Agile collaboration for quality assurance

Design operations

The mission
The way we collaborate and operate as a product team has a major impact on the quality of our results. In fact, quality is a result generated by a solid process. As a Design Lead, I’m constantly looking to improve our framework to balance agile methods with roadmap imperatives and quality assurance. Through several retrospectives I decided to gather each project actor's needs and pains to formulate a framework that would empower the team to improve its performance.
Design Lead
Retrospective session with the product team

The phases

This framework is applied to the end-to-end process for UX stories of a release cycle. It is based on seven phases, starting with identifying an opportunity and understanding the user, over to exploring, defining and implementing a solution, to reviewing and evaluating the outcomes.

The collaboration

While each phase is led by a predominant discipline, several stakeholders are involved in each step of the process to ensure effective collaboration. The framework provides guidance on which stakeholder to involve at the appropriate time.

The playback slots between each project phase enable a constant alignment between the parties.

The quality gates

Most importantly, three quality gates help the team to make important decisions at the right moment and assure the quality of results.

Firstly, the entry gate is an opportunity playback; it helps the leadership to assess if the UX story represents an opportunity that aligns with the overall project strategy.

It is the moment to gear the work effort in the right direction to avoid the saying: “Great landing wrong airport.”

The next quality gate, called solution gate, is a formal design sign-off. The purpose of this midterm gate is to ensure that the solution has been validated by user research, that it is technically feasible, and that it is scoped to a minimum viable experience.  

Finally, the exit gate is a formal review of the implemented solution from an external panel of design and UX experts. In this gate, the quality of the final implemented solution is rated to ensure its readiness for release.

Working in an agile environment, these quality gates help to assess if outcomes are mature enough to move to the next phase, or not. If the quality requirements are not met, further iterations or investigations are required. In this respect, the UX story can be moved to another release cycle to concentrate the efforts on more mature UX stories.

Introduction to agile collaboration

The impact

This framework clarified each team member's involvement and responsibilities across the project phases. It ultimately reduced frictions and misunderstandings to allow a productive and pleasant work environment.

The efficiency of the team has improved as decisions are made early enough in the process, and team members are aligned across the end-to-end creation process.

This framework has been used and optimized by the SPSS Statistics product team. Certain parts and aspects could be scaled to other product teams in the Cloud and AI portfolio, and this is under review.

Other projects: