olaCreative Blog - Design Thinking & Agile

Design Thinking & Agile

Design Thinking & Agile

The world of software development is filled with buzzwords: agile, lean, and design thinking being just a few examples. Often, we think we have to practice one or another, but these concepts work well when practised together. Let’s look at how design thinking and agile can work together. The design thinking model is used to better understand problems. And agile is how we deliver solutions.

This flashlight represents a designer’s focus when working in an agile environment. Closest to the flashlight is our more defined, more focused effort items. These items are in the current sprint that will keep the team moving forward. As the distance away from the flashlight increases and we get into items for future sprints, we see that they are less defined with less focused effort.

Just like the light of our flashlight gets dimmer the further in the distance it goes.

Looking at our design thinking model, we see all aspects of the design process accounted for, from empathizing to implementation. As UXers working in an agile environment, it can feel overwhelming to account for these aspects in your sprint process. Let’s plot each one on our flashlight. Starting with the Empathize phase is where we research to better understand our users.

Starting with the Empathize phase is where we research to better understand our users.

In other words, this is research used to develop personas that put this in our Future Sprints category.

Next, we move on to the Define phase, where we combine all of our research and observe where our users’ pain points exist, which helps us understand the business opportunities available to us and identify problems that users run into. That puts this phase into the Future Sprints category, along with empathizing. Next, we look at the Ideate phase, where we develop lots of creative ideas.

Since we’re vetting ideas and in the early stages of design here, this will fall into the Upcoming Sprints category. This gives us additional time in our process to further refine these ideas.

olaCreative Blog - Design Thinking & Agile

The fourth phase is Prototype, where we build tactile representations for a range of ideas that we came up with within our previous phase. Depending on where you are in your design process, this phase can either live in the Upcoming Sprints or the Next Sprint category.

You can gauge that by knowing where that item is in the product backlog and knowing how well defined that item is. The less defined an item, the more you’ll want to spend time figuring out what that item entails. The more defined the item, the more time you can spend iterating on the design to prepare it for the next sprint.

The less defined the item, the more time you’ll want to spend testing that Prototype to see how viable it is with users. Next, we have the Test phase, where you get feedback from your users. This phase lives in the Upcoming Sprints category, where you’ll gather feedback from users that will inform design changes. And finally, the Implement phase lives in the Current Sprint category. This is where you’ll be focused on helping the development of teamwork through the active backlog items.

And this area is where you’ll have the most focused effort.

As a designer, working an agile can feel unpredictable at times. Having a better understanding of how much effort to dedicate to tasks can help you keep your sanity.