Author Archives: Åsa Cajander

About Åsa Cajander

Researcher in the area of Human Computer Interaction with research interest in eHealth, User Centred Design and HCI Education.

What is Scrum and How is it Scrum Used?

I will kick off the fall by writing a series of blog posts on Scrum, Agile and User Centred design. This was one of my favourite research topics a few years ago, and I collaborated with excellent Marta Larusdottir from Reykjavik University in a studies around this.

Without doubt Scrum is the dominating systems development method in Sweden today. The name “Scrum”, is borrowed from Rugby where a Scrum formation is the one in the image of this blog post. The team is supposed to work tightly together as in this formation, one could guess :-). One can also guess that you are supposed to be male as a member of the team, as the majority of people who play rugby are male 😛

Scrum is really a very simple set of rules, as defined by for example Mike Cohn and presented in the image below:

Scrum .png

Scrum contains a whole set of roles and procedures too that you are recommended to follow, and of course these have unique and special names to make the concept more unique.

Many companies say that they use Scrum, or a Scrumish method. This could mean that they use one part of Scrum, or all of Scrum. We really did not know how organisations used Scrum, so we set up a study to find some answers.

In one of our studies Marta Larusdottir, Yuan Jia and I therefor tried to find out what parts of the Scrum method people use and hos usability is incorporated in the work. You find the below presented results in the following publication:

Yuan Jia, Marta Kristin Larusdottir and Åsa Cajander. (2012). The Usage of Usability Techniques in Scrum Projects. International Conference on Human-Centred Software Engineering, Toulouse, France.

We found out that the usage of the different fundamental activities and roles varied quite a lot. This is presented in the table below. A very large majority used sprint planning, whereas quite few used the burn-down charts. However, one can conclude that the percentage of people who said they used the different methods was generally quite high. There were no companies that claimed that they used Scrum, and then skipped large parts of the fundamental activites.

scrum activities .png



Summer Vacation

It’s summer in Sweden, and most people are on summer holiday 3-6 weeks. I will be working on a few things that need to be finished, but I have decided to take summer holiday from the blogging and I will be back with blog posts on the EIT summer school in Uppsala and Stockholm by the end of August.

UCD Blog Post 3: Problems Encountered when Trying to Institutionalize User Centered Design and UX in Organizations

There are many problems encountered when trying to institutionalize user centered design (UCD) or user experience (UX) related work in organizations. My PhD was called “Usability, who cares? Establishing user centered design in organizations” (I defended in 2010) was related to this topic. It describes our work with the institutionalizing of UCD and UX work in eight different organizations. Some of the things I present in the thesis that makes it difficult to work with UX and UCD are:

User representatives as Adding Extra Value:

  • Working with user representatives is considered optional, hence indicating a perspective on systems development where user participation is not seen as a central part, but as something that adds extra value
  • One of the most prevalent perspectives affecting this choice is time and efficiency. A consequence of the efficiency perspective is seen in the choice of users for the role of user representatives. Here individuals who are used to work in systems development projects, and who know the methods and language used are preferred as representatives, in the interests of efficiency. Often the same people participate in different development projects, and in interviews, some individuals have described that they have not worked with case handling in years. Hence, civil servants become “IT workers” to the extent that this is considered a career path in the organisations. Preferably, the user representatives should also be skilled domain experts, as well as skilled users of the computer systems.

“You pick your dream team. You agree on a theoretical level that it is important to pick new people from the organisation, but when it comes to practice it is difficult.”

Work is Seen and Understood in Terms of Simple Steps and Procedures

  • The studies revealed that there is a gap between the users’ work and the discourse in the systems development. In the systems development projects, the civil servants’ work is frequently discussed in terms of simple steps and operations, that may be predefined and automated in accordance with clearly defined rules and regulations.
  • In complex cases where the computer fails to generate a decision and where human” judgement is required; it was seen as a problem that civil servants have to make decisions. These “human” decisions were seen as subjective and open to interpretations – which is the reason why the computer fails to make them in the first place – and the civil servants making the decisions were seen as incompetent

Usability is a Fuzzy concept

  • Several informants from the IT departments described usability as a vague and unclear concept.

“Usability is really difficult to talk about since it means one thing to me and something completely different to someone else.”

  • Usability experts are few and they felt that they seldom had enough time to do all the activities required. Several of the informants believed that this was due to lack of understanding of what usability is and what usability experts do, as this usability expert describes:
  • In one of the organisations, the internal procurer and the project manager of their sub-project in Satsa Friskt maintain that usability and UCSD are possible to address without any usability experts. Specifically, they estimated that the project would achieve an approximate 80% success if conducted by people without any previous usability experience or specialist knowledge in the field. This indicates a perspective on usability as common sense, as something that is easily incorporated in systems development. Few people in the organisations understand how much work needs to be done in their organisation to incorporate the ideas of usability, or as the project managers of another subproject said:

“This project just gets bigger and bigger [deep sigh]! “


Usability and UX are Difficult to Measure

  • Measurement of usability and user experience is a method much sought after in order to introduce and motivate user-centred design activities. Our research group developed a web based usability index method at CSN that resulted in measurements of usability and UX on three different occasions. During a trial period the questionnaire gradually improved in which questions were clarified and some even deleted.

Working on Ticking off One More Thing on My Research Life Bucket List

Summer holiday is approaching quickly but I will spend some time the coming weeks working on ticking off one of the items on my research life bucket list as well as some other small things. The item that I am addressing on my research life bucket list is “submitting a paper to CHI”. Note that being accepted to CHI is not on the bucket list :-o, at least not at this point in time. The first thing will be to just submit a paper that we believe in and then we’ll see what happens.

As usual I will be working with my excellent colleagues from the HTO group on this paper, and so far, we have taken a few steps on the way.  The first step was to understand what CHI papers look like, and what this community see as quality in research. To address this, we looked up, read and discussed a number of CHI papers in the area of our study. Given that HCI is a very broad area with people coming from different related areas to study humans and technology, there is not one set of principles that guide the CHI papers but it is definitely possible to see some trends. After having read a number of papers I have come to understand that what is needed is a relevant area with an interesting question, a well-designed research study and a well-written paper. I have also seen that the CHI community publish a lot of survey studies, and that there were fewer studies with really qualitative methods such as diaries or field studies (but they existed too).

The paper that we’ll submit will be related to medical records online and a survey that we have done in the Disa project, and the DOME consortium. I have had discussions with my co-authors related to this paper, and we started working on it during the week that passed.

One can wonder if it is a good idea to have a bucket list, or a vision about what one would like to do in the future. Or is it better just to go with the flow and do what you see as good learning experiences. Perhaps you miss out on good opportunities if you follow your bucket list? Hmm. Or perhaps having a bucket list is one way of knowing what you want to do, and what you are inspired by doing. I have a short bucket list that I have had for a few years. I sometimes add things to the list when I get new ideas, but it is more or less a stable list. Do you have a bucket list as a researcher? What would be on your list?

ITiCSE 2017 in Bologna

I spent the last week in Bologna at the ITiCSE 2017 conference. This is one of the computer science education conferences that I usually try to attend. It is quite a small conference, and the papers normally have high quality. It’s indeed a nice community and a conference with a great atmosphere. Someone said that the reject rate this year was around 70% so those who present have usually done good studies. There were indeed many nice discussions at the conference, and I made a few new acquaintances who do research related to my area.

One of the coming years I will have a look at the working groups at ITiCSE and participate in one. They seem to do really good work in interesting areas, and some people spend most of the time at the conference attending these working groups that result in publications related to computer science education and often long lasting collaboration groups. Seems awsome!


Going to ITiCSE in Bologna

Next week I will be going to Bologna and the ITiCSE 2017 conference. It will be a very intresting week with networking possibilities and discussions. There will hopefully also be some room for sightseeing as a part of the conference schedule.

The ITiCSE conference is a yearly ACM conference, and a few years ago we arranged it in Uppsala. At this occasion I was one of the conference chairs, and we hosted a few hundred delegates.


EIT Summer School in Dublin

It’s been a great week in Dublin so far, despite quite cloudy days and occasional rain. The week has been full of good lectures related to the eHealth from different perspectives. The lecture hall in itself was amazing, and during one lunch break we went to visit the old library which was an amazing building (se pictures of this blog)!

