I’ve launched a few intranets over the last 20 years, however I found moving to an Agile framework truly set the intranet free!
To be perfectly honest I was probably a little sceptical the first time a development team said they wanted to use ‘Agile’. I had developed a good number of intranets over the years and ‘normal’ development approaches seemed to have worked fine in the past.
However I am always open to new challenges and happily signed up for ‘Certified Scrum Product Owner’ training and I really hit the jackpot. The trainer, Gabrielle Benefield (Evolve Beyond), was very experienced and extremely engaging. It was two days training but well worth making the time for, and by the end of the course I was hooked.
The basic steps of the Agile development framework are:
Gather the business requirements
Analyse and break these requirements into the individual features and functionality to create a Product Backlog. Dan Radigan explains more in his article: The product backlog: your ultimate to-do list
Write ‘user stories’ for each item – “As an X, I want to Y, so I can Z”. This enables the developers and testers to understand who requires what, and why. One way of approaching this is a cognitive walkthrough, detailed in this blog by Brendan Carikas.
Work with the development team to estimate the time required to develop each item, then prioritise the items to deliver the Minimum Viable Products (MVP), to be ready to launch to the users
I was then ready to start the first ‘Sprint’, which in our case was two weeks long.
On the first day of each ‘Sprint’ I met with the development team to go through the items I wanted them to work on
Each morning I joined the ‘Stand up’ meeting with the development team to review the progress they had made the day before and hear what they would be doing that day. It also gave everyone a chance to ask any question that had arisen
During the ‘Sprint’ we would meet to ‘Refine the Backlog’ to adjust and agree what were the priorities for the next ‘Sprint’
As the developers finished each item in the ‘Sprint’ it was tested
Then at the end of the ‘Sprint’ the developers demo each completed item
And then it’s back to Step 1 to start the next ‘Sprint’
With Agile development, every bit of functionality becomes a moveable feast and can be refined and developed to hone the user experience.
It’s great because new requirements always come from left field and it allows you to re-prioritise features and functionality throughout the development process.
And after the go-live… Agile allows you to continue the development, to add new functionality and refine the intranet on an on-going basis. This ensures the intranet does not stand still and keeps the users engaged as new features are made available.
The Product Owner role proved to be time consuming but very satisfying! The quality of the end product is great if you put that time in, but it is well worth the effort.
My usability Golden Rules
I was very lucky to work with a great team of developers who with a little guidance from me soon came to share my own Golden Rules:
Technology should be invisible – no one cares what it’s built on
Never compromise on the quality of the user experience
And remember the user plea, ‘Don’t make me think!’