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Building a UCD Team

A guide to the skills required for a sustainable, multi-disciplinary team to design, build, operate and iterate a (digital) service.

Why is a multi-disciplinary team important?

Assembling a multi-disciplinary, co-located team allows you to quickly build and iterate a service in response to evidence from user research and metrics. It helps you to make sure you are designing the right thing in the right way. A multi-disciplinary team is essential for building (digital) services that are simple and intuitive enough to meet the needs of your users. It's fundamental to achieving the Digital Service Standard.

UCD role requirements

Different skills are required, depending on where you are in the process. The following table is the best practice and recommendation.

Role Pre-mobilisation Mobilisation Discovery  Alpha Beta
Digital/Business Transformation Manager × × × ×

×

Product Manager/Subject Matter Expert × × × × ×
Service Manager/Designer  

×

× × ×

Business Analyst

  × × ×

×

Delivery Manager/Scrum Master      × × ×
User Researcher       × × ×
Interaction Designer/Visual Designer     × × ×
Technical Architect     × × ×
Content Designer     × × ×
Front-end/Back-end Developer     × × ×
Tester        × ×
Web Operations Engineer         ×

Team Participation

Team member involvement and the amount of time that people need to spend working on their part is determined during Pre-mobilisation and Mobilisation phases. Team member involvement across the phases would ideally be 100%. If this is not possible, a commitment of no less than 70-80% of their time is required.

All team members involved in each phase must attend the ceremonies – daily stand-ups, retrospectives, planning sessions and show-cases. See Working in Agile for more information in the UCD Reference Library.

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Works with the team to guide them through the transformation process. 

For most teams it will be their first encounter of UCD and there may be new ways of working that need to be embraced. The digital/business transformation manager will guide the team through the process, terminology and exercises, as well as mentoring and developing skills.

Digital/business transformation manager capabilities

Digital/business transformation managers should possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • experience in UCD
  • experience in the process Pre-mobilisation, Mobilisation, Discovery, Alpha, Beta, Live.
  • implemented at least one project using agile from start to finish.
  • coaching/mentoring abilities.
  • project management experience of medium to large projects.

Works with the team to create the vision for the product, and sets the day-to-day priorities to fulfil that vision and ensure the team delivers.

The product manager is the owner of the product backlog and is responsible for prioritising user stories, attending daily stand ups and accepting stories when they’re delivered. They’re on hand to answer product questions from the delivery team and they work closely with the user researchers to make sure the product is meeting user needs. They are responsible for maximising the value of the product and the work of the team.

Product manager/subject matter expert capabilities

Product managers should possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • Effectively capture, utilise and share customer insight and views from a diverse range of stakeholders to ensure better policy and delivery.
  • Spot warning signs of things going wrong and provide a decisive response to significant delivery challenges.
  • Bring together views and perspectives of stakeholders to gain a wider picture of the landscape surrounding activities and policies.
  • Push decision making to the right level within their teams, remove unnecessary bureaucracy and structure that is suppressing innovation and delivery.
  • Confidently engage with stakeholders and colleagues at all levels to generate commitment to goals.
  • Actively involve partners to deliver a business outcome through collaboration that achieves better results for citizens.
  • Effectively manage team dynamics when working across departmental and other boundaries.
  • Ensure that individual and organisational learning and talent development opportunities are fully exploited in order to enhance organisational capability.
  • Work effectively with different organisations such as private sector and voluntary groups (in tandem with commercial experts) to commission and source solutions to achieve policy and organisational goals.
  • Interact confidently and effectively as an intelligent and highly credible customer with counterparts from the commercial delivery organisations and commercial experts.
  • Clarify business priorities, roles and responsibilities and secure individual and team ownership.
  • Have been responsible for delivery and ongoing management of high quality, digital products.

Responsible for the overall delivery and operation of the (digital) service.

Service managers/designers are experienced leaders with a strong understanding of their service and its users. They have the responsibility of representing their service at all levels within the agency, and should be working full-time on the service to ensure it is delivered successfully and meets its users’ needs. They need to be a senior executive with the capacity to unblock obstacles, champion the project at the most senior levels and assist in making sure the internal processes are focussed on achieving results for the product. They need to be available to the team, but not necessarily be present with them at all times.

Service manager capabilities

Service managers should possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • proven leadership in successful (digital) service delivery; successful design, delivery and ongoing management of high quality services that maximised opportunities offered by digital technology.
  • proven grasp and expertise in analysing and using customer insight and user and performance data to design and continually improve digital services to fully meet user needs in a convenient and straightforward way.
  • practical success in interpreting user data and feedback to design and implement channel shift strategies that move users from traditional to digital delivery channels.
  • proven ability to challenge and remove any unnecessary barriers to service delivery.
  • a high degree of market awareness, with demonstrable experience with innovative approaches to procuring services and managing relationships with suppliers.
  • experience with current agile project management practices, open source, cloud platforms and digital services.

