Really, nobody knows.

Day 2…

Burritos for breakfast anyone? Yes please. My favourite food, and at the start of the day. Perfect. And I sat next to someone from Cooper at breakfast, who described Alan Cooper to me which tickled and intrigued me.

Interesting breakfast observations:

  • The longest queue in the house was for the fruit and cereal buffet table
  • There appeared to be only one fruit and cereal bar. There were about 3 or 4 burrito (and croissant, and cake) buffet tables

Dave Thomas’ keynote: Agile2010 – An Unplugged Retrospective on the Agile Decade – “Mirror Mirror on the wall are we really the most beautiful of all”

I enjoyed Dave Thomas’ keynote – it was engaging and entertaining – but I’ve realised that I don’t really know what the key message was. Was it that on paper Agile is a great thing, but in reality there are challenges and difficulties along the way? But then, what’s so different about that? That happens everywhere.

Was it that to really make Agile work, it has to be embraced by the entire organisation? And that you have to envision your requirements up front (well at least some of them). And that you have to have to iterate, iterate, iterate? And that really, it’s a case of suck it and see. It’s a process. There’s still more to learn. And Agile in itself isn’t a panacea.

I’ll move on.

The remainder of the morning was to be split into 2 half hour talks – the first called ‘Practices in the Integration of Agile and UCD Processes – A Reality Check’, the second ‘Mind the Gap’. Sadly, the speakers for the first talk didn’t show. It was one of the talks I was most keen to see. I’ll just have to try and download their paper and read it separately.

Instead Matt Roadnight filled an entire hour with his talk ‘Mind the Gap’. I’d say that it’s a good thing we had the whole hour with him, because I didn’t feel like I learnt all that much in the first half hour. There was a lot of observation, but very little insight. He described 3 projects – all of different sizes, and with varying UX involvement. I think the conclusion was: don’t work too far ahead of development iterations, but it’s difficult to do things in parallel as well. However, a member of the audience made an interesting point – shouldn’t UX be integrated into the entire process rather than taking the ‘them and us’ approach of ‘here are some designs, now go ahead and develop’. My personal opinion is that there needs to be a bit of a mix – UX does need to be a few steps ahead, but equally they need to be available throughout the project to work together with the developers.

After lunch I attended a great workshop entitled ‘Improving Customer Conversations’ by Esther Derby. The workshop was about asking the right questions to get the information you need to do product development. I was a little unclear at the start if this meant asking the right questions of your customers (as in internal customers) or end-users. It turned out that it was about end users. Esther is a great speaker, and her exercises were fun, interesting and very instructive.

The second session I attended after lunch was entitled ‘Make Stuff People can Use’. I guess, after reading the blurb for this session, I was expecting more of an insight into how you can do this in an Agile environment. In fact there was little reference to the Agile environment per se.

That leads me on nicely to my concluding thought after the first 2 days. I have realised that there isn’t necessarily a ‘right way’ to do things in an Agile environment. It’s more that the things you would do in a more ‘traditional’ waterfall environment apply in an Agile environment as well. Performing these tasks in an Agile environment emphasises the fact that you have to do them early on in the process, and keep iterating through the process. But you may just have to do them more quickly, you may not be able to get huge sample sizes, and you will have lots of opportunities to practice and refine your approach.

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