IT and UX Runway Analysis

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IT and UX Runway is a core component of the Program level which provides Feature teams with architectural, experience, and operational standards for the stories they will be implementing.

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Related Mindset:

Continuous Delivery

Lean-Agile

Segment:

Program

Inputs:

The input for the IT and UX Runways are the features, prioritized for future sprints.

Outputs:

The output of the IT and UX Runways include both feature deliverables (design comps or actual code) or a better understanding of the feature, depending on requirements and level.

A typical Runway for either IT or UX includes is created when the Program team works ahead of the timeline for deliverables to the Feature teams.

The Runway provides the ability to avoid “just-in-time” work when time to iterate is necessary. For both IT and UX, this increases the quality of work. This is also a key aspect of governance within any enterprise Agile implementation.

It is important to distinguish that the Program segment is focused on a specific value stream for the organization. All decisions made within this Program team should have effects only within the value stream. For higher level decision making, such as a standardized e-Commerce platform for the entire enterprise, decision-making would need to be made within the Portfolio segment.

The IT and UX Runway can be used for a number of activities, including:

  • Deliverable work - During a sprint-long runway, designers and developers have the opportunity to “get work done”. With the two-week lead time, deliverables can be planned, reviewed with the team, and iterated upon rather than being rushed to completion.
  • Augmenting standards - As new requirements emerge for new work, the standards across architecture, user experience, and operations may need to be updated prior to the work being executed. By utilizing Runway for this effort, standards are updated prior to the start of the feature work.
  • Technical and experience prototyping - Experience or architectural concepts can be prototyped at the Program level to ensure that ideas are tested before they are added to sprint work for a Feature team.
  • Research - As new features are identified, research becomes more important. For IT, research may include decisions around product purchasing and integration. It can also include the adoption of new standards. For UX, research may include user testing, focus groups, or surveys to identify real needs. Any research should then be shared with the team and included when making any decision about next steps.

Common Pitfalls

Organizations that have not implemented a Program team or have a Program team that cannot maintain adequate Runway for their respective Feature teams, will have similar pain points:

  • Inconsistency - The biggest gap for organizations that have not implemented Program Runway is the lack of consistency across teams. This can be seen in the overall user experience, the code itself, and in the way that these features are deployed.
  • Lack of validation - Without time to test and iterate, teams may not have an opportunity to put a feature in front of a user before deploying to production. In these cases, the work is at a greater risk because decisions are made based on assumptions about the end user rather than through direct research.
  • Incomplete stories - When teams receive stories to consider for a sprint, incomplete acceptance criteria, undocumented dependencies, or insufficient standards can have far reaching effects. Every time a Feature team needs to elevate a user story to the Program team, it demonstrates that the Program team missed an aspect of what the Feature team needed in order to complete their work. Specific examples could include designs that only cover ‘happy path’ scenarios or don’t account for all form factors that the experience will need to exist on.
  • Poor communication - A significant part of the Runway is to allow time for team feedback. This may include up-level feedback or feedback from peers. Feedback not only allows for quick validations, it also helps in building cohesive, consistent experiences.

In addition, in many organizations, the pendulum can swing too far in the other direction, leading to a different set of pain points:

  • Micromanagement - Runway should address items that have cross-cutting concerns across teams or implications when it comes to setting standards for future work. However, some organizations move all decision making to the Program level. Even with Runway in place, Agile teams should be given the ability to decide how they solve the problems they are given, as long as it fits within the overall established standard.
  • Spoiled Feature team capacity - If decision making to too centralized at the Program level, the organization may not have enough velocity at the Program level to adequately task all of the teams within the Program. In these cases, the teams will not be able to meet their target capacity for story points even though all available stories have been accepted into a sprint.