Helps the team to understand the internal processes and systems of the organisation.

The business analyst helps the team understand and document the constraints and opportunities presented by the organisation’s processes and systems. They work closely with the service designer to ensure the design approach can be implemented in the business.

Business analyst capabilities

Business analysts possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • experience in analysing digital/web services in a fast-paced environment
  • strong understanding of agile and waterfall project management delivery methodologies
  • experience in business change, rationalisation and transformation
  • experience of open source and cloud technologies and their sourcing.

Enables agile teams to deliver high-quality services.

The delivery manager delivers products and services using learnings from user research, and iterates the product and processes frequently to meet users’ needs. They also work with product managers to define the roadmap for products and services. The delivery manager supports the team by identifying and removing obstacles that are stopping the team from delivering. Also known as the ‘Scrum Master’, they run the daily stand-ups and weekly team meetings, and make sure that the backlog and team spaces are up-to-date.

Delivery manager/scrum master capabilities

Delivery managers should possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • Experience in delivering (digital) projects and products.
  • Proven experience using agile project management methods.
  • Proven experience balancing multiple priorities and dealing with ambiguity.
  • Sound understanding of the digital landscape.
  • Experience in managing multi-disciplinary teams.

The delivery manager serves the team in several ways:

  • Coaching the team in self-organisation and cross-functionality.
  • Teaching and leading the team to create high-value products.
  • Removing impediments to the team’s progress.
  • ​Facilitating ceremonies and activities as requested or needed.

Helps the team develop a deep understanding of their users and their needs.

The user researcher works closely with the product manager and the designers in the team to ensure prioritisation of the work that benefits the users. They are responsible for building understanding of the service’s users and their behaviour, and providing insight to the team about how users interact with the service. They take the lead on running sessions with real users, communicating findings back to the whole team, and creating actionable insights to guide design. 

User researcher capabilities

User researchers should possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • Demonstrable knowledge, experience in and passion for UCD practices.
  • Proven experience in gathering user requirements for services.
  • Proven experience in managing, executing and analysing usability test sessions.
  • Proven experience working in an agile environment with user experience teams, designers and developers to create new (digital) products and services.
  • Experience in audience modelling and developing design personas.
  • Degree in Human-Computer Interaction/Usability/Cognitive Psychology/Market Research or related field.
  • Experience across web content, tools and transactional services, especially those with complex user journeys.
  • Experience within a research and digital environment. 

A strong interaction designer is critical to any delivery team. They’re responsible for designing a user-focussed and accessible service, and making use of established design patterns in government.

Designers should work closely with both the user researcher and the technical people in the team. Designers should also have some familiarity with code.

Interaction designer capabilities

Interaction designers should possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • Strong foundation in UCD with an ability to identify user needs, business requirements and create and iterate design solutions.
  • Being comfortable working at both ends of the scale, from the big picture, high-level flows and journeys, to the detail of individual elements on screen.
  • Delivering useful, usable and delightful digital services based on the culmination of end-user and stakeholder requirements and existing technology constraints/limitations/opportunities.
  • The ability to focus on making live, working software using design artefacts (wireframes, etc.) when necessary as a communication tool to share with the wider team.
  • Use of Lean UX/Agile tools, techniques and a passion for working as part of an agile team.
  • Basic research skills, including leading guerrilla research when necessary and participating in user research sessions and analysis.
  • Solution presentation and the ability to visualise complex services.
  • Experience designing for different screen sizes and input methods (e.g. touch, mouse and keystroke).
  • A design-related degree or masters qualification is desirable.
  • Visual design capability is a strong plus.

The technical architect is most senior technical person in the team. Their role is to break down complex problems and lead by example in writing quality code.

They engage with non-technical people at all levels of seniority, ensure the product is technically aligned with other areas of the agency, and provide coaching and feedback to other technical members of the team.

