Table of Contents
Personal Critique Paper
Initially, software development was conducted through a step by step computerized procedure with clearly outlined activities and deliverables. According to Larusdottir, Gulliksen, and Cajander (2016), mostly, the software engineering process adopted the waterfall model, because it made it easy to plan and predict work. Nonetheless, in 1990, the concepts of iterative software development appeared. In practice, although the User Experience professionals’ community tends to disagree, the iterative design is also one of the cornerstones of the User-Centered Systems Designs (UCSD). Notably, the transition from the traditional waterfall to the agile model supports fully the transition of software engineering process shifting towards continuous software deployment and in future the R&D, serving as an innovation experiment process. Currently, the agile model ad specifically Scrum is more or less an actual standard for software engineering. In fact, a majority of the experts supporting the methodology believe that it is possible to automatically develop usable systems and in a user-centered process. Consistently, the article by Larusdottir et al. purposed to review previous literature, to develop a research backed up by previous literature to understand the agile model and UCSD. The authors investigated and compared the agile methodology and UCSD both in theory and in practice. The hypothesis was that the agile development may not be the same in theory and in practice, but they influence each other.
In today’s modern world, the increasing importance of software has made the software engineering process to constantly change in a bid to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to achieve the needed quality. Usability is now a quality of immense significance for iterative software. Unfortunately, as Larusdottir et al. (2016) noted, agile methodologies cannot guarantee to deliver this level of quality. The same is supported by Masood, Masood, and Onn (2015), who stated that majority of the agile approaches currently involve and use the interactive user interface design, which is only achievable through the UCD. However, the integration of the UCSD with the current agile models is not clear. Consistently, the research was carried out to realize the full potential of previous research in the general conclusion of the integration of the Agile development process with the UCSD. The paper contributes to previous research that attempted to understand the possibility of integrating Agile software development process and UCSD processes. It will help software developers understand ways in which the agile methodology supports or fails to support UCSD and the requirements and steps necessary to enable an integration of the two processes.
The research focused on previously published studies alongside additional experiences to come up with some general conclusions about the Agile and the UCSD processes. More specifically, the authors argue that usability is a critically significant quality in iterative software, but despite their popularity, Agile approaches cannot guarantee to meet this level of quality. Following the argument, the authors outlined the theoretical background with UCSD on one side and the Agile software development processes on the other side. To start with, there are several different types of user-centered design, but the focus is narrowed down to a stronger concept of User-Centered Systems Designs (USCD), which is a software development process, focused on the highest level of usability. Viewed from the perspective of a process, UCSD uses the following principles. Firstly, it involves developing usable systems by understanding the users and the context of use. It also involves converting the software requirements into design, then evaluating the design in the context of the user and in accordance with the predefined iterative process. Notably, the most important aspect is the contextual nature of the UCSD, which requires observations, field studies, and evaluations to be done in context to benefit the user as much as possible. Along with that, the authors argue that it is important to understand the context of the development project, which is the context of design. Focusing on the context of design, several factors are associated with the ability to develop usabilities such as the organization, internal factors from both the developer and client organizations, methodologies and tools used, relationship between the client and the developer among others. The authors further argue that understanding the current context of use is a challenging but necessary task involving substantial levels of design.
On the other hand Agile model is a process used to manage and control software development using iterative and incremental approaches (Masood et al. 2015). As further noted by Larusdottir et al. (2016), scrum is one of the most popular Agile processes and is often preferred because it is fast and easy to implement. The process provides software developers with a mechanism to enhance communication between them and the clients and shift the focus from coding, and thus focusing on the planning and goal setting of the whole process. Another factor that makes Scrum the most preferred process is the fact that it places more importance on the contribution of the whole team and not just one individual, which historically has been proven to yield better results. Other desirable factors include the Sprint, which allows 15 to 30 days iteration and the flexibility to integrate UCSD activities during the project process.
Along with the understanding of the agile development process and the UCSD, the authors further explore the basic values in the two processes – more specifically, the integration of Agile development and UCSD. Ideally, according to Larusdottir et al. (2016), researchers have attempted to analyze the conditions under which, Agile and UCSD processes may integrate and work together. Unfortunately, some findings claim that agile development process does not meet the necessary requirements to support UCSD processes. Nonetheless, it was noted that some basic values and certain methods of the Agile development process have the potential to integrate with the UCSD processes. Some of the result findings concluded that successful integration of the agile method and the UCSD would require balancing between the two in terms of teams and allocation of sufficient resources. Key members must be involved fully in important decisions and recognize the role of the users in the project. Similarly, as Masood et al. noted, a majority of the agile projects currently adopt interactive user interface design, which is only possible if developers adopt the UCSD process. In addition to the above agile approaches emphasizes the importance of consulting with the customer, despite the challenges in defining who the customer is during the software development process.
