Allaland

Agile in Plain English (part 1)

Posted on: February 15, 2010

Defining Agile

Agile has recently become a hot topic, both organizationally and in the design world. Several articles have attempted to describe agile, and how to fit design or UCD into an agile development:

Bringing User Centered Design to the Agile Environment by Anthony Colfelt, published on Boxes and Arrows
How UCD and Agile Can Live Together by David Farkas, published in Johnny Holland

Although they provide a really good high-level overviews, they still seem to miss the mentioning the fundamental essence of agile – agile is philosophy or a mindset, not a set of methods or practices.

There is a lot of confusion between agile, scrum, and xp. Many times people refer to agile as the agile method. There is no such thing! Agile is a set of principles, and scrum or xp are defined practices that uphold agile principles.

So what are the agile principles?

In 2001, a group of developers came up with the agile manifesto, which outlines the four values of agile:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

In practice, these translate into the following

  1. Great products come from great teams
  2. Go to high function fidelity quickly, provide just enough documentation to produce great work
  3. Involve the end-users, decision makers, and stakeholders throughout the entire process
  4. Be ready for change, be it from the client, the market, or anywhere

As designers, constant communication, negotiation and feedback has always been part of our values and processes, but developers have been notoriously bad at such skills, which is why so many of the values center around communication. The most important value, and the core of agile, for both developers and designers is #4. Expect change, be ready for change, change is okay. Designers, like developers, do not deal well with change. Heck, human beings in general don’t do well with change, especially the last minute kind. However, if you go into a project with the mindset expecting change to occur, you will be much more prepared to be agile or nimble and handle it accordingly. In my opinion, that is the most valuable contribution of agile to both design and development.

Tune in to Part 2, Scrum in Plain English, coming soon!

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3 Responses to "Agile in Plain English (part 1)"

Thanks Alla! Looking forward to Part 2 on agile.

[...] now that you have a definition of agile and some of the underlying principles, how do you actually do the [...]

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Alla Zollers

I design products and services that just. make. sense.

When products make sense, customers are happy.

If customer are happy, they sign-up, stay on site, engage, share, and buy your product or service.

Happy customers allow companies to profit in both senses of the word.

I provide the following services:

• Heuristic Evaluations
• Discovery Research
• Strategy and Vision Development
• Information Architecture
• User Experience Design
• Usability Testing

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