Category Archives: Agile

UX and Agile at the University of Pretoria

Last week I did a lecture at the University of Pretoria where I am visiting this week. There were about 45 students who were really active and interested. I started out the lecture by presenting myself, and then asked them what they knew about UX and Agile. They used Mentimeter when answering the questions, and the distribution revealed that they thought they had moderate to little knowledge. I hope that they know some more about the topic after the lecture 🙂

UX agile mentimeter

I presented some of the work that Marta Larusdotter and I have done and discussed some of the different ways UX work can be integrated in Agile.

We finished the seminar with a role play exercise where they got to dicsuss the different opionions one can meet when working with UX in Agile. When asked what they thought interesting about the excercise most of them said that it was interesting that all opinions about UX and Agile can have valid arguments, event though the opinion in itself is odd.

It was a very intelligent and promising group of students. And I really enjoyed meeting them!

 

 

Uppsala University Psychosocial Care Programme: U-CARE

Since not so long I am connected to “the Uppsala University Psychosocial Care Programme: U-CARE” as a member of an advisory group for the programme (programberedning). 

U-CARE is one of the Swedish government’s strategic research programmes and started in 2010. U-CARE studies how people with physical illnesses and their families are affected psychosocially, and what help they need to deal with various psychological problems. U-care are developing self-help programs for these disorders. They are also working to develop and continuously improve an Internet platform (U-CARE portal) through which it is possible to offer and study the effect of psychosocial support and psychological treatment.

You can find a very informing YouTube film about U-care here: https://media.medfarm.uu.se/play/video/embed/4392

A few weeks ago Helena Grönqvist visited our department to present their work with U-care and the how the programme has developed. You can find the seminar at the seminar series on “Current Challenges in Biomed-IT”

 

 

In this seminar Helena Grönqvist talks about that they forgot to include the users in a structured way when developing the U-care platform and that they ran into problems due to this mistake. She also talked of the problems they encountered using Scrum and Agile.

(Not including the users is really a very common mistake, and I have written a few papers on user are included in Scrum projects (You find some of them here at Reserach Gate). Such a common mistake!)

They have now changed their way of developing the U-care portal so they now have a cyclical process where the users are included and a part of the development.

Some of the challenges that U-care face in the future, according to Helena Grönqvist, are:

  • New technology changes what users want. Do they need to have the portal avaliable on different platforms?
  • Legislation and for example the professors’ privelege is a problem since they want U-care knowledge to be open access.
  • Implementation problems: It takes 17 years until their innovation is implemented in health care. How can we make things move faster?

I am really looking forward to continuing this work and I will keep you updated on the work. 🙂

Seminar on Digital Work Environment with Examples from Health Care and DOME

Last week Gerolf Nauwerck and I did a presentation about Digital Work Environment at the Swedish Ergonomic Society’s yearly meeting. This blog post will shortly describe this presentation. It was the first time that Gerolf and I presented together, but despite limited time for preparing it went really well much thanks to Gerolf and an enthusiastic audience.

Gerolf started off the presentation by discussing the term Digital Work Environment that is used by for example Digitaliseringskommissionen, Prevent and Vision. For example Digitaliseringskommisionen defines it as:

 “The work environment in the digital economy”.

There is no scientific definition of the word, and in research other terms are used such as work engagement and healthy work.

Twenty years ago there were numerous different professions that worked with different tools, but working life has changed and today most work is done using a computer or an iPad, or other ICT technology, see image below:

arbete-fo%cc%88ra%cc%88ndring

When looking at the digital work environment there are numerous alarm reports from health care such as Isabella Scandurras “Disturbing or Facilitating“. Most health care professionals use around 25 different computer systems in their work, and these are often not connected or made to work well together even though they spend much of their time working through these systems. Physicians spend around 50% of their time working with the computer, and around 50% doing other things such as meeting patients. There are numerous media articles about the problems with ICT in health care, see the picture of the blog post. The problems are alarming, and health care professionals are as a consequence not always positive to changes related to IT.

