Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

Distributed Agile: Stories – Negotiable

with 3 comments

I was recently reading an article about how to write meaningful user stories and towards the end of it the author mentioned the INVEST acronym which suggests that stories should be:

  1. Independent
  2. Negotiable
  3. Valuable
  4. Estimable
  5. Small
  6. Testable

From what I’ve seen the most difficult one to achieve in a distributed context is that stories should be ‘negotiable’, in particular when it comes to negotiating the way that the UX of a bit of functionality should work.

On most of the projects that I’ve worked on the people designing the UX tend to work slightly detached from the development team and then send their designs over as wire frames.

It’s not the most ideal setup even if you’re working onshore but it becomes even more challenging when you’re working offshore.

Typically onshore if a particular user flow was very difficult to implement then one of the developers might go and talk with the UX guys and then explain the problem and give another potential solution.

The trade off between the cost of implementation and the user experience that the UX person has suggested is clearly outlined in these conversations.

When that feedback comes from offshore it has much less impact and I think it comes across much more as a criticism of someone’s work rather than an attempt to be pragmatic in helping the client to deliver a product within a time frame.

One possible solution to this problem if you have some onshore colleagues is to have them go and talk about the problem but we’ve found it difficult to do that because we try to split onshore/offshore stories so that we’re working on different parts of the code base.

Therefore it is pretty difficult for an onshore developer to go and discuss it for you.

To add to the problem we tend to realise the difficult of implementing a certain UX during the middle of our day which means we need to wait half a day to see if we can get it changed.

Given that time lag we often just end up designing it the way that’s been specified so that we don’t ‘waste’ time.

It’s clearly not an idea situation so I’d be keen to hear if anyone has come up with ideas to get around this.

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Written by Mark Needham

January 24th, 2011 at 3:34 am

Posted in Agile,Distributed Agile

Tagged with ,

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  • Hi Mark,

    Sounds like you have a couple problems here. One is, your UX people are not “in” the team (or at best, chickens), while your offshore team members are “mute pigs.”

    Obviously, it would be best for the team to be fully cross-functional and not have outside dependencies for its success.

    However, as a more immediate testable solution, you might have the offshore team prepare their questions/comments in the actual design tool – or as close to it as possible. So if the team doesn’t do Photoshop, they can still use something like SnagIt to mark up the page comps and route them to the UX team either through the onshore team, or directly through email.

    However, the cross-functional team is a better approach and needs to be championed more strongly.

    Hope this helps.

  • Hey,

    Yeh they definitely aren’t in our team, they work independently.

    That’s a cool idea about using snagit – seems worth a shot.

    I don’t think we have the influence to push the cross functional team at the moment.