TAMM is an initiative by ADSSA (Abu Dhabi Smart Solutions & Services Authority) with the aim of digitising the vast majority of government services provided by the multitude of Abu Dhabi’s government entities.
The program's split into varying verticals such as healthcare, tourism, housing, finance, business, education and so forth. Each of the vertices has its own dedicated SCRUM team that consisted of but not limited to skillsets including:
- Executive Team/ Product Owner
- Program/ Project Managers and SCRUM Masters
- Business Analysts
- User Experience Analysts & Designers
- Interface Designers
- Front-End Developers
- Back-End and Infrastructure Developers
- System Testers
- Technical Writers
An AGILE development methodology was in place and teams worked in 2 week sprint cycles to deliver usable and testable features. Working AGILE enabled the team to deliver features that could easily be tested and iterated upon. This in turn provided the experience and design team with an early product that could be taken to users to fine tune the interface and user experience.
A dedicated team of developers and interface designers worked independently of the SCRUM teams on the design language system for the entire program. User experience analysts and designers were incorporated into the SCRUM teams in order to identify requirements and work with the independent DLS team to design the required features and components.
On such a large program, it became integral to work closely and collaborate across verticals in order to keep a consistent experience and visual language. With so many moving parts, a central design authority was in place to regularly check in with the decentralised design teams and report on inconsistencies and where features or components could be consolidated.
The user experience analysts and designers embedded in the SCRUM teams played a pivotal role in the development and implementation of the features released from each vertical. Based on stakeholder and user workshops, interviews and early prototyping – alongside lead developers, business analysts and project managers – experience analysts and designers helped identify required features forming the structure and prioritisation of the sprint backlog.
Listed below are a number of the activities and tasks undertaken as the senior user experience consultant & design lead on the program:
- Research & interviews
- Design thinking workshops
- Experience/ empathy mapping
- Information architecture
- User flows
- User interface design
- User testing
- Training & mentoring
- Sprint planning & backlog management
Follow the case study below to learn more about how these tasks were undertaken. At the end of the case study you will also find a more detailed account of personal responsibilities as well as the key learnings on the program.
As the senior experience consultant & design lead within the business vertical of the TAMM program, initial responsibilities included planning and conducting user research activities such as interviews, workshops, empathy/ experience mapping sessions, proto-personas creation and producing user journeys for use in the development of product features.
Early activities included the planning and running of design thinking workshops with key stakeholders and end-users. Amongst a number of outputs from these workshops, key pain points were identified, personas synthesised, desired features roadmapped and paper prototypes created with the aid of end-users.
Alongside everyday activities as a senior user experience consultant & design lead, it also become a personal endeavour to help develop, implement and uphold user experience and design standards across the entire program. This included the synthesis of existing industry standards that were customised to fit the bespoke needs of the program.
These standards were then used during on-boarding of new team members and also referenced when mentoring junior, mid-weight and senior design team members across all program verticals. This was also taken on as a personal responsibility.
Other holistic program responsibilities that followed included building the information architecture models for key areas of the product such as search, navigation, forms and user profiles.
Managing and delegating
With the addition of these program wide responsibilities, it was important to manage and delegate some of the decentralised business vertical tasks by recruiting and assigning additional team members to fill the gap. At this point in time, design backlog management and task assignment became a primary responsibility as the sole design lead for the business vertical. This included assigning tasks to a number of senior user interface designers and scheduling regular alignment meetings.
As personal tasks and responsibilities became more centralised and interaction with the business vertical waned, it became pivotal to maintain a close relationship with the lead developers and key stakeholders of the stream by attending daily stand-ups and planning meetings. Any findings from the centralised team would be relayed within these meetings and workshopped to determine if there would be an effect on the prioritisation of features within the sprint backlog.
With the addition of increased management tasks, it remained a personal responsibility to work closely with designers and developers alike to help conceptualise, prototype, test, iterate and deploy features and functionality within the decentralised business stream sprint backlog.
The production of prototypes for user testing, scenario building, session preparation and conducting user testing sessions also remained key on-going responsibilities due to the vital function and importance of these activities to key stakeholders.
As part of the centralised design team, it also remained a key responsibility through-out, to work closely with front-end developers to help establish and maintain the core design language system – the programs user interface component library and global standards portal.
Key learnings & progression
Working with an international, multi-functional and diverse team from all corners of the globe bought with it increased complexity with difficulties such as language barriers, cultural differences and the complexities that come with managing remote workers. A key learning that came from this experience was the importance of maintaining and expanding our design language system by having concise, appropriate and clear global standards for all to follow.
Agencies & entities
Another complexity that came with the scale of the project was the number of individuals across multiple government agencies that needed to be involved in the everyday decision making within the team. Strong organisation and planning skills were required in order to make sure the right individuals were in the right meeting at the right time.
It was also pivotal to remain flexible in order to extract and absorb as much information from these individuals as possible. This remained an important factor throughout and was vital in order to land on the right decision – or a middle-ground – that would cater for everyones needs.
Management & mentoring
As the role grew into a more managerial one, additional responsibilities including task delegation and team mentoring became a more prominent focus. Although not the first engagement where these skills were required, the size and advanced skills of the team bought new challenges.
The key to success laid in effective planning and the delegation of tasks whilst managing ones own workload. This enabled time to be dedicate to additional managerial responsibilities such as alignment meetings, recruitment tasks and on-boarding.
Probably the most important skill to have on a large-scale governmental program is patience. The patience to let the product grow at its own pace and to not hastily rush into poor decisions due to internal and/ or external pressures. The achieve this, it was necessary to disconnect oneself from the situation by taking a regular step back to view the program from a holistic viewpoint and understand where real impact was being made – as at a given time it was not always immediately obvious.
Technical skills progress naturally during the course of any program of work. However, it’s remained important to constantly push the boundaries and explore and experiment with both hard and soft skills that may be considered outside of ones personal discipline. In particular, discovering new research and analysis techniques used in other fields of study that could be adapted for use in the UX field.
Along with the more experimenting aspects of technical development, it also remained important to reference more official, industry renown material. Material such as articles related to industry standards and principles, new information architecture modals, wireframing best practices and templates, new testing techniques and interface design materials and trends.
New tools & workflow
Although it’s important to master hardware and software in order to increase efficiency, it’s also vital to experiment with new tools and software in order to optimise workflow and maximise ones efficiency. Discovering software such as Overflow – used in parallel with Sketch – drastically reduced the turnaround time for a major deliverable at a pivotal point in the program. This highlights the importance of remaining open to using new software and acquiring new skills.