Based on this argument, the authors build upon qualitative interview studies and surveys focusing on usability and user experience profession involved in Agile development projects. The purpose was to draw upon the discussions and analysis with the practitioners, explore, and understand how well the Agile methodology fits in the usability and user experience activities. To support their argument, the authors interviewed 37 IT professionals and collected data from 158 professionals from two countries using Agile approaches. The results from the interviews and surveys were then integrated into a synthesis paper and the authors analyzed the results based on the four main principles of the Agile manifesto. More specifically, the authors used the 12 principles behind the manifesto to structure their findings. Firstly, the Agile manifesto recognizes the importance of developing projects with a team of motivated individuals. Results emphasized the importance of considering and engaging individuals as an important process in both the Agile and UCSD. However, a slight variation is present in that, Agile does not consider the user when focusing on the individual as is the case with the UCSD process. Consequently, it becomes hard for UX professionals to fit in the team culture of Scrum, which is strong and not as flexible the UCSD. The autonomy of trusting the ability of the team to distribute and deliver the project without supervision is viewed as an important asset in the development, a characteristic that is further supported by (Mchugh, Conboy, and Lang 2012).
Another principle states that the working software should be delivered frequently from a couple of weeks to months, which indicates a preference to a short timescale. According to Larusdottir et al., the agile methodology makes it hard for IT professionals to maintain the vision for the complete user experience since the project is more focused on developing small parts in each sprint and not gathering the complete data on the objective of the project. On the other hand, the agile approach follows a prototype to ensure the software meets the capacity it is intended to fulfill. The other principle, which is also regarded as the first Agile principle it states that their highest priority is to meet the needs of the customer through the early and continuous delivery of the software. Early in the software development process, developers do an informal evaluation to assess if the software is valuable and satisfies the customer. Other principles related to the qualities of the software include, the best software come from self-organizing teams, a collaboration between the user and developers is important, which is also a key factor in UCSD. Along with that, promotion of a sustainable development is important and the collaboration of the stakeholders is important. The other agile principle states that welcoming change even late in development is important to harness the competitive advantage of the software to the user. The same is supported by the UCSD, which is a natural part of the iterative development. Lastly, in Agile approach, teams reflect at regular intervals on ways to be more effective and adjust their behavior accordingly. The mechanism as Stellman and Greene (2017) notes, is important because it helps question ways in which, work can be improved or made better to meet the quality aspects.
In view of the arguments/evidence presented, the authors present to the reader convincing arguments, supported by evidence and relevant. The authors take a holistic view when presenting their argument, backed up by evidence from existing literature and quantitative studies to support their claims.
Over the years, the software development processes have evolved. Numerous methods and models have been adopted to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the process. The major contribution of the paper to the software developers is informing them that agile software engineering process does not support UCSD activities through the process itself, but it also does not prevent it. As we undertake to build an interface for dementia patients, the paper gives a comprehensive overview of what it will require of us if we undertake to work with UCSD in an Agile approach. One important lesson learned is that, when working with UCSD in an Agile approach, it is important to let the person responsible for evaluating the software Usability and UX the authority to influence subsequent project planning. As mentioned above, the ideas acquired will be applied in the design and development of an interface for dementia patients.
Evidently, integrating the Agile development process and the UCSD process is a challenge because of the conflicting values and attitudes involved in the two approaches. It is clear that the Agile development process is based on hastening the development process and focuses on coding and development of functional requirements as well as running the software. On the other hand, the UCSD emphasizes on making the system usable and communicating with the users, which can be time-consuming. Nonetheless, a successful integration of the UCSD and the Agile development process is possible, but only if the usefulness of the UCSD is recognized in the Agile process and a positive attitude developed.
Larusdottir, M., Gulliksen, J., & Cajander, A. (2017). A license to kill – Improving UCSD in Agile development. Journal of Systems and Software. vol. 123, pp. 214-222. DOI.org/10.1016/j.jss.2016.01.024.
Masood Butt, S., Masood Butt, S., Onn, A., Tabassam, N., & Abdul Majid, M. (2015). Usability Evaluation Techniques for Agile Software Model. Journal of Software. vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 32-41.
Mchugh, O., Conboy, K., & Lang, M. (2012). Agile Practices: The Impact on Trust in Software Project Teams. IEEE SOFTWARE. vol. 29, pp. 71-76. DOI: 10.1109/MS.2011.118.
Stellman, A., & Greene, J. (2017). Head first agile. O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA.
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