One example of digitalisation in health care is medical records online for patients. Most physicians and nurses are very worried of the effects of this system. Mostly they are worried about the effects on the patient, but they are also worried about the effects on their work environment through the following changes:

  • Changes in well established work routines
  • Time pressure
  • Less time for preparation
  • Increased risk of misjudgements

Health care is not the only area where the digital work environment is problematic. Unionen (one of the largest Swedish unions) distribute a yearly or biannual survey to their members to investigate the digital work environment. The sub-titles of their reports called “The digital work environment of white-collar workers” tell us about the results from the survey:

2008: Why doesn’t it get better?

2010: A system error?

2011: Always online – never relaxed

2012: One step forward and two steps back

2014: No lightning ahead

In the seminar we continued with discussing what is known about software development and success factors, and we presented the results from the CHAOS report and research reports that show that one of the most important things when developing good IT for work is user involvement. But I guess that you already knew that 🙂

 

Working with Usability in Scrum Projects – what Usability Activities are Used in Practice?

A few years ago Yuan Jia worked with Marta Larusdottir and me as a master student doing her master thesis study in our research project on Agile development and UCD.

There was lack of studies describing to what extent different user centred methods were used in Scrum projects, so this became the topic of Yuan Jia’s master thesis, and which resulted in a conference paper. I remember that we had a very good collaboration with Yuan Jia, who now is a PhD student in the US.

When designing the study we quickly ran into problems with the number of respondents to our web based questionnaire. We did not have the mail contact information to people in organisation working with Scrum and user centred design. First we distributed the survey through the Uppsala Tax Office and LokaIdelen which is a website offering information to companies in Sweden. I also remember Yuan Jia’s long lists of company names and phone numbers as she systematically contacted company after company. Tedious work, but to be honest research work can be very much administration from time to time. In the end we had around 50 people who answered the survey 🙂

The survey has some interesting results, se Figure below. The most commonly used usability technique in Scrum projects is workshops, followed by lo-fi prototyping, interviews and meetings with users, all used by more than half of the participants.

One can note that all these usability techniques are informal, meaning that these techniques can be used quickly without much preparation. Formal usability evaluation with users is a highly ranked technique by the participants but not commonly used by them.

 

the-usage-of-usability-techniques

 

We presented the paper at the Human Centred Software Engineering Conference (HCSE) in 2012.

You find the paper here.

 

On the Future of Software Engineering by Ivar Jacobson

I listened to a very interesting key note by Ivar Jacobson on the future of software engineering. Many of the things he said were spot on true, and some were a bit provocative and I disagree, but the talk was still very interesting.

Ivar Jacobson starts his key note with a historical overview of the history of software engineering, and the presentation included reflections on organisational learning and good practices. According to Jacobson there has been a few different paths in software engineering, but very little learning from past experiences. Software developers are not trained in learning from the past, and to rework and improve. They are trained in doing new things. I think he has a point here, and this is a wider phenomena than something unique for software engineering:

“Every new path starts by throwing away what you had and starting all over with new vocabulary, “new” practices, new gurus”

When talking about Agile, Ivar Jacobson claims that it is definitely a good practice. He claims that if you are a methodologist you need to be out of marketing, otherwise you are out of the game, and Agile has succeeded here. The method also needs to be accepted and appreciated by the software developers, and there is where Agile is successful. However, he also claims that many of the good practices and things we learned about software development was thrown over board when moving to agile:

“I am a firm believer in Agile, but lots were lost when we moved to Agile.”

One cornerstone of learning in an organisation, according to Jacobson, is the common ground and a common vocabulary. And we need methodologies, processes and a common vocabulary to coordinate the work with ITC in organizations. Work that includes several thousand people cannot be only creative design.

We also need to know more about how software developers learn, and how the marketing of new methods work. I really agree with this, and studies of learning in relation to software engineering is really a part of my interest. Ivar Jacobson continues by  saing that people learn through using, and working with methods, and he is reflecting on the use of books as a source of learning:

“People buy the books, but they don’t read them. How do we know what they know?”

