There are different ways to surprise your clients with new and fresh products and services, to make them engage with your brand, gain new clients, increase your sales, grow and stay relevant.
One of the most popular ways for the past years to achieve those goals was changing the way of working. Agile, as a method, quickly became popular in software development, and lots of companies adopted this way of doing things into their daily lives.
Companies saw in agile a hope, a process to build things faster, basically, a system that works. Many started training their employees in this way of working applying the same process but into the business side. However, these companies often overlooked that agile is an operative model to get things done, like building digital products. However, the question of what product to make is a step backward, and you can do that in a sprint, a design sprint.
Let's make the concepts clear:
An agile sprint is a system where a multidisciplinary team works together for continuous releases through constant iteration. Sometimes those iterations lack customer's feedback. You don't need feedback in each release but sometimes it is good to learn if the end product is being understandable from the customer's perspective and if it is meeting the business's expectations.
A design sprint is a problem-solving process that you can run for one or two weeks to figure out what problem do you want to focus on and to question where the opportunity lies. It’s also an opportunity to get the initial concept right through prototyping and user testing.
Both types of sprints are two different processes. I've seen many companies confuse them and not give enough time to understand the problem or even define which issue they want to focus on; also omitting the fact the prototypes can help them to understand the real problem. Many companies rush to build a solution quickly without thinking about how building that product will help them in staying relevant or being competitive.
In short, a design sprint revolves around your product strategy and it will help you to find the right direction in your solution. Agile sprints are mainly operational and help you to build your product or solution optimally.
Prototyping. An essential part of both.
No matter what sprint you embark on, prototyping is essential in order to learn fast and make evidence-based decisions. A rudimentary prototype helps you to get out of the bubble of the sprint room and get a real world feel for the strengths and weaknesses of the idea.
I recently worked within the acceleration team of a Boondoggle client in Belgium. They started to work in an agile way since last year, and our goal was to develop a new value proposition in one of their core offerings. When I joined them, I was surprised because this same team was also responsible for the soft-launch of previous ideas which left too little time to focus on new propositions. On top of that, they were dealing with operational tasks as well. It was a mixed salad of sprints. I was puzzled by it at the beginning, but it was how they decided to start with this new way of working, and I respected it.
During my presence within this team, I got the confirmation that mixing sprints every week caused delays because we were intermixing activities. Two days of a design sprint and three days to do operational tasks for other projects didn’t give anyone a sense of accomplishment. Luckily I was able to share suggestions to improve the performance of the team.
One of them was to have separate teams set-ups to makes things more efficient. Of course any company wants to stretch their resources, but when the time to implement your solution comes you will need to involve other parts of the business, and they will need to have the same mindset to be completely agile.
Another suggestion was to assign sprints to your design project, treating the design project as a problem you are solving. Start by collecting all the information you have about the situation you want to change or the challenge you want to tackle (pre-flight sprint) and then apply a design sprint to get the right direction to find the right problem to solve for your company. After that, you can work in agile sprints to implement the solution that you have previously tested through prototypes -whether it is a service or a product.
Lastly, an essential element to have is a lead facilitator for the process. Having someone who keeps the team focused and help them to frame hypothesis, business questions, translate that to a prototype and analyze the results for the next iteration will be your secret key to get the evidence you need to make proper business decisions.
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