Users are one of the two keys to successful implementation.
So here are some thoughts on user involvement:
- User representatives need to be actively, directly and constantly involved in releases:
- In story definition.
- In Release & Iteration Planning, to articulate stories (i.e., before Iteration 0).
- In Iteration 0, to classify how risky, etc. stories are, define Acceptance Criteria, support prioritization, etc.
- During development, to flesh out what stories mean in enough detail for the release team to implement them.
- In Showcases (perhaps).
- In UAT.
- In their own training.
- This is plainly impractical:
- Being a user representative is also a specialist activity: as story writers, testers, etc.
- Users have day jobs too.
- If they are involved in nothing but releases, they will soon cease to be credible users!
- User representatives can find themselves doubly involved (!) if successive releases overlap – as, in any full-tilt Agile environment, they often will.
- There is seldom any training for the specialised skills a user representative needs.
- So I suggest that each operational area should have designated teams of user representatives, all of whom are:
- Designated explicitly as user representatives.
- Properly trained in story-writing, working with developers and in UAT (script writing, data preparation, execution).
- Allocated time to do the job (i.e., they don’t have a full-time day job to do while they are representing their area in a release).
- Explicitly given credit in their personal assessments for actively contributing to improving systems (so others will be motivated to join in too).
- Each area should have at least 2 such teams, and ideally more. That way, all user representatives loop back into the ‘real world’ between releases:
- To refresh their experience.
- To avoid ‘Agile fatigue’.
- Useful users are only a (usually quite small) subset of all actual users. Apart from available, they need to be:
- Expert enough to be able to tell the development team exactly what a story requires.
- Empowered to approve (if not formally accept) the implementation of a story, and if the story turns out not to work as expected, to change it – both without going back to their management for clearance.
And the second key to successful implementation? Senior management. But more of them another time.