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Design Technology at the Intersection of Art and Science

Love Notes from Scrum Board

According to the book, Strategy and Business, by Booz and Company’s Barry Jaruzelski, Richard Holman, and Omar Daud, “Globalization has created scores of nimble competitors in every industry; as a result, the product development environment is too volatile for linear, standardized processes. In such a landscape, an approach that embraces the value of flexibility and unpredictability is needed to generate more stable and successful outcomes. Paradoxically, although gated processes are focused on linearity and order, they often result in chaos. In contrast, the agile model, driven by chaos and uncertainty at the front end, yields greater order at the latter stages of product development.” frog has adopted a facet of the agile model, Scrum Methodology, to create a flexible process that adapts to the constantly evolving needs of a client.

Why should I fall in love with Scrum?

As seen with Appie, Scrum methodology allows for flexibility and prioritization of features, going beyond the original scope of a project where appropriate. With this new technology, any iteration becomes a deliverable product, ready to be released to the public, tested and reviewed. Scrum allows the change of a project’s priorities and ensures the most relevant features are released in the right order, allowing a frequent inspection of the roadmap and change according to needs discovered throughout the process Scrum also focuses on the relationships between individuals and the emerging needs for those teams rather than the rigid structure of the process.  The creed of Scrum can be summarized as follows:

- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan

The engagement

Albert Heijn, the biggest supermarket in the Netherlands, started a full Agile collaboration with frog to create a personal shopping service that helps customers remember, choose and obtain their daily groceries. The new service and app (created by a mobile design company), called Appie, gives the list making process a makeover. Users can add anything to their list in any way they prefer. The app harnesses a smart user interface to recognize product names in whatever way the user identifies them, makes suggestions for products to add to a recipe, and can be updated and shared with other users in real-time.

Following earlier successes using the Scrum Methodology, frog employed it over the 16-month project period with Albert Heijn. The core motivation to use this methodology was based on the need for a timely product release. New versions of the Appie online service needed to go online as soon as the feature was created. Another advantage of the Scum methodology is that it enables a cross-country, cross-disciplinary team of both frog and the client the ability to collaboratively change the scope and priority of the project during the process.

After having the first launch of Appie, AH and frog were able to make releases every two weeks. This approach is well supported by the Scrum methodology since the goal of every sprint is to create a releasable product, with updated or new functionalities.

Make your relationship work

To fully activate the Scrum methodology, team members take the design sprint to a new level. After each two-week design sprint of rapid iterations on concepts, there are extensive product demos and retrospectives to evaluate the sprint. But in the spirit of the Scrum’s innovative process, deviations from the process are also documented, aggregated and assessed in order to experiment with new rules of the methodology.

Most people associate Scrum methodology with development. However, at frog, design is always one sprint ahead of the development team in order to ensure that all design be ready before a development sprint begins. During the development sprint the designers are available to support the development team in case of questions or small adjustments required. In this way, designers are concurrently working with developers during the whole process.

In the case of Appie, new features were added so frequently that we were able to harness Scrum to create new releases and quicker feedback loop to incorporate customer feedback related in a minimum time period.

It takes 2 to tango

As from the start of the project we brought all member of the Appie team together to collaboratively create Appie. A product owner and concept developer from Albert Heijn, a number of developers from three different companies, and the frog design team with a dedicated Scrum master formed the team who created Appie.

While working with Albert Heijn, a number of developers from three different companies, testers, the frog design team and a Scrum master were all brought together to collaboratively create Appie. With Scrum, there is no hierarchy in team roles and all team members are responsible for the end result. This joint liability ensured every team member to contribute to the project meaningfully and created seamless collaboration to achieve the final result.

It was also a unique benefit to have a client contact in the project room to give more extensive context beyond the usual touch points like presentations or alignment meetings. This created a culture of transparency, with the client able to ask questions and give feedback on the spot. When the client shifted priorities, the team knew right away and could respond with new insights into methods, processes and team interactions. The constant collaboration required trust, openness, and adherence to respectful criticism.

We all love fun

Aside from being an effective process driven methodology, scrum is also fun, stimulates intra-team cooperation and aligns the team to work together on one goal, of creating a successful product. Creating a project room with all possible scrum artifacts on the wall made all internal team agreements visible and created the opportunity to be playful with the design. The team created the “10 commandments” of scrum, outlining the main rules of the project. They were created by the team to make sure everybody had the same understanding about team expectations and agreements. One of the agreements from the “10 commandments” was that everybody should attend the daily stand-up at 9:30 AM. If was one the team members was in late, this person needed to chip in 5 euro for our beer-list.  The bi-monthly team party, sponsored from the beer-list contributed as well. Introducing this was not only a great stimulation for punctuality, but also helped the team spirit through social events.