Tips & tricks when doing remote Design Sprints

Medium Article April 2020.
By Dogoodtopeople | Patrick Reimus & Julien Drewe

Tips & tricks when doing remote Design Sprints

Adapt and overcome. We just ran several remote Design Sprints last month. And we love to share our learnings and tips & tricks of the Dogoodtopeople team.

In March 2020, it became clear to us that Covid-19 would have a global impact. Most of our clients put a hold on current or new projects. Still, we could rely on some of our long term strategic partnerships with our clients and managed to run most of our workshops and Design Sprints remotely. Interesting fact, 70% of our prototype interviews are remote and onboarding of participants and candidates is done remotely as well. Still, we had to convince some of our clients it was possible. Next was finding the best solution and setup.

From problem to solution
We start with a problem framing session. This to understand what other teams and stakeholders think and find consensus. We use the outcome and insights in our Design Sprint. This is an important part of our Design Sprint framework. Facilitation on-site is great but can be challenging. Doing it remotely we used this process. We started with a questionnaire where people could share their top 5 problems regarding the project and Sprint topic. The next step was to schedule an onboarding call (15min). This to explain our custom online template. Because we were in charge of technique, we recorded everything and no post-it and crucial information were lost. Also, our team scheduled a call afterward with the product owner (decider) to discuss the preferable outcome and presented solutions and we share the recordings of the 2 sessions.

It can be challenging to onboard a team that will participate in a regular Design Sprint and even more when you work remotely. We start with onboarding the Decider and give a Sprint Briefing walk through via phone (25min) and follow up with email. For the participants, we scheduled two onboarding calls (2×30 min). The first call ensuring they understood the process, manage expectations, and prepare the exercises. The second call is for answering questions and discuss a preferable outcome and test our custom online whiteboard template in Miro.

Communication and managing expectations are key in a Design Sprint. Even more, working remotely. We use a WhatsApp group so people can ask questions before the Design Sprint. During the Design Sprint, we used the chat function of Whereby to ask questions. All microphones are on mute. Sometimes on request, we have short discussions. It works very well. Because of the lack of eye contact, I make sure as a facilitator that everyone is on the same slide in Miro and I ask some participants to explain what they see so everyone keeps focused. Also, we use more breaks and we have a Facilitator deck where we explain every exercise with graphics and clear instructions this also applies to our custom Miro environment and templates.

Tooling, testing, and setup
There are so many tools and everyone has their opinion. For remote whiteboards, we choose between the best of two. In this case Miro instead of Mural. Just because of a lack of time and references. We learned it is better to spend more time getting to know one solution well then lose valuable time by endlessly discovering the differences. Our UX team was enthusiastic, only something had to be done about the standard whiteboards. Step two was the right video conferencing solution. We tested, Skype, MS Teams, Zoom, and Whereby. We choose the paid version of Whereby (12 fte in a room) and decided to use a paid Zoom version as a backup. Important, always make sure you have a backup! Check and double if it works. From a facilitator and participant perspective, there was the question: a second screen or not. The answer is easy preferably yes. It is easier for everyone. For a participant, it is not essential. Now that we actually had all the tools in place there is really only 1 elusive variable left and that is Wifi.

Dry run
After we made our decision and connected everything. We run several dry-runs to ensure everything worked. We also asked friends and family to use Miro, Whereby, and Zoom. this to ensure if they understood the template’s structure if it was easy to set up the communication etc.

Our Top 5 Tips & Tricks

Don’t spend to much time researching tools pick one and get started and play with them.
Onboard the team, explain the Design Sprint, and the remote tools you will be using.
Manage expectations and explain the rules on group communication.
Dry run the technique more than one time. Check your facilitation slide deck, work with even more exercise examples as usual as in an on-site design sprint.
Use the “magic Ice Breaker” before starting and don’t forget: work hard and have fun!

About us
Dogoodtopeople is the Human Centric Design Sprint company. We love solving complex business challenges on process and strategy. Working within corporates and startups gave us a unique DNA. You develop a fix it yourself attitude. It also taught us a lot about people, teams, ego’s endless brainstorm-sessions and the challenge to kickstart your project. And the great value a Design Sprint can offer.

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