Finally Ivar Jacobson presents the concepts of Essence, which is built on previous methods and ideas. According to Jacobson Essence is:

Essence – a standard that defines the smallest set of concepts that are common to all software projects – helps embed agile professional practices and governance across an organization for sustainable, scalable and responsive solution delivery.

The future of software engineering is human centred, of course, but there is still some way to go before we are there . According to Ivar Jacobson the way forward is to create a learning organisation, that includes a kernel of common concepts and knowledge. I agree with him completely, and the problem is how to create this situation. Perhaps action research and practice oriented research is the answer to this question?

 

Robots Instead of Health Care Professionals??

I listened to the introductory key note from the conference Human Centred Software Engineering by the very inspiring Danica Kragic on social robotics.

Clearly robots such as avatars of humans will influence work very much in the future. One of the areas of application is health care. Danica Kragic mentioned health care services such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and research has indicated that this might be a possible future avenue. Physicians would collaborate with robots in their work, and part of the work would be replaced by robots such as some part of the therapy.

Hmm. One can wonder what the reactions from physicians would be if we start doing research on replacing them with robots or machines? And how would the patients react to robots? Perhaps not as negative as one could think?

One can also wonder how the professional competence of health care professionals can be transfered to robots?  Is this possible?

BTW: If you haven’t listened to Danica Kragic’s Sommar, I highly recommend it (in Swedish only, though) 😀

“How do we design Work 4.0? “

 

Technology change human work, changes responsibilities, change decision making and we are losing knowledge and competencies, according to a paper by Holger Fischer and Björn Senft presented at the Human Centred Software Engineering Conference. Their research is then on how organisations should work to ensure that the systems build to support this work are usable, and conform with standards. Unfortunately the paper does not present the silver bullet to how this should be done ;-).

This research is indeed very relevant for my research group as it is a complex issue to design ICT that works well. Hmm. But after a few years in the area of ICT and work, we are getting a bit disillusioned about the state of the art when it comes to ICT at work. Or as one of my colleagues in the group joked :

“I do research on how to introduce new ICT systems for work in organisations without breaking the organisation down “

 

Visit to the Visualization Studio at KTH

The conference reception for Human Centred Software Engineering yesterday was at the KTH Visualization studio.

We got the possibility to try different Virtual Reality Games. Of course I tried all available devices!

planetarium

The visit also included a 3D planetarium demonstration with an extremely interesting presentation of the possibilities of technology.

Very cool indeed!!

If you ever get the chance – go there and try it! 🙂

Responsibilities and Challenges of Product Owners at Spotify – Conference Paper

Today we presented our paper Responsibilities and Challenges of Product Owners at Spotify at the Human Centred Software Engineering Conference at KTH in Stockholm. The paper is written together with Sigurhanna Kristinsdotti and Marta Larusdottir

The Product Owner is responsible for the list of requirements and the work in the team together with the Scrum Master in the context of agile development. 

What did we do? 

In 2014 we did a study at Spotify. They have used agile development since 2006, and they focus much on usability as their slogan is “It’s easy”. Spotify reached 39 million subscribers in 2016!

The main research questions in the paper were:

  1. What are the main responsibilities of the Product Owners
  2. What are the challenges of a Product Owner, and how does he or she cope with them?

What did we find? 

  • Most of them found it hard to mesure 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 Product Owners struggled with
  •   “I think it‘s important that the POs see to it that the team has a vision – that they know what it is – but i don‘t thing it is solely the PO who creates that vision, I think that the team does that together, but the PO is responsible for having it.“

 

The visions needs to be understood and appreciated by the teams, and the product owners do not want to use their authority to make decisions:

 “You can ususally see when the team has set the goals as a whole rather than the goals being delivered from someone else.“

The main results 

The Product Owner role is very diverse. The challenges are many, and the job is very multifaceted.

The Product Owners need to have one foot in the daily work of the Scrum teams, and one foot in the future.