, and Developers.
In practice, every product has a UX team with these three roles, but that doesn’t directly equate to headcount. For us, every team has a dedicated, full-time UX Lead and Front-end Developer. These team members are in all the Agile meetings. The Visual Designer role is filled by our Creative Director across all our projects. Every week Christina drops into a standup meeting or two for each product. She attends Pre-planning and Planning meetings as needed, and she attends pretty much every Show and Tell session for all of our products. In turn Christina brokers visual design assignments from all the products across a network of global visual designers and freelancers. These designers do not attend any Agile meetings.
What we’re trying to do with the cross-disciplinary teams is this: we want 1+1+1 to equal 4. When these different roles collaborate, we get added value – a team that is more than the sum of its parts.
So we have the team in place. How do we collaborate on a day-to-day basis?
We focus on Minimum Viable Product.
The same way that dev is focused on MVP, we as UX focus on the Minimum Viable DESIGN Product. What’s the lowest fidelity, most-efficient, most minimal deliverable we can create to test the hypothesis at hand?
This is my desk. Now, I have a computer on my desk too, but I use it to check email. These are my design tools. I use all the same thinking tools that I used when I did traditional UX, but with Agile UX, with Lean UX, I create radically different deliverables.
This is a wireframe. Since I have been at Annalect, I have not made a single traditional, hi-fidelity, electronic, full-color wireframe. I cracked Balsamiq once… but otherwise, we’ve been pen and paper all the way. This is how we roll. And it is wonderful!
Because when a Visual Designer, when a Front-end Developer, sees a wireframe like that, they do this. They ask questions. They talk to each other. They offer suggestions. The team begins to collaborate.
Some of you have probably seen these slides before, they’re from Anders’ Agile UX presentation. Collaboration is what takes a team from running a traditional relay race to playing the Agile rugby game.
This collaboration often takes place as cross-functional pairing. (This is another thing Anders talks about in his presentation.) Cross-functional pairing is just like pair programming, except the two roles working together are different. This is a picture of Christina, our Creative Director, working with Gus, our Head of Front-end Development. Instead of making a detailed style guide and throwing it over the fence, Christina makes one or two comps, and then she and Gus work out the implementation together, live, while Gus is in the code. It’s collaborative. It’s fast. It’s efficient. And it’s fun! We get to know our teammates better, and we have more fun working together.
Our cross-functional pairing takes place across this cycle.
We start with paper in the early iterations…
And then those paper artifacts are the inputs for visual comps and the HTML in later iterations. So at some point, every UX role cross-functionally pairs with each other. Interaction Design and Visual Design for the comps, Interaction Design and Front-end Dev for the HTML, and Visual Design and Front-end Dev for the CSS.
We do this work both inside and outside the sprint cycle. We have a dev theme for each sprint, and we also have a design theme. Sometimes we break this out even further, to the different design disciplines. This way we know what the goal of each sprint is for each role. The same way that Dev is accountable for a specific sprint goal, we in UX are accountable for our goals as well. But because our work is sometimes needed before the sprint, and sometimes takes place after, we draw out sprint roadmaps like this to both make us accountable AND give us the time we need to do the right work at the right time.
So, in conclusion: No unicorns! T-shaped people instead. Build cross-disciplinary teams so that you get added value from collaboration – 1+1+1=4 Focus on the Minimum Viable DESIGN Product. Create low-fidelity design deliverables. That will get people talking. And that is how we collaborate at Annalect!
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