Alternative name(s)

User participation; user requirements management; user stories; Customer involvement
user involvement.png Source, F. Ahlefeldt.


User involvement is about focusing on user participation whena product or service for users. Waterbridge (1995) argues that IT projects can only achieve success when emphasis is made on user involvement and communication. It is important that all participants agree on the project success criteria. Cost and time constraints are project management centred (Waterbridge, 1995). Quality however involves all participants, who may have different perceptions of quality. It is therefore important to agree on the quality criteria before the start of the project and to constantly review these criteria during the course of the project.

Furthermore, Ambler (2008) advocates the need for developers to work closely with their customers to discover their needs and to educate them, as not only are the customers' needs one of the highest priorities in Agile, as it is the customer the project is for, but that sometimes customers do not quite understand what they need. Agile works to address these needs and only through prioritising the customer and their needs can the project be successful.

Agile values

The Agile values prioritize collaboration with the customer over contract negotiation (MSDN, 2013). To support this value, the product owner role was created specifically to represent the customer. Their responsibility is continuously ensuring that the customer's requirements are being incorporated into the final product (MSDN, 2013).

Agile principles

In Agile principles, it is imperative to have a senior and experienced user representative involved throughout the project development life-cycle.

There are 7 reasons why active user involvement is imperative

1. Requirements are clearly communicated and understood (at a high level) at the outset;

2. Requirements are prioritised appropriately based on the needs of the user and market;

3. As iterations of the product are delivered, that the product meets user expectations;

4. The user is seen to be interested in the development on a daily basis;

5. Developers are accountable, sharing progress openly with the user every day;

6. The user shares responsibility for issues arising in development; it is not a customer-supplier relationship but a joint team effort;

7. Responsibility is shared; the team is responsible together for delivery of the product (Waters, 2007).

There are three aspects regarding user involvement in Agile principles

1. One of the most important principles of Agile is being customer focused; to satisfy customer needs by continuously delivering valuable software;

2. User is encouraged to demand changes even at the implementation stage of the project;

3. Agile processes support sustainable progress. The users, sponsors and developers are expected to preserve a unvarying pace indefinitely (Pressman, 2009).

Agile practices

Involving the user representatives throughout the project life cycle is a necessity. Their involvement will warrant process benefits that will be translated to business benefits. There are three dimensions regarding user involvement in Agile practices.

Through their involvement, users will bring real life examples and experience into the mix. This input will impact the implementation of workflow, functionality and non-functional requirements. Their involvement will ensure that what is being developed and delivered is fit for business purpose (Bartolo, 2012).

When users are involved, they will become an integral part of the delivery and development team. Through this involvement they obtain visibility of all activities. They are given the chance to influence the design through prototyping sessions, prioritisation sessions, workshop sessions and much more. This involvement generates a great sense of ownership which leads to motivation (Bartolo, 2012).

In this context, commitment has a double meaning. Having users committed to the project and having their commitment to using the business solution once it is delivered. The essence is to ensure their commitment to using the business solution once delivered, as without this there will be significant challenges in deriving the expected business benefits (Bartolo, 2012).


Traditional approaches to user involvement, for instance, in Waterfall are limited to early project planning. The user and project team in Waterfall do not meet again until the project completion; this can cause serious issues with the final delivered product to the user. The user's needs may have changed, the developers have developed something the user did not want, for example, adding features not requested, and the product may not do what was originally asked.

In contrast, Agile encourages user involvement at all steps in the process, encourages the user to discuss changes as and when they are required, and because Agile releases iterations often to the user, the user is able to give immediate feedback to the Agile development team.

Links from this KA to other KAs

User involvement is at the forefront of Agile, it is embedded in the Agile Manifesto and so must form part of the Project Governance of Agile development. Project Governance. Feedback from users can play a vital role to get users involved in the project.


Ambler, S. (2008). Tailoring Usability into Agile Software Development Projects. In Law, E., Hvannberg, E. And Cockton, G. (Eds) Maturing Usability. Quality in Software, Interactions and Value. London: Springer Verlag.

Bartolo, I. (2012) AGILE PRINCIPLE: USER INVOLVEMENT. Available: [Accessed: 12 February, 2013].

MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) Library. (2013) Agile Principles and Values, by Jeff Sutherland. Available at: [Accessed: 11 February, 2013]

Pressman. (2009). Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach, 7/e. Available: accessed 5th Feb 2013.

Wateridge, J. (1995). 'IT projects: a basis for success'. International Journal of Project Management. 13(3) pp. 169-172. Science Direct [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 09 February, 2013]

Waters, K. (2007) Agile Principle 1: Active User Involvement Is Imperative. Available: [Accessed: 12 February, 2013].

External links Customer and User Involvement in Agile Software Development. Simple Methods for Reliable User Involvement. Having A Customer Focus In Agile Software Development.

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