a cat  looking at  a rooster, who  is looking back at  it, with a BB  toy in between
PHOTO: Daniel Tuttle

User experience takes time. So when businesses introduce agile approaches, what typically happens during planning is people outside the UX domain massively  underestimate the time it takes to complete UX tasks. UX is then left with the crumbs after business analysts, engineering and others carve out the time they would like for the project.

Without asking the UX team what tasks they will do, how long they will need, and what people or tools are required, timeframes will always go awry.  

Bad Timelines Beget Culture and Project Problems

Culture problems arise when people who don’t understand UX make assumptions about how fast and simple the work is. This leads to interpersonal conflicts and morale issues where qualified UX workers struggle with the question of why so few teammates seem to know what their job is. Nobody in a planning meeting would say, “Developers just write words on a screen. That sounds easy. Give them a day or two.”

So if people don’t understand what UX specialists do, why, or how, yet try to guess how long UX needs to do their work, projects can appear to be “derailed” when UX asks for the time they actually need. This opens the door to a great deal of risk associated with delivering poor quality products and services.

Related Article: Is Your Approach to Agile Smooth Sailing or Firefighting?

Allow UX to Establish Its Own Timeline

The solution is simple. UX must be part of every discussion, especially the early ones. UX should be strategically involved at the portfolio, program and project levels, and be part of the agile team. It’s the only way to have the right budgets and timelines from the start. A domain expert should be strategizing and estimating for their own domain without making assumptions about any other domain.

Related Article: UX and Agile Can Work Together, But It'll Take Some Creativity

Otherwise, We’re Not Agile or Lean

Toyota’s eight original types of lean waste we should cut include “non-utilized or under-utilized talent.” Being lean is not circumventing, skimping on, or minimizing UX work. Companies hiring qualified CX and UX practitioners but treating them as order takers, a pair of grunt work hands, or screen sketchers are guilty of the lean sin of under-utilized talent. Without a better architected and designed customer experience, these companies are also likely to be guilty of the bigger lean sin of releasing defective products to the public.

Agile principle number five states, “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”

What is the environment and support that UX needs? What tasks might they do on a project? What time, headcount and tools will they need? How much are they planning to get done in the next sprint? You'll find the answers by collaborating with UX and asking them directly.