A Framework for Integrating User-Centred Design and Agile Development in Small Companies

PhD candidate Silvia Bordin

December 5, 2017
Versione stampabile

Time: 14.30 p.m.
Location: Room Garda, Polo scientifico e tecnologico "Fabio Ferrari", Building Povo 1, Via Sommarive 5, Povo (Trento)

PhD Candidate

  • Silvia Bordin

Abstract of Dissertation

The integration of user-centred design (UCD) and Agile development is gaining increasing momentum in industry: the two approaches show promising complementarities and their convergence can lead to a more holistic software engineering approach relative to the application of just one of them. However, the practicalities of this integration are not trivial and the topic is currently of interest to a variety of research communities. This thesis aims at understanding the integration of user-centred design and Agile development and at supporting its adoption in small companies. Based on a qualitative approach, it is positioned at the intersection of Computer Supported Cooperative Work and software engineering, and is grounded on several empirical studies performed in industry.

The work is organised in three stages inspired by the action research approach. The first stage was dedicated to understanding software development practice: through literature review and two ethnographically-informed studies, it resulted in the first contribution of this thesis, that is a set of communication breakdowns that may hinder the integration of user-centred design and Agile development.

The second stage was dedicated to deliberating improvements of practice: the set of communication breakdowns was elaborated into the second contribution of this thesis, that is a framework of focal points meant to help the organisation diagnose and assess communication breakdowns in its work practice.

The third stage of the thesis was dedicated to implementing and evaluating improvements. The framework was further elaborated into a training on the adoption of the framework itself. Such training was instantiated in two iterations of action research performed in small development organisations, with the aim of establishing a supportive organisational environment and mitigating communication breakdowns. Once validated through these cases, the training constituted the third contribution of this thesis. Results show that the intervention has benefited companies at several levels, enriching work practice with fresh techniques, favouring team collaboration and cooperation, and resulting in a shift from a technology-centred mindset to a more user-centred one.