Communication and PR are an important part of innovation and change. People use social media and Wikipedia to understand reality to a large extent. Through these channels we create the truths. (Or alternative truths :-o). Hopefully in parallel with other more traditional media channels. Even though communication and PR are very important for success, there are very few courses in the IT related programs at the university level that deal with this.
The students in the IT in society class has always marketed their work with an invitation to their presentation the final week, but this year we have put a more explicit focus on communication and marketing of their work.
They have one group of students who will work with communication and PR. It will be interesting to see what they choose to do! It will also be interesting to see what effects this will have on how known the course is, and how well they manage to communicate the results to media, other students, county councils etc.
We know that the students will submit an abstract to Vitalis and if they are accepted a few of them will go there and present in April. Last year the students did a fabulous job presenting at Vitalis 🙂
The equal opportunities team at the Department of Information Technology (previously gender equality group) goes on a retreat to beautiful Krusenberg herrgård every year. We spent 24 hours discussing and evaluating the work in the group and planning our work ahead.
I must say that we have an excellent group and there are so many great discussions. I especially appreciate the effort of my colleague Anna-Lena Forsberg who collaborate with me in organising and keeping track of our work. We also have excellent help from the equal opportunities expert Nina Almgren from the university administration.
Equal opportunities work should be integrated in all parts of the core activities in an organisation. It includes working with organisational culture and aspects such as transparency and knowledge. The aim is to create an organisation where everyone has the same opportunities, rights and obligations. This is not easily done though.
Next year our focus of the groups work is firstly to increase our knowledge of equal opportunities. We have an ambitious plan and the first thing that happens is the organisation of an Equal Opportunities course open for everyone at the department. I’m looking forward to attending this course and to learning more about the area. 😊
Agile software development affects working with users and user centred design. In our series of papers comparing agile with other development processes we did a paper based on a survey to IT professionals in Iceland. One of the interesting questions was what these people put emphasis on in their work. Do they emphasize clients’ satisfaction, user satisfaction, customer satisfaction or maybe all of the three? The main results show that both user and client satisfaction is emphasized by professionals using Agile, but for professionals using other processes such as their home-grown process or the traditional waterfall approach, the focus is user satisfaction.
We could also see that in Agile it was more common to gather feedback from users than in other software development processes. When asked about how often the participants gather feedback from stakeholders including uses customers, clients, colleagues and friends one can see that those using agile frequently consulted colleagues or friends (66% 1-3 times a month or more often). Fifty percent of them consulted uses at least once a month, but only 20% consulted customer, see table below.
One should note that the survey involved a relatively small number of participants (N=42), and thus can be seen as an exploratory work that can inform our future work.
If you are interested in reading, you find the paper here
Abstract: The emphasis on User Centred Design (UCD) in agile systems development processes (Agile) has been studied from various perspectives. The context of Agile strongly affects the possibilities for IT professionals to conduct user-centred activities in their work. In this paper, we describe a survey study comparing the responses from professionals using Agile processes and other software development processes. Specifically, we explore the values and perspectives that professionals emphasise in their work, whether feedback is gathered from stakeholders, and how frequently feedback is gathered. The main results show that both user and client satisfaction is emphasised by professionals using Agile, but for professionals using other processes such as their home-grown process or the traditional waterfall approach, the focus is user satisfaction. The survey involved a relatively small number of participants (N=42), and thus can be seen as an exploratory work that can inform our future work
If you want to be promoted in academia you need to write an application for promotion. Research has shown that women are less likely to ask for promotion, even when qualified, and some would say that we have a very harsh view you of our own qualifications. Others would say that this is due to the context, as the assessment of women’s CV’s is gendered. You find an interesting paper on the topic here. I would say that the problem is the result of a mix of both perspectives.
Perhaps one way of handling this is to encourage women and to facilitate the writing of the promotion documents? In our gender equality work we think that this could be a possible way forward, and we therefore a fund a retret for writing documents for promotion.
Hence, in December, the gender equality group will organize a retreat for writing applications for promotion. People working at the Department of information technology want to write applications for being promoted to for example Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor or Excellent Teacher are very welcome to join. I will organize the retreat together with Aletta Nylén and Anna Eckerdahl from the UpCERG research group. All three of us will also be writing applications for a promotion this fall.
The idea of the retreat is both to encourage people to write applications, and to create an awareness of what is needed to be promoted. We also hope that those who join the retreat will find support in each other, and that this network will help in the future too. And of course we hope that the retweet will result in a number of applications for promotion.
We have been in contact with all women at the Department who are close to being promoted, and sent them a personal invitation. We have also contacted men who we know are at this stage in their career. I must say that this part of the job was one of the most rewarding things done in a long time. People were very happy about being asked!
Hopefully this will be an interesting and fruitful occasion. If you’re curious you find a tentative plan here, and I’m very glad if you want to reuse this idea! Perhaps you could organise a similar thing at your university?
Working as a leader in agile is challenging. You need to find a balance between being the authoritative leader and being that supporter of the teamwork. A few years ago we did a study to try to understand the products owners and their work, looking at the following questions: .
