Integrating design work in agile can be done in a number of ways. Lean UX, Agile UX, and Design Sprints all approach the problem differently with varying levels of success. The approached used in this book is a Design-Infused approach.
The following process outlines the expected activities and deliverables at each stage of a design-infused agile process.
Discovery and Planning
During discovery and planning, the team explores the market opportunities and pain points of their end users. Research and analysis happens during this phase, gathering sufficient information to ensure that things go smoothly once development begins. The idea funnel starts very wide at this stage, and mistakes are cheap to correct. Sufficient time must be spent in this phase to avoid expensive mistakes and badly timed or targeted releases. Investing in this phase ensures quality and efficiency. This phase can be broken down into the following stages:
- Discovery and Ideation
- Product Solution Definition
- Business Opportunity Assessment
- Vision and Validation
- Scope and Acceptance
Discovery and Ideation
During this stage, product management investigates the current business landscape, assessing the potential opportunities and risks in the market place, interviewing customers, and understanding the competitors. The output of this investigation is business cases, also known as problem definitions.
Product Solution Definition
Business cases provide the perspective of the market and the customer. Product solutions should solve the problems stated in the business cases, but should take the perspective of the user – frequently a different person from the customer with different motivations in enterprise software. To create effective product solutions, product designers, working closely with technical leads and product manager, should own the solution definition, ensuring that it is technically feasible and will solve for the stated business problem.
Business Opportunity Assessment
Once the product and business research has been completed, product management, design, and development can collaboratively evaluate the opportunities and provide significant detail to enable an accurate scoring of the business opportunities available.
Vision and Validation
During this stage, the detailed design directions are solidified and vetted. Primary workflows and architecture should be defined, technical approaches solidified, and success criteria determined at the epic level, as well as potential measurement opportunities. Approaches are play-tested with customers, and effort estimations are done at the Epic level.
Scope and Acceptance
During this stage, detailed stories are written, estimated, and groomed for the backlog. The backlog is prioritized, acceptance criteria are finalized, and release dates are determined. Potential dependencies and risks are identified. It is important to note that stories are created for ALL team members – design and development.
For a design-infused agile sprint cycle, design and development work together in two types of sprints: Foundational and Functional.
- Foundational sprints create items necessary for the Functional sprints such as wireframes and visual comps, back-end services, APIs, etc.
- Functional sprints use items from the Foundational sprints to create an MVP.
- Functional sprints cannot start until at least one Foundational sprint has been run.
- All team members may participate in Foundational sprints.
Foundational and Functional Sprints
During the foundational sprint, dependency items are created – wireframes, visual comps, prototypes, back-end services, tech debt, etc. This type of sprint enables the regular functional sprint. Foundational sprints include sprint reviews, planning, and estimation just like traditional agile sprints.
Functional sprints are simply traditional Agile sprints, with the expected outputs and functions.