While integrating experience design in the overall agile lifecycle is a challenge, teams working in a continuous delivery mode can prove to be a boon for experience designers.
Using the release cadence
When you are working on a longer release cadence, life of an experience designer often looks like this
A lot of discovery and research is done upfront in the first few iterations, with usability testing happening towards the end of the release with very minimal tie left for factoring in any feedback coming from usabiity testing.
However teams practicing delivering continous releases to production often end up with a better release cadence which allows a lot of opportunities for UXers on the team to perform research, concept testing and usability testing around these shorter releases.
This allows teams to plan fixing feedback from previous releases into future releases resulting in building a better product iteratively. These windows of opportunity should be capitalized by experience designers on the team to do regular usability testing or even corridor testing whenever possible. Even if the minor releases do not actually go live, a lot of feedback can be gathered by testing on staging environments at regular intervals.
Packing in some good analytics within the application will also provide valuable insights into usage patterns which again can be used as feedback on the features delivered.
Reducing time to production to quickly deploy UI fixes
Another important thing which experience designers should push for and be congnizant about is how long it takes to promote a checkin to production. Often in larger organizations there are heavy processes involved in promoting a change which can be quite frustrating for designers when they want to promote small UI fixes into production over night
It is important that the whole team works towards removing any potential blockers that come in between a code checkin and deployment. The team should also constantly try to reduce the time it takes to make a deployment into production
A lot of project teams end up taking days to deploy to production which ends up being a major release overhead cost. The sooner this time is reduced, people will encourage more frequent changes to production, which again will be a great opportunity for deisgners focussing on visual design aspects to push in those minor tweaks to the UI.
I would like to keep this simple to say that fitting in experience design into continous delivery need not be viewed as a challenge. The many windows of opportunity are infact a boon for UXers and should slowly start encouraging them to take more risks and iterate over their design over releases, rather than be the perfectionist before the first release.
All it needs is the iterative mindset !