Balanced Team Conference Topics and Speakers

We we asked the registered participants of the Balanced Team Conference to propose topics for the event. These are some of the proposals that attracted the most interest from the community. The list below contains a rich and interesting mix of facilitated conversations, stories, best practices and hands-on techniques from some of the leading practitioners in this space.

To see the full event schedule, please check here.

Opening Panel: Balanced Team Perspectives  – Jeff Patton (AgileProductDesign), Janice Fraser (LUXr), Gregory Jones (TheLadders)

Each speaker will present a 10-minute overview of the work they are doing that relates to Balanced Team. We’ll then shift into fishbowl so individuals can respond and share their own stories. We need one or more visual recorder to take notes during this talk to collect themes and set context for future sessions.

Cross-functional Pairing: What it is and why you should be doing it – Anders Ramsay, Jef Bekes and Mike Long

Anders Ramsay will provide an overview of cross-functional pairing, with Jef Bekes and Mike Long presenting a case study from work done at ThoughtWorks Studios.  Topics discussed will include group sketching, use of a prototyping framework, and designing in the browser vs designing with PhotoShop/Wireframes.

Hybrid Interviewing For Effective Customer Conversations –  Lane Halley

Traditional UX process often includes a round of research to understand customer context, needs and motivations, followed by design work, followed by a round of usability testing of some sort of artifact (model, prototype, or product). Several startup teams Lane advises are successfully using a hybrid approach which combines research and response to an artifact in a single feedback session. In this talk, Lane will provide a brief overview of how some familiar UX techniques can be adapted for Lean Startup Customer Development and share some best practices for how Balanced Teams can plan, conduct and debrief customer feedback activities.

Managing Balanced Team Projects: Story Map and Backlog Coordination –  Shawn Crowley

Story maps easily represent releases of features that help users accomplish goals. Story maps help show what features should be delivered to create a compelling software experience. Agile projects commonly use task backlogs to manage scope and burn charts to track velocity and predict delivery dates. Simple backlogs and burn charts do not effectively show intermediate accomplishments of value. Expectations outside of the core product team can be more effectively managed by discussing functionality and delivery dates represented in a story map. Coordinating an integrated task backlog (both design centric and code centric tasks) with a story map allows for better scope management and team skills management aimed at hitting intermediate milestones. Disclaimer – This talk outlines thoughts on process and cites actual project examples utilizing several software and paper tools. A “silver bullet” software tool will not be revealed.

Balanced Teams – The Marketing and Advertising Team Member’s Perspective – Dale Larson

To date, Balanced Teams seem to have focused mainly on the product development side of the house: bridging gaps between programmers, designers and product managers and including all three as product owners. The larger divide in most companies, however, is between product development and marketing, sales and advertising. How can they be included and contribute their best talents from the start and made to feel that same sense of ownership for the overall user experience? How can they more effectively draw on the rest of the process and the team as they work to help not only the product but the business to be more successful?  Regardless of the titles of people who bring them, what are the skills and roles we want to draw on, and what’s the Venn diagram for how they most commonly intersect? (Perhaps we could make the list and draw that diagram together as a group.)

UX in an Agile Environment – Jonathan Berger

Jon will lead a discussion about various strategies of integrating UX practice and Agile Development, talk about pacing and mock-up techniques, and share his experience with three years of Pivotal-Tracker-oriented Test-Driven Development at Pivotal Labs.

Balanced Team in an Agency Context: Can it Work? –  Johanna Kollmann

Johanna will provide an introduction, based on her experience and stories that others told her, about working in a ‘balanced’ agile team in an agency context. She will discuss a) how it might work and b) why she’s skeptical. Following this introduction, she would like others who work in an agency context could share their stories. This could work well as a fishbowl or small-group discussion (if we have multiple sessions at the same time). A note-taker capturing the discussion would be helpful.

Introducing UX to Organizations: It’s About Organizational Culture and Decision Making –  Alison Austin

Large organizations are (typically) their own worst enemies; crippling potentially great products with dysfunctional processes and decision-making. In this context, embedding UX practice is not simply a matter of focusing on deliverables. Instead, I’d like to consider how far into an organization’s culture ‘agile’ thinking needs to permeate, as well as how agile/ux principles can be applied across organization departments to facilitate the breaking down of departmental silos.

Transforming UX Integration From Reaction to Strategy – Desirée Sy

Desirée recently taught UX practitioners new to agile a 1-day tutorial, and then was in a workshop with experienced agile UX practitioners–back to back. She saw patterns…To get to the next level of successful UX integration into balanced teams, UX activities need to do more than just path clearing (usability testing, rapid prototyping, fixing problems). They need to extend to path finding activities (user research, setting design goals, backlog planning, and defining ‘done’).

The Nordstrom Innovation Lab –  Jeremy Lightsmith

The Innovation Lab at Nordstrom starts an experiment every 1-2 weeks.  Each one has a learning goal, hypothesis, and expected outcome.  Because we start projects so often, we’ve gotten really good at doing it, and we want to share our process with you. Our goal is to quickly learn which ideas in retail technology are worth further investment (and what that might look like) and which ideas we should drop. Our makeup is also quite “balanced”.  We have 2 devs + 1 designer + 1 UX specialist.  We start together and then alternate between pairing, solo work, talking to internal / real customers, and bringing back new information to the team.  We’ve pulled ideas from Agile, Lean, Lean Startup, IxD, Design Thinking, and anywhere else we could find them, but we’re also quite young (6 months).  So we’d love to hear what ideas you might have for us that would help us innovate.

Building a Startup’s Balanced Team Culture From Day One –  Moses Hohman

Wearing many hats is typical in early startups, so you would think there would be no problem being a balanced team. But even at an early stage there are many opportunities for imbalance, and these can have long-term effects on company culture. Moses will present what some of these opportunities are, principles for counterbalancing them, and solicit your discussion.

Principles of a Successful Team – SideReel Case Study –  Zach Larson

Zach will discuss the 9 LeanUX principles and how his team used them as they built and exited a company. Few of the principles were intentionally picked but most became apparent once codified. He’ll specifically talk about a few key practices (Information Radiators and Vicious Prioritization) that helped make the SideReel team a phenomenal success.

Quick, Easy, Valuable User Testing of Design Concepts –  Steve McKiernan

User testing doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective.  When done right, it can help you catch problems early, get ideas for future enhancements, and increase customer loyalty.  Steve will share his experiences moderating external user testing sessions at Health Net, Inc. and offer tips on keeping testing simple but successful.

Write better stories with comparisons –  Austin Govella

“Any team’s biggest hurdle is communicating with a common language, so that when one person says jump, everyone else already knows how high. Adding interface and service comparisons to your user stories helps everyone on the team develop a clearer, more consistent image of what a user story entails, including defining what done means. And you can communicate complex interaction design without having to create a single sketch, wireframe, or prototype. Austin will go over two examples: one where we evaluate done for a story, and another where the comparison clearly communicated a complex rich, dynamic interaction.

Design Charrette – Mike Long

Rapidly generate design solutions while leveraging the various aptitudes and interests in your team. Charrettes are a form of “inquiry by design:” asking, examining, investigating, questioning and therefore learning through design.

The Balanced Team Conference is happening Friday Sep. 23 – Sunday Sep. 25, at the Hot Studio offices in San Francisco. I think you’ll agree this is going to be a special event you won’t want to miss. To apply, please register here.

Thanks to our generous sponsors!


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