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Agile and UX Design: Can they work together? Part One

Diet pills and Agile have a commonality – people want a quick fix to lose weight only slightly more than they want a fix to all their project management issues. Unfortunately, diet pills nor agile are silver bullets to correct either concern. It takes dedication, work and an understanding of the principles behind the body’s metabolism to lose weight. Likewise, it takes dedication, work and an understanding of the principles behind agile to improve delivery of a project. Once you understand these principles you can become a two pizza team, improve project delivery and lose weight at the same time.

This is the first part of an ongoing series attempting to not only bring clarity to what it means to be agile, but also to answer the question, can agile methodologies work during the UX design phase of a project? I have heard arguments on both sides of that debate. Many designers saying ‘no’ it doesn’t work and the more traditional waterfall methodology works best. Why? Because you have to business requirements before you can start wireframes and you have to have wireframes before you can start creative design. Before starting creative you have to have a content strategy which depends on the wireframes, which depends on the business requirements and on and on. While I am not arguing these needs I want to explore the possibility of providing these needs within an agile process.

But, before the exploration of this feasibility can begin let’s first define what agile means. I hear the word tossed about to describe a single methodology of project management or software development. Ask a project team what methodology they are following and often you hear “we are using agile”. What does that mean? Each week we change our process because we didn’t like what we did last week? Or, the client wants us to change how we are doing things because they didn’t like what we did last week? That isn’t agile, that’s chaotic and reactive. So, what is agile?

It’s difficult to define as agile is an umbrella term for multiple approaches to project management of software development projects. At the core, agile is a group of methods that enable small, cross-functional teams to quickly deliver business value in an iterative, collaborative approach. Where change is expected, not feared and where requirements can be expanded upon as the team learns more. Where conversation and collaboration are valued over strict adherence to a set plan defined before the requirements are even made clear to the customer, let alone the team.

The agile manifesto describes the values and principles of agile software development practices and I won’t take the time to reiterate them here, but if you don’t know them I suggest checking out that link. The manifesto itself is made up of four key values supported by twelve principles.

Agile Manifesto Values

Agile Manifesto Values

Some agile methods which exhibit these values and principles are:

• Scrum – arguably the most popular
• Kanban
• XP (Extreme Programming)
• Lean Software Development
• Feature Driven Development
• DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method)
• Crystal

This is not an exhaustive list of all agile methodologies, but some of the more popular ones currently in use. Which of the approaches to use depends on the team’s knowledge and expertise in each methodology, their culture and sometimes the project goals.

Making a move to agile is a cultural change that impacts the entire organization, not just the IT department. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. An evolution not a revolution. There is compelling evidence that iterative methods reduce project risk, compared to more traditional waterfall approaches. Next time we’ll move into the discussion of bringing Agile and UX together.

In the meantime, have you been involved in a cultural shift to using agile? What pain points did you find and how did you resolve them?

Adobe Summit: Building a Global Digital Marketing Platform

This session had a nice abstract that set some high expectations for a case study.

Creating a dynamic platform to support global digital marketing programs? PwC and USG developed a strategic plan and roadmap to deliver an integrated solution that enables local markets to take advantage of the global investment, from digital asset management, assets and product data, to developing country-specific workflows, while also ensuring brand compliance and consistent analytics and measurement. This scalable, Adobe Marketing Cloud based solution provides USG with the framework to target its marketing and optimize experience based on real-time data. Learn how USG and PwC collaborated to develop a cloud-based platform based on Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Analytics and Adobe Tag Manager, and DAM. In this session: – Learn how starting with a Mobile First mentality drove the experience design – Discuss global analytics dashboards – Explore marketing automation platform integration, and hear how USG is leveraging the platform for their employee intranet This session is for digital marketers.

Data

  • 50 billion connected devices by 202
  • 2X the E7 GDP will double
  • Gartner by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO
  • eMarketer – just under 40% of marketing big data spending will go to software investment

USG is a building manufacturer. They had a large impact in the recent downturn and needed to deal with that plus making changes in how the company dealt with the market.  They had a lot of challenges including an outdated site, outdated technology, no clear user experience, no analytics or decent benchmarks. On top of that they were in the midst of going global

The old site was a bunch of links focused on their products and not much. It had little valuable information.

What did they do?