There has been many great lectures this week, and I can’t write about them all. Among other things Ann Blandfords presentation of a study made by Hanna Schneider (Msc) of patients different perspcecitves on a system for communicating with health care and the four categories of roles they found in their interveiw material: 1) Controller 2) Collaborator 3) Cooperator 4) Avoider. In this study the self determination theory (Ryan & Deci) was used. I would love to read up some more on that one!

Jonas Moll from the HTO group has written several more detailed blog posts about the lectures and the content. Hop on to his blog and read about these 🙂

Day 1 

Day 2 

Day 3 


Trinity books-2362214__480.jpg

In a few weeks the EIT summer school will meet again in Stockholm and Uppsala. Jan Gulliksen and I have worked out a good schedule that will include a visit to the Visualisation studie at KTH and other things. The day in Uppsala will be organised in conjunction with Region Uppsala and the EPJ division, as well as the DOME consortium. There are indeed good and interesting lectures coming up!


Recommended course: For a Healthy Digital Work Environment

Gerolf Nauwerck and I have been invited to hold seminars and a workshop at this course organised by NIVA. I think that it looks like a very promising course, and the different lecturers will participate and discuss the topic of healthy digital work environment together with the ones who join the course.

Course objectives (copied from page above)

  • To increase knowledge about occupational health issues in relation to the digital work environment
  • To bring together knowledge from different disciplines to propose work organization solutions that ensure recovery, health, performance and productivity, for a sustainable digital work environment.

Sara Thomée, Psychologist, PhD, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, SE  is the main organiser of the course.

 – See you there!


Workshop on Education in a New IT system

I attended a workshop about education in the new economy system this week.  It was a very well organised workshop with representatives from all stakeholder groups involved in the education of the system. The discussion was facilitated by a workshop leader, and we discussed who would get education and and what the education should contain.

The workshop started with a presentation by me and Annika Björklund from the local Ladok project. I presented some general ideas from a study I did on economical staff and IT a few years ago, and Annika presented the ideas they are working with in relation to the Ladok project.

Annika has asked users what they want from education, and they said what is found in this slide:

  • Local support. How do we solve that?
  • Screen sharing with the support people
  • Courses that go deep into topics
  • Workshops where it’s possible to discuss your day to day problems with an expert.

workshop Ekonomi .png

I am very much looking forward to following this project. One part of the project will be rolled out in October, and the rest later on next spring.

UCD Blog 2: What can we do to make better IT systems?

There is quite a lot of evidence both made by researcher and companies such as the Standish group and Google that one of the key success factors when developing computer systems is user involvement.

If you want to work with user involvement in your projects there are many user centered processes to choose from such as UCSD, rapid contextual design, and participatory design. These processes vary some in their values and ways of working, but I have chosen to see them as complimentary and when used in practice they are all good in different ways.

There is even an ISO standard that defines user centered design for those who are curious.

User centered design processes are iterative, and you iterate either between all the stages of the process, or the last three stages depending on the complexity of the organization, the requirements and the system built.

The first step in these user centered processes is to understand the context of use where you specify the user and organizational requirements. This is usually done through using one or several of the following methods:

  • Interviews
  • Meetings with users
  • Workshops
  • Field studies
  • Vision seminars

After you have done work on understanding the context of use you move on to specifying the user requirements. This is usually done through using one or several of the following:

  • Personas descriptions
  • Scenarios
  • User Stories
  • Usability goals
  • Vision seminar documentation

When this is done, you work with producing design solutions of different kinds. This is usually done through using one or several of the following methods:

  • Paper prototypes
  • Wireframes
  • Sketches
  • Prototypes

The last step in this iterative design process is the evaluation of the prototype. This is usually done through using one or several of the following methods:

  • Expert evaluation
  • Prototype interview
  • Formal evaluation (in a lab)
  • Informal evaluation

Knowing how to use user centered methods, in what context and in what format is really a professional skill in itself, and I will not elaborate further on the topic in this blog post but recommend the books Rapid Contextual Design and Användracentrerad systemutveckling (in Swedish) for the curious reader.

The next blog post in this series will elaborate on the problems encountered when trying to establish or institutionalize user centered design and UX in organizations.