Favorite UX / Product Management posts of the week (2010-07-10)

I read quite a few excellent UX/PM posts this week, and wanted to make sure you don’t miss out.  So here are some excerpts from my favorite posts of the week.

User Experience Design in the Agile context

In Agile UX and The One Change That Changes Everything, Anders Ramsy writes about how user experience design can be adopted to fit the agile mold a little better.  He calls for less design up-front to basically embrace the MVP approach instead of fighting it:

The first and probably most fundamental change to flow out of starting to build earlier is that of chopping your up-front design phase down to a fraction of what it might be in a traditional model to allow for establishing a foundation of working software, and then evolving the rest of the product on top of that foundation. In other words, we go from Big Design Up Front to Just Enough Design Up Front.

The rest of the post is devoted to how to do that, including thoughts on lighter, conversation-centered documentation, and the importance of collaborative design.

Enough with the “chicken & pig” story

Speaking of Agile, David Bland wrote an impassioned post arguing that Our Divisive Scrum Terminology Needs to be Deprecated:

Scrum teams succeed or fail as a, well, a team.

If the Product Owner is confused about the role or not living up to expectations, it is the ScrumMaster who should be helping them along the way. If the ScrumMaster is failing at coaching up the Product Owner on the framework, then wouldn’t the ScrumMaster be to blame? But wait, since the team has appointed the ScrumMaster, would they not have failed by choosing one who is incompetent?

W’ll just run in circles pointing fingers because there is no easy answer, and using the Product Owner as the scape goat does nothing to help resolve the situation.

Measurement-driven Product Management

The always brilliant Pragmatic Marketing has a post entitled Measurement-Driven Product Management that should make all of us a little uncomfortable.  But good uncomfortable.  Getting better at your job uncomfortable.  Read the post for details on the proposed ways to measure the success of PM, but this is why they make the case for it:

The long term benefit of Product Management becoming measurement-driven is higher team performance, improved predictability and increased credibility. The ultimate benefit is developing the ability to reliably create outstanding products and market breakthroughs.

Can Product Management operate with this high level of maturity, using a reliable measurements and metrics system with more predictable results in a company?

This “holy grail” of product management performance is doable, but often many cultural and process gaps must be addressed first. An organization fosters a measurement-driven culture by reinforcing other aspects of the process, such as tightly coupling rewards, recognition, compensation and promotion to attainment of operational results. Does yours?

Research and Design, sitting in a tree…

In The product of a healthy relationship, Paul Golden discusses the sometimes rocky relationship between researchers and designers:

Hana Thomas of design consultancy Smallfry agrees that while market research can play a crucial role in product design and development, there are dangers. “There can be an over-reliance on market research, which leads to it being used either as a scapegoat for poor decisions or employed too soon in the creative process, stopping ideas in their tracks before they have even had the chance to be realised.”

Thomas refers to the value of ethnographic research to her company’s work in product development and describes studying people in their own environment, under a relevant context, as the “ideal way” to truly unearth latent needs and desires.

According to Reon Brand, the responsive and listening brand that engages its audiences in the creative process as well as in dialogue has a major advantage in our increasingly social-media driven world. However, all research methodologies have their limitations. While consumers can react to what exists and relate back to what they know, some of the designers surveyed by the Design Council felt that consumers were less able to contribute to the development of completely new product or service concepts for the future.

I just became the mayor of someplace you’ve never heard of

On a slightly different note, I found this RWW called Why We Check In: The Reasons People Use Location-Based Social Networks very interesting.  It presents some research on why we use services like Foursquare and Gowalla, and there are definitely some surprises, like using it to keep track of history:

The thing that surprised me most when I asked people why they use location-based social networks is how many of them say they use it primarily to track their own personal history. It’s a lazy diary, people say.  Some people say they use it to help with their expense tracking on business travels.

Happy reading!