A Dilbert cartoon about agile programming, published as part of "Teaching UX and agile project management"

As the above cartoon nicely depicts: Agile is not just about doing more with less. And neither is UX. But as I reflected in my recent presentation for the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication Conference, these two disciplines can both be very useful for teaching project management.

What’s Project Management Got To Do With It?

As projects across industries become more about developing digital products and services, project management best practices will also need to adapt to this new reality. In simple terms, this means that project managers will need to be increasingly flexible, adaptable, and reflective when it comes to managing their teams.

Project teams responsible for creating products like mobile-ready websites are now likely to contain individuals from every single department in a company. Think about it: a mobile-ready website needs input from programmers, marketers, user experience designers, graphic designers, and social media strategists. Such a project is likely to fail if it only involves individuals from one department.

UX and Agile: A Winning Combination For Technical Communication

As Michael Lai recently wrote in UX Magazine, UX and Agile have a lot to learn from one another. The “modern UX team is much more multi-disciplinary and organic than ever before,” which means that members of those teams need to communicate better, need to collaborate across diverse forms of expertise, and need to adapt to situations quickly. This sounds a lot like what Agile was designed to do.

In the original Agile Manifesto, “individuals and interactions,” “responding to change,” and “customer collaboration” are all core values. This sounds a lot like the things UX teams are now responsible for. And someone will need to coordinate all those collaborative and adaptive interactions. Someone whose primary expertise is communication across disciplines. Sounds a lot like a technical communicator to me.

Teaching UX and Agile

As I mentioned in my presentation, if UX and Agile are converging, then we might also be able to converge approaches to teaching any kind of communication deliverable. Essentially: any kind of communication deliverable needs input from a variety of professionals, needs to be iterated, and probably needs to be tested out before deployment. Whether this deliverable is a mobile-ready website or a process document, the workflow is similar.

In my presentation, I tried to present a framework for leveraging project management, UX, and Agile in the same class-based project. Here’s the full presentation on Slideshare to see how I did that: