UX research meets Scrum

Photo Credits: Barbarian Meets Coding

I am a UX Researcher. While I’m pretty new to the scene, I’ve heard of Scrum and have friends who work in companies that employ the methodology. Prior to the sharing by the Scrum Masters, my understanding of Scrum teams have been through stories shared by my friends or through observing the engineers work in my previous place of employment. Much like how “UX” is a hot term these days, “Agile” and “Scrum” have also joined in the crowd and their influence over companies’ operations cannot be ignored.

Scrum has found a natural fit within software development teams, breaking away from the more traditional waterfall methodology. It is more effective and more agile. It values interconnectivity, high functioning teams that are cross-disciplined and prevents teams from becoming siloed. Sprints are a feature of Scrum teams and it keeps the team focused on the task at hand and on a fixed timeline.

What does this all mean to me as a UX Researcher? How do I fit in at Titansoft, where Scrum is practiced, alongside/ as part of a scrum team?

UX Research tackles problems that falls into 2 big categories – Discovery and Refinement. Discovery is where ideas are being explored; ideas that might lead to change within the organization. It can be as vague as “We want to gain a bigger market share”. Refinement is where features are being tested for their usability. It can be very specific like “This new feature that is implemented is not being used as often as we’d like. Why?”

One can say that the research results feeds into the development because only with the results from the research can there be brainstorming and implementation. This presents a problem because it can be difficult to run a research project focused on discovery and provide output fast enough for a developer to work on within a sprint of 2 weeks. It might work better if the research was done before the sprint started (Sprint 0) with the information feeding and influencing the development. However, this is also not ideal if sprint 0 ends up taking a long time. Alternatively, UX research can start one sprint earlier and run alongside the company’s already established schedule.

For a company new to UX research, it might take some time to get started and the gap between the UX researcher and the development team will be huge. However, when the basic personas have been researched and revealed, the big picture user requirements would be more obvious and the research can then be more detailed and focused on details. It might be then easier to work in sprints when the research is for refinement purposes.

I do not have a solution to this problem presented at this point, but with time, I’m confident that with better product understanding, a good UX Researcher would be able to draw on experience and better gauge the time and scale required for each project.

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