A day of two halves (is there any other kind of day?)

It’s more difficult to write this now that I know it’s been circulated to my team at work… whether or not anyone’s reading it is another matter altogether, but c’est ca.

Breakfast seems like a long time ago now, but since that’s how I’ve started the other posts, I may as well continue with that theme. I’m still hoping for pancakes… but today it was fruit (on every buffet table this time), bagels and that very continental thing of cheese and cold meats. Cheese on the continent beats American cheese effortlessly.

The first session of the day was Hugh Beyer’s excellent ‘The User Feedback Two-Step’. Here was a talk that excelled on many levels. Hugh is a great speaker, he knows his topic area and the session was interactive and well thought out. And I learnt a lot. A significant element of his session was a game, not unlike Monopoly, where you split into two teams: a UX squad and a software squad. You then worked through a project in the Agile way.

At first I think we slipped into a pattern of competition within our group – UX vs. software, but we quickly realised that actually we need to work together to achieve the end result, not compete against each other. Probably a product of the game rather than anything more real life.

The game highlighted a number of other things, but 2 of the most striking for me were:

1) UX resource tends to be limited. It’s not a unique problem.

2) Just as a delay in UX deliverables hinders the software developers, so does a delay in developments hinder UX in that testing can’t be executed.

The second portion of the morning was divided into 2 half hour talks. The first was by Jen Padilla from Citrix who described her company’s transition to Agile. Jen is a user researcher in a fairly small team, and is required to work with 10 agile teams. Her approach was to make an agile team out of UX people and follow the backlog, sprint etc. agile approach. And this has worked for Citrix. Something to ponder over.

The second talk was by Cindy McCracken and Skye Pazuchanics along a similar theme – how they turned Agile at iContact. Their biggest challenge was fitting usability testing into their agile software development process. They have developed a number of excellent practices including a novel way of recruiting testers from existing customers by integrating this into their customer contact processes.

I felt really inspired, and reassured by the morning sessions. I don’t feel like I’ve learnt anything new about how to do UX, but I have learnt something new about how to fit it into agile developments.

The afternoon didn’t have quite the same effect. I attended two sessions – the first was ‘Being There Without Being Present: Distributed Teams and UX Design’. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I really don’t think I learnt anything new here. The talk focussed around devices you can use to facilitate collaboration where you are not geographically co-located, not around things which don’t work and things which could perhaps work better. Or maybe 1.5 hours for a talk straight after lunch is just too long – both for speaker and audience?

The second talk was ‘Everything else for the UX Team of One’. I feel that this talk was mis-sold in the program. I felt that this would give insight into how to deal with high workloads, with having to wear multiple ‘hats’ and insight into how to get your job done. No, it was all about working for yourself, chasing clients down, keeping clients etc. It just wasn’t relevant. And this isn’t the fault of the speakers, more the fault of the blurb I feel.

Agile2010 is a massive conference. It can be difficult to choose between talks. And some are just better than others. I feel that I have been to more good than bad, and I am certainly learning a lot. The conversations outside the sessions are, of course, often equally as enlightening and interesting.

1 thought on “A day of two halves (is there any other kind of day?)”

  1. I think your posts have been really informative about what you've been learning about, and a very good read at that. Most importantly, the breakfast intro makes me feel like I'm there. Do tell us when you finally get pancakes!

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