Integrating UX into SAFe

UX Research helps drive your teams to build a market-ready product your customers will love. Read about Marc's tips on how to infuse customer feedback and UX Design into Agile in a SAFe environment.

Integrating UX into SAFe

With an aging population, products now more than ever have to meet user's needs to be successful. However, continually balancing them with business goals and technical constraints requires a deliberate mindset on achieving positive outcomes. Whether you are a manager, designer, developer, scrum master, or quality assurance professional, it seems everyone has a different understanding of how user-centered design (UCD) and agile should work together. The bottom line is customers need a product that is productive and efficient to get their work done. To achieve this, merge user experience in the product development process.

The agile manifesto was written by software developers so they didn't initially consider UX. For companies using SAFe they introduced Lean UX in version 4.5 but they didn't explain how to integrate it into your workflows. Teams discovered that UCD research activities create another lens into your customers needs that might differ from your initial requirements. However, there is still not a standard method for how to implement it into the process. As all companies move at different speeds, the autonomous teams that are running parallel Discovery and Delivery tracks aren't immediately achievable for everyone. If you are in a company where research is not being adopted I highly recommend the steps below to start your journey of infusing customer feedback into your process.

  1. Provide a runway and get a seat at the table
    ‌‌When implementing UX in Agile, ensure the organization sees value in user research and creates a runway for UCD in the planning process.
  2. Create a lane on the agile board for the work‌‌
    When it comes to when to do user experience, work either a sprint or PI ahead. This staggered method will allow the development team to get involved in user research activities. Once you start to share your findings the team will become more interested in your research and you can start to iterate towards more inclusion of the team in the research itself.
  3. Change terminology to MRP‌‌
    Abandon the term Minimum Viable Product (MVP). We must embrace Market-Ready Products (MRP) because it infuses user research into the process of creating competitive, productive, and pleasant products.
  4. Add UX to the definition of done‌‌
    It is good to have a shared understanding of what it means for a feature or user story to be "done". To keep user experience front and center, add the completion of user feedback and solved the original customer need or pain-point to your definition of done.
  5. Merge UX research into backlog refinement‌‌
    The Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) process merges user needs and business goals into one column; however, these two things need to be separate. Download the MRP calculator to rank features on a scale of 1 to 5 based on the user’s needs, business value, and technical simplicity. It helps prioritize features looking through the user’s eyes. The idea is to use this method to determine which ones to weigh on the feature list in the backlog from the user’s perspective. It surfaces user research in a format in which stakeholders can participate and focuses on the user outcome rather than the output. Use it in conjunction with other processes.‌‌
  6. Continual education on the value of UX
    ‌‌Develop roundtables to discuss user experience topics to answer team questions. Invite the development team to observe customer-facing user experience activities to see firsthand user's challenges. UX Research helps to drive your teams to build a market-ready product your customers will love.

Follow these tips to infuse customer feedback and UX Design into Agile in a SAFe environment.

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