- What are the main responsibilities of the Product Owners
- What are the challenges of a Product Owner, and how does he or she cope with them?
What did we find?
- Most of the product owners found it hard to measure the value when developing new features
- Some Product Owners use the number of users as their main parameter of success
- To lead the vision was a difficult responsibility that the Product Owners struggled with
The abstract of the paper:
In Scrum, the Product Owner (PO) role is crucial for the team to be successful in developing useful and usable software. The PO has many responsibilities and challenges, including being the link between customers, other stakeholders and their development teams. This exploratory case study conducted at the software development company Spotify focuses on POs three responsibilities: (a) Identification of customers, (b) Estimation of value of their teams’ work and c) Forming a vision for the product. Additionally, challenges perceived by the POs are studied. Data was gathered through five interviews and on site observations. Results show that the POs activities are divided between daily work, such as making sure that their teams are functional and long-term activities such as making a vision for the product. The main challenge of the POs is to inspire and encourage team members to collaborate and communicate within the team and with stakeholders.
You find this paper and research gate if you’re interested in reading it.
I would claim that the Learning outcomes of the IT society course are very different from most courses at the University. The IT in society class has focus on development of professional competencies.
The learning outcomes specified of the course are:
- Collaborate in a large project with an external client, and present a professional solution, both orally and in written form to the client.
- Handle, validate and analyse a very complex and multi-facetted problem in a constructive manner in a project group.
- Evaluate, criticize and validate solutions to IT-related problems from perspectives such as ethics, sustainable development, work environment, economy and usefulness.
- Illustrate, show and describe experiences from working in a multi-cultural distributed project.
- Evaluate and analyse one’s abilities and competencies regarding working in a multi-cultural and distributed project, as well as develop strategies that lead to lifelong learning.
In this blog post I will be talking about the last learning outcomes in the list above, number 5. The learning outcome that people should have the ability to evaluate and analyse one’s abilities and competencies, and to develop strategies for lifelong learning in the area of Computer science.
We have been working on creating a learning environment where it is possible to develop and practice the lifelong learning competence. And we have improved the environment quite a lot over the years. This is how we do it this year:
- First, we have a traditional lecture about professional competencies. We present one way of looking at these competencies and what they consist of. We have chosen to work with the competences developed by Curtin University.
- Second, we have a workshop with the students where they write their own personal learning agreement. These learning agreements should include
- Why they have chosen three specified competencies to work with during the course.
- What they will do to develop their confidence in the three areas.
- How they will know that they have improved. And how faculty can know that they have improved.
- Third, we have meetings with groups of three students. In these meetings, the students present their learning agreement, and we discuss it together as well as the social strategies to improve that competence.
- Often this meeting is followed by a second meeting where we do the same thing in the first meeting since the students need more help in writing these learning agreements.
- By the end of the project we meet again in the same groups to discuss what happened during the semester, and how they were able to fulfil their learning agreement.
We have written a few papers on this topic and you find them here:
- Cajander, Å., Daniels, M., McDermott, R., & Von Konsky, B. R. (2011, January). Assessing professional skills in engineering education. Australian Computer Science Communications, vol 32, pp 73-78. (pp. 145-154). Australian Computer Society, Inc.
- Clear, T., McDermott, R., Parsjö, E., Cajander, Å., Daniels, M., & Lagerqvist, N. (2016, October). A framework for writing learning agreements. In Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2016 IEEE (pp. 1-8). IEEE.
- Peters, A. K., Hussain, W., Cajander, A., Clear, T., & Daniels, M. (2015, July). Preparing the global software engineer. In Global Software Engineering (ICGSE), 2015 IEEE 10th International Conference on (pp. 61-70).
Anders Klingberg has done some interesting work related to the intention and motivation among emergency care staff to use smartphones for burn injury tele-consultation. He has been looking at burn care in South Africa and in Tanzania where these kinds of injuries are quite common, especially in young children. One of the problems that they have found is the burn diagnosis and initial treatment, and they investigate the use of smart phones for burn injury consultation.
Yesterday Anders Klingberg presented his work at Karolinska Institutet, and I was a part of a committee of three people who discussed his work with him. So far he only has one published paper, but there are more papers to come – so watch out for them 🙂
One can claim that Agile development has positive attitudes towards continuously improving work practices of IT professionals and the quality of the software. There is a clear focus on learning and teamwork, as well as communication in Agile.
A few years back we did a study on Agile with a focus to understand continuous improvement and how it works in practice.
This study focused on value adding activities such as user involvement and gathering metrics. We also looked at non-value adding activities, such as correcting defects.
Interviews were conducted with 10 IT professionals working with agile development in Iceland.
Results show that IT professionals emphasise communication with users both through direct contact and using email. Results also show that they rarely use metrics to make improvements measurable. One can wonder why this is the case in the ara of New Public Management when everyting needs to be measured to be visible?
