How to deliver agile projects to a deadline

Reading Time: < 1 minute

You can’t.

Agile projects deliver when they cross a quality threshold.

If you hit a deadline, or met a budget, without crossing that threshold, you weren’t agile.

It’s that simple.

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

A story is the promise of a conversation

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Illustration of how much we know about a user story over time.

In agile development the whole point of a story is … well, it’s a story.

It illustrates an instance. It illuminates an essence.

It tells a story.

There is a user. An actual person, who needs to get stuff done. A hero.

They probably need to get other stuff done too. This, whatever that is, is just one thing on their neverending to-do list.

Their reasons could be very simple or very complex.

Continue reading “A story is the promise of a conversation”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

You can do things, or you can get things done

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Imagine you work for an organisation where, on average, people have six things on the go at any given time.

Let's assume that, again on average, each of those things takes a week of your effort to get done.

Given that – and it doesn't feel too outrageous – we should be able to deliver a thing a week, shouldn't we?

But that doesn't seem to happen in real life. Why not?

Well, essentially, we have two choices: we can do things, or we can get things done.

Continue reading “You can do things, or you can get things done”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

A new life in the unknown

Reading Time: 6 minutes

One year ago I made the move from the Scottish Businesses Marketing team and started my new life stepping into the unknown, as a Product Owner in the Export Service Design team.  Now, I have one foot in the SDI Trade Service team and the other in Service Design.

Officially, the Product Owner (PO) is “responsible for maximising the value of the product and the work of the development team”.  This is a new role for the organisation as Product Owner is essentially a role coined from the agile way to manage a project, usually software development, called Scrum.

I’d always though of myself as a bit of a geek with a passion for web and digital, so I was excited to be able to use my export marketing experience and customer insight to tackle this new challenge and really get up close and personal with our end users.

One year on, I thought I’d share and list the 10 lessons that have stuck with me.

Continue reading “A new life in the unknown”

About Siobhan McDermit

Siobhan is Export Product Owner for our Trade Services.

Getting to know and understand our customers is fundamental to her role as Export Product Owner. It’s her job to represent their voice in all the digital export services we develop.

We are all one big team, right?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

How often are you told "we are all one big team"?

What does it mean to you?

I suggest that you stop reading for a couple of minutes and digest this statement.

Sentiment or Structure

I think it is a very positive sentiment but quite dangerous when taken as a statement of fact regarding actual teams.

Please read to the bottom before exploding 🙂

The sentiment is very positive and suggests that we are all working towards a common goal. And who would argue with that?

We will all:

  • stop working in silos
  • stop pulling in different directions
  • stop hoarding information as a source of power or protection
  • stop doing things that don't further our common goals

These are all great, but does it not make you wonder why we are doing all these things in the first place?

Continue reading “We are all one big team, right?”

Towards agile UX

Reading Time: 4 minutes

So I recently studied for, and sat, the exam for, the CPUX-F qualification*.

It stands for Certified Professional for Usability and User Experience (that's the UX bit), if you really want to know.

It was interesting, though not novel; most of it was just formalising knowlege I and my colleagues have already acquired, willy-nilly, over the years.

Here's what the process look like.

The human-centred design process
The human-centred design process

Continue reading “Towards agile UX”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Team on tour at Explore Export 2015

Our customers' priorities.

Reading Time: 5 minutesOn Friday 6 November the Digital First Service Design team packed up post-its, whiteboards, sharpie pens and blue tac from our Paisley offices and set up shop at the UKTI Explore Export event in Edinburgh.

Why?

We’ve been busy over the last few months, developing and launching the new Export Health Check.

In September we launched our first version of the tool on the SE website. Based on results of customer testing on Version 1, we made changes to the design and how the content is displayed on both desktop and mobile versions.

So, it was time to give Version 2 a thorough road test and get real-time feedback from exactly the customers that we built the tool for. The Explore Export event gave us the opportunity to get in front of more than 200 of those customers in one hit.

Getting to know and understand our customers is fundamental to my role as Export Product Owner. It’s my job to represent their voice in all the digital export services we develop.

Continue reading “Team on tour at Explore Export 2015”

About Siobhan McDermit

Siobhan is Export Product Owner for our Trade Services.

Getting to know and understand our customers is fundamental to her role as Export Product Owner. It’s her job to represent their voice in all the digital export services we develop.

Trust the Force, Luke

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A young Luke Skywalker was told to

Trust the Force.

It was difficult for him until he eventually started to see results. This blog is about a similar leap of faith.

Think about these two statements…

  • If you are truly committed to building customer value, then you will be building what the customer wants (needs) and the customer will be delighted. Because of this they will buy the product or even buy more of the product, while increasing the likelihood of remaining loyal to you.
  • If you are truly committed to empowering your employees, then you will provide a work environment where they feel ownership of their work and can make their own decisions, and they will be more motivated to activate their brainpower, improving morale and increasing the likelihood that they will go the extra mile to create a quality product. *

These are mutually inclusive (and recursive) sentiments, and the answer to how they are done can be summarised as:

  1. Teams need to step up
  2. Managers needs to step back

Easily summarised, but not always easily done.

