How Agile Environments Revolutionize a Design Team’s Workflow?

Agile environments, teams, and manifesto. In the world of design, there is no way to escape these buzzwords that have gradually entrenched themselves in work circles around the globe.

What is an agile environment and why is it so important to those in the design industry? To understand how agile environments revolutionize a design team’s workflow, it is crucial to delve deeper into the “agile” world.

The Evolution of Agile Environments  

First, let’s explain what an agile environment is. While the term “agile environment” sounds complex, it simply means that a company or organization embraces the values of the “Agile Manifesto” as a part of their day-to-day work culture. This methodology, developed by a group of seventeen different software developers in 2001, has been adopted by companies that wish to put waste reduction, transparency, and customer preferences at the forefront of their operations. 

This is achieved by dividing large chunks of a project into smaller ones that can be developed more quickly on their own, but also by prioritizing a culture that encourages a team of people to work together to reach a shared goal. Some of the main characteristics of an agile work environment include:

  • Being open to change – Many companies would be hesitant to change the path of a project in its late stages of the development cycle. Instead, they prefer to follow timelines, but agile work environments expect and embrace change at all stages. 
  • Face-to-face conversations – In today’s tech-savvy world, it is easy for companies to collaborate via email, phone conferences, or project management software. Agile environments, however, have a strong preference for face-to-face conversations. This is because it is the most effective way of communication.
  • A unique workspace – Agile work environments typically look much different than your standard office. You likely will not find cubicles with large dividing walls or closed-off offices for most employees. Instead, there are few walls and desks and tables are arranged to prioritize communication and collaboration. Likewise, there are usually many social spaces for gathering, such as sofas, tables, large whiteboards, and other furniture/tools that can easily be rearranged for impromptu meetings and discussions.

Applying Conceptual Models to Enhance Design Workflow

Conceptual models are models of an application that are created by developers to offer increased understanding to users. These models can differ in terms of their composure and are divided into two categories: sequential and structured or nonsequential and unstructured. While designed with users in mind, these models can also be used to enhance the design workflow when the abstract concepts can be refined and envisioned as practical elements. For instance, a conceptual model regarding entity relationships within a database (or an Entity-Relationship Diagram) can be used to assist both designers and developers in different ways to increase workflow when creating a website or an app. 

For design purposes, this conceptual model allows designers to visualize various database design ideas while identifying any flaws before actual changes are made.

To maximize the benefits of conceptual models for design teams, they must be well-defined with visual and written elements to express abstract concepts effectively, provide a basic structure, be available to all team members, and be easily changed to reflect the most up-to-date information. 

How Does Agile Influence Team Culture?

Following the “Agile Manifesto” creates an innovative work environment where openness and transparency are key. Each member of the team, and those in leadership roles follow the same set of core values, behaviors, and practices in the workplace that allow these concepts to flourish as a priority above all else. Likewise, the high level of collaboration and a focus on supportive leadership over command and control increases trust, loyalty, and overall integrity. This method, in turn, produces teams that are much stronger than those who follow traditional practices and they have an impeccable ability to adapt to change. Additionally, agile environments are more conducive to productivity, personal mastery, and meaningful results. 

Are Agile Environments Built for UX?

Agile environments have been rising in popularity since the initial concept was created in 2001. Although the environment and overall methodology are immensely beneficial, the focus of the “Agile Manifesto” lies prominently on developers and not those involved in UX. Because of this, typical agile practices do not include UX. They often neglect to consider the level of time and amount of research that those in UX require to create flawless designs that can put UX professionals who work in agile environments in a difficult position. Despite this, agile practices and UX can harmoniously co-exist. To make this happen, UX must be added to the software development process. Additionally, the organization must understand the importance of the UX professional’s work, include them as a part of the team and the agile environment must be flexible enough to accommodate the needs of all team members, including those in UX. 

Suggestions for Designers Incorporating Agile Practices

For designers who wish to create an agile development environment, it is crucial to understand the basic principles of the “Agile Manifesto”. This consists of four foundational values and twelve principles, but each can be applied in different ways to suit specific businesses’ values and practices. The main concepts to apply to reap the rewards of an agile environment; however, include: 

  • Be open with all employees and those in leadership roles about the shift to an agile development environment and inform them of the principles, behaviors, and benefits of incorporating agile practices.
  • Create small, flexible groups where each team member has different skills and encourages increased communication, collaboration, and transparency on a companywide level. Extend this focus to clients to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Opt for leadership over management. Those in leadership roles should be supportive and encouraging instead of the directive and commanding. 
  • Focus on people over set processes. This will allow teams to freely experiment with tools to create more effective and innovative processes than the ones that are currently in place while aiding in personal mastery.
  • Embrace change. To incorporate agile practices, it is crucial to be open to change at all stages of design and development. This may disrupt standard timelines but in turn, will result in more thorough results.

When the agile methodology is adopted by a company, it can present immense benefits to the overall work culture, employees, and level of productivity. For those in the design industry, an agile environment is equally beneficial and can revolutionize the entire team’s workflow. To reap the rewards, however, designers must ensure that their environment remains flexible enough to accommodate crucial components like the use of conceptual models and a focus on UX. Curious about other ways design teams can streamline and simplify their work? Reach out to our design experts at UXPin to learn more. 

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