Task Human-Centered Design in an Agile Process (Completed)
Last Published:  07/31/19 10:05:33 AM (Central)
Short Title: Agile HCD
Responsible HRP Element: Human Factors and Behavioral Performance
Collaborating Org(s):
Funding Status: Completed - Task completed and produced a deliverable
Procurement Mechanism(s):

The Agile development process is being implemented in an increasing number of product and system development efforts.  Initially intended as a more flexible and adaptive approach to software development, the benefits of the Agile process were quickly applied to a variety of other efforts:  hardware development, training material development, marketing materials, and customer services.  NASA has begun implementing the Agile development process in limited software and hardware design efforts, and they are moving towards a more widespread application of this approach. Human Factors (HF) specialists at NASA have expressed concern that the Agile process has the potential to minimize or insufficiently consider the role of the human (also referred to as “user”) in the design process.

This project investigated the use of Agile and human centered design (HCD), in industry and government agencies, for safety and mission critical products and systems to identify best practices and lessons learned.  The goal was to provide this input to NASA so they can decide if and how to best implement Agile processes in software and hardware design.


This work included two main sources of data gathering:  a literature review and a series of interviews.  These included both informal and formal interviews.  The informal interviews were conducted to get an understanding of how Agile processes are used in practice, to identify questions, and to identify candidates for the formal interviews.  The formal interviews were performed to identify best practices and lessons learned.  This report describes the methods used for the literature review and interviews, and it describes the results of each analysis.  The report then concludes with a discussion and a brief set of recommendations.  Agile and HCD processes have been integrated in many situations, and this involves intense, hands-on effort from the human factors (HF) specialist, and requires a team that is receptive to HF input. Success depends on:

  • Integration of the HF / UX personnel with the development team
  • Buy-in from the software developers and project managers
  • HF / UX providing frequent inputs to the development team
  • The HF / UX personnel staying a cycle or more (as many as four or five) ahead for design issues
  • Conducting frequent and small-scale usability tests
  • Providing rapid feedback regarding usability tests
  • High quality surrogate users for day-to-day interactions and interim sprint reviews
  • Scheduled end user events with the sufficient representation of the user population