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Adobe Summit | Laying Out Your Digital Experience Game Plan

As a B2B marketer with a previous organization, I was tasked with consolidation of websites for my division. My CMO set the goal of having a unified brand experience for the entire company and my division was the first to adopt the “one-company” brand.  To provide a bit of context, my organization was a large company that had grown through acquisition. We had 20 websites to consolidate for my division — some of which had not been touched for several years. It’s also hard to admit this, but we had no meaningful plan to effectively engage with our online customers. This is something that’s a big “no-no” in marketing today!  I needed help building a game plan – something that would provide the strategy and technology processes I needed to drive success – but I didn’t know where to find that. Fortunately there are some options for marketers today.

Adobe Summit | Laying Out Your Digital Experience Game PlanAt Adobe Summit this year, the Perficient booth will be focused on building compelling marketing “Game Plans” for both prospects and clients. The goal is to find those key components and critical next steps that clients must take to enhance their digital marketing initiatives – whether they are focused on customer experience or on the technology that glues the experience together.  As a marketer, I find our solution expertise unique. Our in-house digital agency and web content management practice work in concert to help marketing and IT stakeholders work effectively together. We accomplish this by providing these stakeholders with key insights and analysis which supports the creation of digital marketing solutions that enhance customer engagement and drive revenue across all channels and touch points…something I could have used several years ago!

Robert Sumner our WCM practice director said it best, “If marketers want to truly understand who their customers are, what those customers want from the company and how to provide value, aligning their digital marketing strategies with their customer experience management strategies becomes crucial to achieving solid ROI results. We’re pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the Adobe Summit as the desire to address this evolution is native to Adobe’s approach with its Marketing Cloud solutions, and specifically with their Adobe Experience Manager solution.” Read more here.

If you are at Adobe Summit, I invite you to join us at  booth 208 to help layout your digital experience game plan. We’ll have our experts on hand to demonstrate how we’ve helped our clients to create a more compelling, personalized digital experience across touch points including legacy websites, mobile sites, social networks, customer transactions, and in-person or contact center interactions. Visitors to the booth can learn how best to integrate the right digital marketing tools with traditional web content strategies, including Adobe Experience Manager.

See you in Utah!

Invitation from Google to become a Glass Explorer

Earlier this year, Google had launched +Project Glass contest and offered a unique opportunity to experience Google Glass in-person. I entered into the contest as well and my submissions can be found here. Approximately eight thousand winners were selected and I was not one of them.

Recently, I received an email from “Glass Support” with an invitation to become a glass explorer! See email below:

Google Glass Invitation

I have not yet decided if I will join the program and purchase the Glass Developer Kit which has a price tag of $1500. Trying to figure out business value for Google Glass; from an enterprise IT perspective, I’m not sure how we can use Glass currently. In addition, I don’t think any of our largest partners are working/developing for Glass – example: IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, etc.

Since I am a technology enthusiast, I would like to get Glass for personal use anyway; it would create nice blog posts to share my experiences with especially how wearable tech is transforming user experience.

I would like to hear your opinion – Should I invest in Google Glass? Why or Why Not?

IT Pros: Visualize tech industry news using Pinterest

The title of this post by CIO.com caught my attention immediately this morning:

How IT Pros Can Use Pinterest for Career Growth

Pinterest launched in 2010, and since then I have kept my eyes on its growth and how people are using it for sharing and posting visual content. I never thought that the visual aspect of industry news in the enterprise IT space would take off on this social network, which is mostly known for sharing recipes, crafts and other media that lends itself to compelling images more than the enterprise IT space.

pinterest

Technology infographics on Pinterest

But this post really gives some great reasons why Pinterest makes sense as a place for IT professionals to spend time:

  1. Find and follow influencers – they’ve had 3 years to find their way to the platform. Now there’s on Pinterest, and you should see what they’re up to here, just as you do on Twitter or LinkedIn.
  2. Pin helpful articles and books – you can post an article link and Pinterest will find a related graphic/image in that post to use as the main image.
  3. Find useful infographics – It seems to me that 2013 is the year of the infographic – there’s no shortage of them on Pinterest!
  4. Track information on specific topics – just use Pinterest’s search function to find helpful articles in the area of enterprise IT that interests you most.
  5. Webinars and events - TED Talks is on Pinterest, for example.
  6. Get career and talent search help

 

Read CIO.com’s post here.