You find more about this in our paper:
Lárusdóttir M.K., Cajander Å., Simader M. (2014) Continuous Improvement in Agile Development Practice. In: Sauer S., Bogdan C., Forbrig P., Bernhaupt R., Winckler M. (eds) Human-Centered Software Engineering. HCSE 2014. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 8742. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
One can conclude that uses centred systems design (UCSD) has much to gain when integrated into Agile systems development. Agile is the de facto Standard of systems development whereas UCSD is it not at all as commonly used. However when looking into the UCSD activities in agile processes in practice one can see that this integration it’s not that easy. In a paper by Jan Gulliksen, Marta Larusdotter and me we therefore conclude that UX professionals need a more explicit role and more authority when working in the agile projects.
We have contacted numerous interviews studies and survey studies on agile and UCSD, and we decided to bring together all these published studies together with additional experiences to make some general conclusions about agile and UCSD.
82 IT professionals in country 1
Published paper: Larusdottir et al. 2009 – 
25 IT professionals from 18 software companies working on Scrum projects in country 1 in the survey, 6 IT professionals in interviews
Published paper: Larusdottir et al. 2010 
49 IT professionals working in Scrum projects mainly in country 2
Published paper: Jia et al. 2012 
21 IT professionals interested in usability and UX in country 2
3 Published papers: Cajander et al. 2013, Larusdottir et al. 2012, Larusdottir et al. 2014 [11, 34, 35]
10 IT professionals in country 1
Published paper: Larusdottir et al. 2014 – 
Table : An overview of the studies that are analyzed in the paper presented in this blog post.
In the paper we analyse how findings according to th for values presented in the agile manifesto To understand the constraints that the scrum process imposes.
Based on our theoretical analysis on UCSD and Agile, the studies analyzed and the experiences gained we would like to suggest the following general guidance to projects adopting an agile methodology, such as Scrum, that has the goal to focus on usability and UCSD, sorted under the respective heading:
Individuals and Communication
- Define the responsibility for Usability and UX for all roles; team members, Scrum master and PO.
- Team members responsible for Usability and UX should regularly have face-to-face communication with the actual users and at least once during each sprint.
- Team members should make use of multiple channels for feedback, such as social media, user forums or tweets to include the users in parallel with face-to-face communication
- State a clear vision for Usability and UX in an early phase and refer back to it regularly to check, if it should be changed.
- Define measurable goals for Usability and UX and evaluate regularly with users, if the goals are met
- In evaluation with users, it should be checked if the system fulfills the user requirements.
- Evaluations should be conducted regularly to measure how satisfied the users are and how valuable the software is for them – at least every second sprint.
- Give the person responsible for evaluating Usability and UX a mandate to influence the subsequent project planning – Give them “License to kill”!
- A communication plan should be established, for the PO, Scrum master and the team to understand the results of the evaluations.
- The result of the evaluation needs to lead to measures that must be commissioned and followed up.
Responding to change
- Define themes for the retrospective meetings and make improving the Usability and UX as one of these themes.
- Prioritize change requests from users highly, that support a competitive advantage for the users perspective.
If you want to know more you find the paper here:
Larusdottir, M., Gulliksen, J., & Cajander, Å. (2017). A license to kill–Improving UCSD in Agile development. Journal of Systems and Software, 123, 214-222.
Susanna Heyman did a splendid job defending her PhD thesis last week. The thesis is about visualizing financial futures. She has worked in the area of designing for people to understand how their economy will look like when they retire. Susanna Heyman had done a classical iterative design process with several interesting iterations and methods to understand the user. The methods used were both qualitative and quantitative, and in her thesis she describes how the design has evolved. In the thesis you can also find some of the dead ends and that one also run into when you do design or a creative work. This is not the conventional way of writing a thesis, but it was nice to see how non- straightforward design work can be.
I found the background section extremely interesting and well-written. People really think in old ways when it comes to understanding economy and being affected by context. The background section connected to areas of research that were unknown to me, and I’m always interested in learning new things :-). I also appreciate all kinds of research that aims at understanding people and their thinking. People are really fascinating and interesting!
The PhD contributes to a pressing issue in society, at least in Sweden. The opponent at the defence started out by telling that 50% of all women in Sweden only get the minimum retirement sum, which is not at all a lot of money. Many Swedes don’t even think about their retirement and since economy has changed, in parallel with other things such as us living longer, the budget for a retirement is much lower than it used to be. People are also very lazy and don’t find out about their retirement economy and they don’t have the Financial literacy to understand many tools. Hence Susanna Heyman’s thesis is a very important piece work and I really hope that it will be used by banks or other companies in order to make people understand their economy of me in the future.
In the morning before the defence KTH had organised seminars given by the three people on the committee and by the opponent. Their seminars were 15- 20 minutes long which sounds like quite a short period, but I really appreciate it giving short insights into different areas. It was also obvious that the members of the committee and the opponent at excellent presenters, and experts over their different fields. I really enjoyed listening to all this and I’m looking forward to listening to the opponent and the committee at next week’s PhD defence.