A Step towards Digital Transformation with Remote Design Sprints

A Step towards Digital Transformation with Remote Design Sprints


You start your work day. You attend meetings. You make plans for the next steps the business needs to take. And then, your entire organization delivers all its value via the Internet, at low cost, and without any cultural upheaval. Poof!


After you wake up from this dream you will realize that only frustration and disappointment await your transition to becoming a digital enterprise.


So what if there was a way to make the changes needed without all the pain?


Turns out there is. Several enterprises have been quietly transforming themselves with the unassuming power of the design sprint. A few among these include Airbnb, Home Depot, Lego, Barclays Bank, Apple, Tesla, and even the Google mothership itself, who are changing behaviors and creating positive outcomes one design sprint at a time.


What is a Design Sprint?


A design sprint is a unique five day process for validating ideas and solving big challenges through prototyping and testing new product or service ideas without having to actually build the product or even an MVP.


In the traditional setting of a “Sprint”, designers, developers, product owners, and anyone that can draw and think, enter a room for 5 days (depending on the type of sprint you intend to make, there are a lot of ways of doing so), and then get out with plenty of ideas, prototypes and more! The prototype is built with specific questions in mind, so you can zero in on precisely what you need to find out.


The exercises packaged in the design sprint shift teams from defensive group-thinking (“I can’t learn anything from customers”) to empathetic collaboration (“I’d never thought of it like that”).


The Shift of Design Sprint from On-Site to Online.


In the year 2020, as most of the world’s population went under some form of lockdown, we found ourselves in the midst of an unprecedented social experiment with many people shifting to remote work. At the intersection of the innovator mindset and creative thinking, we explored ways to help the world deal with this and the next pandemic.


Reaching into our designer’s toolkit, we deployed the staples of our craft, including problem definition, ethnographic research, ideation, prototyping, and user testing. Taking advantage of recent innovations and the latest technology, we switched to hosting the entire design sprint experience online, at home, with a focus on a specific problem to generate multiple solutions, build prototypes, and get rapid feedback.


Tools like Mural, Miro, InVision, Figma, and Zoom have certainly made the transition easy. Our altered roadmap proved to continually deliver ongoing value to our customers as we discovered the efficacy of running a remote design sprint.


  • Individual Creativity


In-person sprints required participants to sketch their ideas in an hour, using pen and paper. Sketching was done in the sprint room, in one uninterrupted stretch, where everyone’s work was visible to one another. However, this strategy didn’t always lead to the best outcomes. Many people work better when they have more privacy, more time, or more control over how they use it. Likewise, some sprint challenges require more thoughtful deliberation than others. With that in mind, Remote Sprints have presented us with an opportunity to give better ideas a chance.


The increased time and privacy empowered people to perform best at their own pace. We also witnessed an improvement in the variety and quality of the solutions, because people weren’t privy to each other’s ideas and had the freedom and confidence to work with the tools that made sense for them rather than the mandated pen and paper (for example, some people sketched on pen and paper, others used Figma, Keynote or PowerPoint).


  • Collaborative Iterations


At the end of a workshop, it is not uncommon to walk away with concrete actions to get feedback from users and other stakeholders on the resulting ideas and prototypes. This is definitely good practice, but there is often a lag between leaving the workshop and getting feedback, which stalls the momentum of the entire engagement.


When working remotely, collaborations sped up dramatically, reaching more diverse sets of feedback providers than would have ever been possible face-to-face. Moreover, carefully planned dialogues with a modular sprint plan helped teams build on their diverse ideas, instead of just negotiating compromises when differences arose, and experimenting with new solutions to reduce all stakeholders’ fear of change.


  • Digital Synthesizing


Data capturing has been one of the biggest headaches of an on-site design sprint. Between the post-its, whiteboards, flip-charts, and illegible handwriting, synthesizing all the data is a major undertaking. And then once that is done, the data still needs to be manually documented, reported, and uploaded on a digital platform.


Not so in a remote design sprint. With the help of digital whiteboards that capture data along the way, all of the assets remain intact in the virtual sprint room for any of the team members to revisit whenever they like. Not only has this given everyone a better view of their progress as the Sprint progresses, but it has also made synthesizing the outcomes of each exercise much quicker, as they are already digital. This ultimately allowed teams to compile their design sprint report more quickly and get it into the hands of Stakeholders for the next steps.


  • Flexibility, Efficiency, and Cost Reduction


Businesses now have the option to invite international experts to sprints which would have been too costly before. They can integrate participants from remote locations cost-effectively, saving on travel overhead and reduced carbon overhead.


At the end of the design sprint, you’ll not only have; tested a high-fidelity interactive prototype with real users and worked through some of the core design challenges you’re facing, but you’ll also have a set of clear insights on what to do next – all in a matter of hours.


Face-to-face working will always have a hugely valuable role to play – in innovation and our wider working lives. But embracing remote design thinking now has enabled organizations to tackle more challenges, solve more problems and engage more people regardless of where they are based. The primary reason design sprints have emerged as a desirable digital transformation tool is that they deliver actionable outcomes in a very short period of time. In contrast to the months or years associated with solution-seeking projects, design sprint solutions are just days in the making.


How Can We Help?


At M3hive, we’ve been running design sprints frequently for years. Most of these, if not all, were in person, in spacious environments, with post-its, huge whiteboards, screens and our favorite stationery.


Over the last few months, we’ve switched to hosting the entire sprint experience online, at home, within our screens. In all honesty, we’re not completely new to running remote design sprints. However, various digital platforms have given us the tools to perform a more refined design process.


If you want to take your problem solving to the next level, then a design sprint would be the best fit for your needs. If you’re on the fence, we would encourage you to drop us a line to explore our design thinking process. From there, you can see what’s best for your team.


We have experience facilitating sprints across multiple industries, and we know how to keep teams inspired and focused. We are clearly very happy with how design sprints have changed how we operate, and we’re excited to help you do the same.