Lean UX in the Enterprise

Lean UX process

I. Intro to Lean UX

Lean UX is a set of practices to bring the true nature of a product to light faster, in a collaborative and cross-functional way.

The practices for Lean UX  focus on the learning from users how our product can be valuable to them. 

Learning from the users allow us to take smarter decisions when planing the phases of development. Learning is the priority.

The practices of Lean UX also allows to work in small team effectively and collaborative, this practices can be scale for bigger groups.

Lean UX process

Lean UX Approach

Lean UX vs the Manufacture approach

The manufacture approach focuses on building a product based on assumptions that will satisfy the user’s needs. Often those assumptions are not presented to the users until the product has been developed with all the features.

Developing a product entirely, without testing the assumptions with users, can be risky and expensive for the company.

  • The manufacture approach focuses on delivering a product, and later in learning what worked and what didn’t work.
  • Each assumption not tested increases the risk of not getting it right for the user,  leading to long lists of fixes and things to do to improve the benefits that our product brings to the user.
  • Each assumption not tested could be a feature developed that the users won’t use, this is a waste of time for the developers and money for the company.
  • Long list of features require bigger effort for updates and modifications.

The Lean UX

  • Helps to eliminate the risk of not satisfying the user’s needs when they use the product
  • Focuses on continuous learning from users to allow us to make well informed decisions, during the development and marketing process (Evidence-based decision making).
  • Each assumption goes thru a process to validate if they  bring a real benefit to the user.
  • Working with the users allows us to determine where to focus our development efforts.
  • Working with the users allow us to determine what is important to them, which helps the marketing efforts.
  • Working with proven assumptions let us bring a quality product faster to the users.

To guarantee that we are taking decisions based on good feedback we want to present and test our ideas with users that could become our real clients.

Developing a product together with your potential clients will result in a product that you know they will love.

Steps to apply Lean UX on your projects:
  1. Define a business problem.
  2. State desire outcomes
  3. Declare assumptions
  4. Hypothesize: write the test first
  5. Make a Minimun Viable Product
  6. Reach users and potential clients to test
  7. Learn: Digest feedback received from the testing
  8. Repeat
Lean teams focus on:
  1. Learning over delivery
  2. Making decisions based on the learning adquired
  3. User engagement and excitement
  4. Align to strategy
  5. Use evidence
  6. Reach real users
  7. One, x-functional tem
  8. Uses feedback loops
Lean enterprises focus on:
  1. Enable teams
  2. Pushes decisions down the ladder to the ones making the product
  3. Sets strategy
  4. Defines portfolios
  5. Communicates intent
  6. Creates infrastructure
  7. Creates information flow
  8. Creates culture

II. Getting started: Lean UX in the Enterprise

When to use Lean Ux in the enterprise world? or better yet, Do you want to make stuff people don’t want?

We can apply the approach at any stage of development, we can take the approach with the wireframes, prototypes, features and even the business models.

When working with legacy systems we can incorporate the Lean UX approach when working with new features, starting with the question if it should be built or not. This will avoid building unnecessary features and focusing in the ones that create value to the user.

Getting started

1. Who should do it?

The best way to start using the Lean UX approach in a corporate environment is starting with a small team.

Get a group of people willing to collaborate and start small, make sure to come up with some winnings that will support the idea of expanding the Lean UX practices to more parts of the company.

2. What should you work on?

The Lean UX practices can be utilized at any time of development, start with the next feature on your to do list.

In a new process we can start with: what are the fundamental assumptions that we have about the users?, their needs? and the solution we want to provide.

Start with the most risky assumptions that could produce a failure in case that are proven wrong.

What it might fail? For each idea that you are working on, list the top 5 reasons why it might fail. This can bring some light to the real issues and real solutions for each scenario.

Create MVPs and treat them as experiments. A Minimum Viable Product is the smallest thing that can be done to test the assumption,they are not beta versions of your product.

3. Core team/extended team

To make the Lean UX approach work the team most be self sufficient, capable of working independently  from other departments and able to create a full product or feature.

Usually the teams are comforted by a project manager, developers, designers.

When working with people that are not part of the core team, bring them in and show them the work that has been done and allow them to be part of it, schedule the moments you need their help ahead of time.

4. Transparency

Find a way to expose enough of the work done to let people know and understand what is happening. Make sure the people that needs to know about the approach are aware of it, for example: customer service.

Been transparent creates trust between the company and the team.

5. Minimum viable process

The processes utilized during the Lean UX on day one should be different from the processes used in later phases of the product development.

The processes utilized should evolve as the product development evolves.

Lead the team through a set of questions meant to help everyone think about the accomplishments of each phase as well as how to improve going forward. This will guarantee that your process will evolve with the team and the product. It is important to make it fun for the team to do this retrospectives and make them feel comfortable while doing them.

Create work team agreements to set ground rules when working in team, go over them when doing retrospectives.

III. Overcoming Enterprise Obstacles

1. Objective Reality, Access to Customers

Having access to customers and/or access to customer’s behaviors data is very critical for the Lean UX approach.

Talking to two or three end users in weekly basis is enough to build great products, the secret is finding a recruiter that finds the people for the testing. Sometimes sales people that are product oriented can become the best persons to bring you in front of real customers.

What we are looking for is to understand what people are doing and their behaviors with the product, to make smart decisions.

2. Create a Sandbox

Create a risk tolerance culture, negotiate with managers about releasing features to an small amount of current customers to test how they perform, and make any adjustments before releasing to all the users.

Listen to the managers to understand their concerns, restrictions  and find a place where both teams feel comfortable with the agreements.

Creating sandboxes can also protect your brand’s organization.

3. Funding Outcomes

Move from outputs to outcomes, when requested to develop a feature or product, talk about the desire outcomes for the users and for the business.

Once we get the management teams to talk about the desire outcomes we can let the development team to come up with the best solution. Meaning the stakeholders frame the problem and the team comes up with the solution. This also helps to create a better work environment in the team.

How to deal with impulsive requests from higher management? Take in their suggestions and mandates and run them by tests, show management what were the outcomes and if the request should be removed or not.

Shifting to talking about outcomes can help in migration from legacy systems, evaluating each feature to determine if it is worth to keep developing it the same way, if there is room for improvement or if the users really need it.

4. Distributed Teams in Different Locations

Plan for the members in a team to share the same time zone so they work during the same hours.

Start your project together, same office and spend a week building team trust. Try to get the team together at least once a month if possible. Schedule social time with your team.

Connect the team with digital tools and use them in a fun way, like monitors or ipad at eye level to eliminate the connection friction.

5. Third Party Vendors

When creating relationships with third party vendors, look to create contracts based on best practices of collaborations instead of deliverables to guarantee the constant interaction with customers and your organization during the development process.  Sometimes, this is not possible tho.

If you can’t control the terms of the contracts:

a) Try to bring the vendors to the office and show them the process, incorporate them with  your core team.

b) Treat vendors as second track of activity or two track agile. Here we have a lean team in your organization coming out with ideas and validating them until they can come up with a prototype they feel strong about and then let the vendor to develop it.

I am originally from Venezuela but I have been living in Austin, Texas for the last 8 years. Web development has been part of my life for more than a decade; It started in the middle of my College years and by the time I got my bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering I was already known for delivering complex projects while delivering a good user experience.