Interview with Raymond: Journey of UX in Agile Environment

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Our User Experience (UX) Team Lead, Raymond started his journey with us in 2014. Back then, UX was relatively new to him (as a Web Designer) and within a short period of 2 years, he now guides fellow UX members in learning and practicing the wonderful field of user experience. Today, we find out more about his UX journey and how the UX team works in an agile environment.

  1. UX is a relatively new field. Tell us how you came into this practice?
    I started practicing UX only when I entered Titansoft. Prior to that, I had absolutely no idea what  UX is as all of my previous focus was in web design. I was happy that I was given the opportunity to attend the UXSG conference, even though I have joined Titansoft for several months, to really understand what UX is. The UXSG conference was the transition for me into the realm of UX where it required a lot of understanding to transform from ‘what I thought I know’ to ‘what I know’ and finally ‘learning what I don’t know’.It is through this period where I realized that I had been practicing UI instead of UX. In fact, UX is all about understanding users, the process of understanding the intentions of our users and how we improve that process. From that point, I attended a lot of courses and meet-ups to improve my knowledge about UX practices.
  1. Why is UX important to you?
    UX is very important to me as my job requires it. However, I feel that UX can be applied everywhere. It is a fundamental and important process which every one of us can use. UX helps us to understand the reasons for certain designs and how to make the right design decisions. Given this understanding, the methods and processes used in UX design will be different depending on the situation. UX is then important to make the right calls.
  1. What do you think are the common misconceptions of UX?
    People often think that they practice UX simply because they think from the users’ perspective, but they do not have the data to backup their assumptions. UX is about collecting objective data to understand why our users are behaving in certain ways while UI is about the interaction design process where we think about how our user will interact, evaluate and execute it.
  1. There are plenty of debates about UX and Agile and they are not always agreeable. What are the challenges faced practicing UX in Agile environment.
    There are definitely challenges faced, one of which is the time crunch. Everything is moving so fast that we have to research and design within a short timeframe. The need to complete the research, analyse and design within 1-2 weeks is where the conflicts start.Another challenge faced when practicing UX in an Agile environment is the concept of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).  The MVP concept leads to a contradiction to traditional UX as to whether one should first understand our user through research and followed by releasing the product for the full-fledged user experience or the other way round, to attain validated learning from a MVP.
    A third challenge faced is getting the Product Owners (PO) to buy into the UX research processes. At the initial phase of a project, we have no data about our users and it will take time to acquire these data, which in turn will impact the expected delivery of the product. As such, there are times where they may not be willing to invest in the research phase. I must say, however, that things are getting much better now.
  1. What have you learned practicing UX in Agile environment?
    I have learned that effective communication helps to reduce the time crunch, especially when everyone is clear about the project’s requirements and constraints.Agile UX has a concept where we ideate and prototype the problem before iterating from there. Of course, it takes time and resources. We will need to have our success metrics established. For example, what do we want to learn from the MVP that can help us decide on the next release?
  1. As the UX team lead, how do you guide the UX team in Titansoft to work in an Agile environment?
    I don’t have a fixed model in how I guide my team to work in an Agile environment. Just like my team, I am still learning and exploring what is best for the team and what would be the best way to bring the UX concepts across.The UX consultants had played a part in the transformation of the UX team by forcing us out of our comfort zone, where we were challenged to question a lot about the items that we do. I think that established the trend of questioning. By practicing vigorous questioning, my team has grown to rationalize how their design meets the users’ goals and which problems their designs resolve.

    An advice given by one of the consultants was to ‘always have a voice’ when in discussions, such as during Product Backlog Refinement (PBR) meetings or any other discussions really. With this advice in mind, I will always check with my team during our daily stand-up meeting to ensure that they have brought their ideas forward during the discussions. This helps the team to identify any blind spots about our users and identify which solution works best.

    Finally, I would often encourage them to attend trainings, conferences and UX meet-ups, which increased their exposure to other UX practitioners.

  1. Finally, What advice would you give to your fellow colleagues about applying UX?
    I would say that UX is a fundamental skill that can be applied to everything. It is about understanding our users and our touch points with them. Every role in Titansoft has their own customers; we can consider what kind of experience we want to provide to our customers. If we were to study them and take some time to observe, it can give us clues to identify their pain points. From there, we can work on creating a meaningful UX journey for our products and services.

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