Technical architect capabilities

Technical architects should possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • Is an active software developer currently engaged in architecting and building high-volume digital services.
  • Proven capability in managing technology implementation projects and in presenting to/working with stakeholders at every level of seniority.
  • Demonstrable track record of successfully taking an evolutionary architecture approach to software architecture.
  • Focussed on strategic alignment of technical design and architecture to meet business growth and direction.
  • Knowledge of agile product management, in particular determination of vision, objectives, goals and success criteria.
  • Experience in developing product roadmaps, backlogs and measurable success criteria, and of writing user stories, i.e. can establish a path to delivery for breaking down stories.
  • Experience organising and performing prototyping and proof-of-concepts.
  • Experience with agile methodologies (TDD, SCRUM, Kanban, etc.).
  • Building and scaling high-traffic websites and/or high volume transaction processing and analysis platforms.
  • Experience designing and implementing scalable and robust approaches to caching, security and databases (including relational, e.g. MySQL, PostgreSQL, and “NoSQL”, e.g. Cassandra, MongoDB).
  • Experience with automated configuration management, deployment and testing solutions.
  • Use and implementation of modern front-end web programming techniques, such as HTML5, CSS3, AJAX, REST, JSON.
  • Experience with a web programming framework such as Django, Ruby on Rails, Scala, Play, etc.
  • Experience developing and using web-based APIs (especially REST-based APIs).
  • Experience with open source solutions and community.
  • Experience using and deploying on cloud-based platforms.
  • Experience sharing knowledge and working in a multi-disciplinary team.

Ensures that written guidance is clear and meets user needs, and that questions and other copy on forms are clear, simple and understood by users.

The content designer writes words that let people of all ages and backgrounds understand what they need to know and what they need to do. They write questions for forms that people can understand and answer confidently and accurately. They use and advocate for plain English. The content designer works closely with the content owner, interaction designer and user researcher to continuously improve the words. The content designer also works with the content community to develop a government style that is clear, approachable and consistent across multiple platforms.

Content designer capabilities

Content designers possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • Extensive experience in writing for the web, with proven ability in creating content that is accessible and usable.
  • Exceptional ability in convincing people that user needs and a usable approach is the only way to present information.
  • Proven experience in using metrics and user feedback to define/refine content.
  • Proven experience in working within a web application development environment, proficient in writing Markdown, picture sourcing and editing.
  • Experience in choosing the best format for displaying information to the user.
  • Experience in working with content publishing systems.

Builds well-tested, quality software and sites according to standards and best practice.

Developers build software in a team with a relentless focus on how it will be used. They write quality, well-tested code and try to find the simplest solution to a given problem. Most will specialise in being a front-end or a back-end developer — a good team has a mix of both. As they work, they’re expected to keep security, accessibility and open standards in mind, and improve (‘refactor’) the technical implementation as they go along.

Web developer capabilities

Developers possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • Experience building server-side web applications and detailed knowledge of at least one programming language (for example, Ruby, Python, Node.js and Scala) and/or detailed understanding and experience of front-end web development (HTML, CSS and JavaScript).
  • An ability to communicate technical concepts to a non-technical audience.
  • Experience working on technical projects within a team.
  • Working knowledge of Unix-like operating systems such as Linux and/or Mac OS X.
  • Knowledge about the use of version control systems such as Subversion or Git.
  • Ability to quickly research and learn new programming tools and techniques.
  • Knowledge of relational and non-relational database systems.
  • System administration and configuration management skills.
  • Experience presenting work at user groups and conferences.
  • Experience building and scaling high-traffic websites.
  • Understanding of the use of responsive web design.
  • Experience working with JavaScript libraries to produce data visualisations.
  • Experience designing and maintaining public HTTP APIs.
  • Experience handling large datasets and scaling their handling and storage

Tests that the service developed is robust, stable and ready for customers. There are three types of testers that can be involved in the delivery of a service.

Ethical hackers: try to infiltrate the service and firewalls to get to the data. Their main goal is to expose security weaknesses.

System tester: try to break the service and cause unhandled exceptions. They generally check for a good user flow through screens, language and general usability.

Accessibility: ensure the service will be accessible by all users. They ensure the service is catering for the visually and hearing impaired.

Configures web and application servers. Supports large production platforms and tests, debugs and trouble-shoots platform-level problems.

Responsible for keeping the service online, web operations engineers are critical to any digital service. They work closely with developers to make sure that all technology is built with consideration to how it will be operated, and put the foundations in place for the service to be hosted and deployed so it can be previewed in live environments. Along with other developers in the team, they’re expected to share the out-of-hours support responsibility for the service.

Web operations engineer capabilities

Web operations engineers possess some or all of the following specialist skills:

  • Understanding of common web application architectures.
  • Experience configuring and managing Linux servers for serving a dynamic website.
  • Experience debugging a complex multi-server service.
  • Scripting or basic programming skills.
  • Familiarity with network protocols including TCP/IP, HTTP and SSL.
  • Installation and management of open source monitoring tools.
  • Configuration management tools like Puppet and Chef.
  • Deploying and configuring machines in a cloud environment.
  • Understanding of application deployment strategies and continuous integration.
  • Working within a product-centric environment.

Last updated: 26 September 2016