Have you and your team ever wondered how to validate new solutions without having to spend overtime and money? Or how can you make sure that the new features of your existing product will meet your customers’ needs? Or, even further, how can you test the added value of entering a new market (new customers or technology) in a faster and risk-less way?
If that’s the case, we probably have the right solution for you and this is called ‘Design Sprint’. The ‘Sprint’ is an agile five-day approach designed to help companies to find unconventional answers to crucial business questions through ideation, prototyping and testing ideas with their customers. This package includes elements of business strategy, behavioural science, and design, combined into a step-by-step process that any team can use and readapt to launch new ideas successfully.
To give you a better idea of how impactful this approach could be, let us walk you through the ‘Design Sprint’ we recently run with Adaptricity. Adaptricity is an electrical electronics company who provide smart solutions for electricity grids’ management and monitoring. Their current goal is to switch to a 50% license revenue model, meaning they want to be able to sell their monitoring software to their end-users - in this case - grid operators.
Since the software is highly technical, they approached us to help them explore different ways to make it more user-friendly and intuitive so that grid operators can purchase it and easily run the analysis themselves.
After only five days the team was able to define their critical focus areas, prototype mock-ups and show them to 5 users for testing. Let’s have a closer look at how they reached these results.
A few weeks before the Sprint started, the Adaptricy team brought together seven participants: a good mix of designers, software engineers and IT experts. Each of them cleared their calendar for a five full-day block, got rid of their laptops and stock up on the right supplies of sticky notes to fully dive into the challenge: we were officially ready to start. During the first day, the team gathered all the relevant information in order to decide the focus of the sprint. They were aware that the challenge had to be feasible and impactful. After they mapped out their current process, interviewed 7 experts during a fast-paced ‘speed-dating’ exercise and analysed the main insights, the goal of the week was clear to everyone in the room: How can we create a software interface that is user-friendly, intuitive and simple to use for our clients? Once the team was aligned, they were officially ready to jump into the ideation process.
During the second day, the team engaged in a desk research to find out how different players currently respond to the same challenge and identified what are the most valuable features that could be implemented and build upon for their own product: how and what can I learn from other domains, such as Google mail, video games, urban city planning software? After everyone presented its own suggestions, it was time to give these ideas a tangible form. Each of the participants silently selected the most promising one and let unleashing his creativity by sketching different variations of the same idea.
By the end of the day, seven potential solutions were generated and mapped out in a storyboard format. The team had now all the material needed to make an informed decision for the next day. As a group, the team discussed the highlights of each solution, captured standout ideas and important objections. By creating a heat map, they were able to clearly and visually identify the most promising aspects of each of the sketched solution. Now it was time for a decision: instead of engaging in an endless discussion, each of the participants sorted the ideas accordingly to different criteria and silently voted for which of those he would have liked to see incorporated in the final prototype. Thanks to the dot-voting exercise, the team was able to quickly agree on two different concepts for their user interface, plan the ‘story canava’ for the development of their two prototypes and allocate the various responsibilities among the team members.
After receiving tips on how to conduct user testing interviews, the team worked together to build a rapid, realistic prototype. Only by using simple functions on Keynote, they were able to reproduce the drafted storyboards into two interactive and digital mock-ups without programming a single line of code. Once they decided the interview questions and appointed the two interviewers, the team came back together for a last final ‘trial run’, during which they prepared for the testing session, shared feedback on the performance, selected the key functionalities to be validated and corrected the last mistakes. After a fresh and well-deserved beer, the team was ready for the final rush.
Friday was the big day. The team was all very excited to finally hear the voice of their users. One at a time, five potential end-users tested the mock-ups through an interactive and engaging interview conducted by the selected interviewer of the team. The rest of the team observed the conversation through a camera and noted down the most relevant insights, the positive and negative comments, and the suggestions proposed by the users. By looking at the users’ reactions in real-life, they could collect meaningful feedback and identify the strengths and flaws of the new interface. Already before lunch, an entire wall of post-it full of interesting insights was built and it was time to make sense of it. During the afternoon, the team applied different techniques to identify user patterns and behavioural trends and was able to turn the collected information into a feasible, implementable and focused action plan. At the end of the week, everyone knew exactly what to do next.
Thanks to this fast-pace program, it was evident how the Adaptricty team could speed up the decision-making process and get closer and closer to their goal. After a second cycle of feedback iteration conducted the following month, they will be ready to launch their software in the market already by the end of the year.
by Alice Repetti