Continue reading “Trust the Force, Luke”

It’s good to talk

Reading Time: 4 minutesNo this is not a phone commercial. Yesterday was great. On the train in to work I had a chat with a friend who does similar work to myself. A couple of things he said struck a chord and I am going to implement them at work.

In work we had a director come out and chat with us about future plans, limitations and opportunities and generally make us feel involved. We then had a large group of managers out to Paisley and had a really good chat. We talked about how we were doing things, and what lessons could be applied across the business.

At lunch I called my sister and we caught up about family stuff.

All of these positive experiences would have been destroyed by doing them as word documents. A nice word document is good for audit but it would have been time consuming, scope limiting and ultimately never read by anyone. In others words “Waste”. It would have slowed down sharing of info and ideas and also supported behaviours such as people disengaging if they were not the ones writing the document.

Future Diagnostic Workshop

In the afternoon I tried in vain to finish a document on Future Online Diagnostics Options. I have been finding excuses to not finish this document for days. That is pretty unusual for us at Paisley but it does happen. It usually means that subconsciously we are rejecting something as being waste or at least sub-optimal. I had done all the research and I am passionate about the subject but I still couldn’t get the document finished. In the end David and I grabbed a few whiteboards and drew out the various options on them…….and then we had a chat about them. In truth the chat we had fleshed out at least as many ideas as I had gathered in my research. It also highlighted new areas that up till now had been “nagging doubts” which we had not fully explored.

Continue reading “It’s good to talk”

Embrace uncertainty

Rhinoceros

Reading Time: 4 minutes

OK, here's a quiz

I was going to write some whizzy code for this, but then I thought: be agile. What's the quickest, cheapest thing you could do to test this idea?

So I'm going to trust you.

All I'm asking is that you read the question and answer it without thinking too hard about it … your gut instinct is what I'm after.

Take no more than 10 seconds to reach a conclusion.

Otherwise, I may have to write some whizzy code to stop you from cheating …

Question

You have £100 to invest. You decide to invest it in a bank account that pays 1% interest per day.

After 1 year, how much money will you have? Scribble it down. Right now. Doesn't have to be on a post-it.

(And it would be great if you could tell us your estimate in the comments at the end of the article.)
Continue reading “Embrace uncertainty”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

It’s your first date. Behave …

Reading Time: 5 minutesWe’ve been experimenting with mood maps to record customers’ emotions while they use the prototypes we test with them. The results are revealing …

Mood maps are pretty simple graphs of emotion over time. You just observe someone interacting with the app or content you are developing and plot how positive or negative their emotions are for the duration of the test.

But they allow you to tell a story.

Here’s what a mood map looks like.

Mood map
So, how was it for you?

Continue reading “It’s your first date. Behave …”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

When is a team not a team?

Reading Time: 3 minutesThis week, we’ve been thinking about what a team is, how it works and what it does.

Like most people, I work in a team. Or at least, I thought I did.

Do I really? Or do I just work with a bunch of other people with similar skills to me?

Continue reading “When is a team not a team?”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Faking it

Reading Time: 3 minutesThis week, I did something I thought I’d never do: I deceived our users. Our visitors.

Our customers.

That’s pretty much a sacking offence, so maybe I should explain.

As part of the digital first team, we’re looking for ways to get user feedback. After all, how will we know if customers think our products and services are valuable unless we ask them?

We can’t always do that face to face. Is there another way?

Continue reading “Faking it”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Why Big Design fails

Reading Time: 3 minutesWhen businesses take on big IT projects (or any kind of big projects, I suppose), they puff their cheeks out and say, metaphorical hands on not-at-all-literal hips:

Gonna cost you guv.

They’re thinking: we’re going to have to plan this. We’ll need a risk register. We’ll have to fix the scope, gather all the deliverables, consult all the stakeholders.

Then we’ll create a PID, and a project plan. And if we get approval, and funding, we’ll start on an 18 month delivery plan that we’ve already been talking about for 6 months.

Then they’ll spend 2 months going round everyone who may have even the smallest stake in the project. They’ll seek their opinions, solicit their preferences.

Everything will be documented, in documents that will never be read by anyone.

Once all the stakeholders have been consulted, they’ll start planning. The risk register will be completed. A project plan will be drawn up. It is submitted for approval, and approval is granted.

Hey, we’ve been working on this thing for 6 months already and have delivered nothing but documentation. But we’ve already spent so much money on it that we can’t stop.

Sound familiar?

The Product Owner explains his priorities

Continue reading “Why Big Design fails”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Complexity. It’s not complicated …

Reading Time: 3 minutesI’m part of the digital first project, the team that’s looking into new ways of working that will help Scottish Enterprise improve its projects’ performance.

One of the things the team is doing is a 12-week training course on Value, Flow, Quality. That probably doesn’t mean much to most people, but basically it’s a methodology we can use to organise ourselves and our work to deliver value to our customers, quickly and flexibly.

One of the things we looked at in our first session was why IT and software projects regularly fail (by some measures, only one project in three is successful).

This alarming statistic tells us something is very wrong with the way businesses approach these projects. But what? Continue reading “Complexity. It’s not complicated …”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.