 

SxSW Day 3 – Behavior Change as Value Proposition

At the end of the third day of SxSW, I sat in on a session about Behavior Change and how design can use that as a value proposition. Chris Risdon, of Adaptive Path, was the speaker, and it was great to sit in on this topic again and see how much it’s matured since the last time I got to see Chris present on it. The market today is becoming filled with products and services that are designed to not only track and monitor our behavior, but provide insight into how we might change that behavior for the better. Chris covered many of the concepts and principles behind this new breed of products during his talk.

Below are the notes I took during the session, please note it is mostly a stream of consciousness so please forgive any spelling or grammer mistakes.

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SxSW Day 2 – From Muppets to Mastery

Following a wonderful experience working with upcoming SxSW speakers during the Tweak Your Talk workshop, Russ Unger delivered his presentation on the life of Jim Henson and the lessons UX Designers can learn from him. I’ve personally been able to see the evolution of this talk of the years and it was great to see it presented on the big stage at SxSW. The highlight of the talk was ~1000 people singing along to Rainbow Connection. Below are my thoughts and notes from the session. (These notes are simply my stream of consciousness from the session, so I apologize in advance for any sloppiness. :D)

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SxSW Day 1 – The Mechanics of Magic (Game Design Theory)

The first day of SxSW kicked off in great fashion by attending Christina Wodtke‘s (Twitter) session on Game Design and the 7 key lessons that come from game design and game designers. Christina did an amazing job of looking at the practice and craft of game design and applying it not only the design process but looking at common sites we use and showing the gaming components that are present. Below are all my notes and photos from the session that act as a stream of consciousness from the session. This talk was recorded and I highly recommend tracking it down once it gets published (sorry the link just isn’t available at this time.)

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LinkedIn Brilliant Marketing Campaign – Member Ego Booster!

One of the hottest discussions, blogs, and topics discussed this week is LinkedIn’s email congratulating its members for having one of the “Top 1%, 5%, 10%” most viewed profiles in 2012. I, also am one of the candidates who received the email with top 5% seen below:

linkedin

My first impression doubted the email at face value asking is this real or not? Out of 200 million members, including individuals who are CEO’s, Presidents, and Philanthropists of our society – how did I make it to the top 5% percent? I do have an “All-Star” profile strength and over 800+ connections – being in the top 5%in 2012 is still too good to be true.

When I started to calculate what 5% really meant, out of 200 Million members – 5 percent is 10 Million members. That means that I am 1 of the 10 MILLION people who received this congratulations email. This was more of a realistic figure and being One out of Ten Million is really not a big deal. Read the rest of this post »

Lessons on XD from Photography

Over the last couple of years I’ve really enjoyed learning the ins and outs of photography. It has been the creative outlet that I needed that is similar enough to user experience design, but different enough that it doesn’t feel like work. Now that I’ve been shooting for awhile now, I’m finding that many of the habits I have when practicing ux design are starting to carry over into my photography. The hook between the two lies in the attention of detail, a specific moment in time and properly serving the subject being photographed. The importance of these three concepts is the same in photography and in user experience design.

Attention of Detail

The ability to point out the minor flaws of an object or interface is curse for every designer. Personally, nothing drives me more batty now then seeing a UI widget be a pixel off from its intended alignment with other UI widgets. The curse exists in the world of photography. Nothing distracts more from a photo than an out of place object. This could someone accidentally, or intentionally, photobombing the subject, or simply a power line spanning the width of the scene. Getting the details of an experience, be it interactive or visual, wrong disrupts the user and takes away from overall engagement. Being asked to take photos for a friends family or going out on a photo walk has helped increase my attention. This experience naturally translate to the work I do at Perficient XD and makes the work I produce for my clients better.

Austin Skyline

Being In The Moment

When you use an application, website, or product there are certain magical moments that will either hook you into the experience or drive you away. The same magical moments exist when you are photographing a subject. I’ve read a lot about the best way to take photos of a sunset or sunrise. The one piece of advice that is consistent across photographers is find the scene you want to shot and wait. Wait for that moment when the light is perfect, then hit your shutter release. Once you’ve captured that “perfect” moment, wait 5 or 10 minutes and take the photo again. In just that short span of time, you will have a set of photos that tell different stories and convey a different mood. The core of this advice can best be applied to registration and up selling your customers. The span of time to ask and convince someone to sign up for your site or to buy additional products happens during “magical” moments while the person is using your site. Asking too soon or too late means you failed to convert that user or that you missed out on additional revenue. Be patient, wait for the moment that will really “Wow!” someone.

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