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The Remote Design Sprint Guide

Making decisions through validation is a sound business strategy. That is what design sprints are meant for.

Quick validation of novel ideas that might otherwise cost thousands of dollars in research and development.

Design sprints have gained traction in recent times and are part of the creative process in most companies.

But this applies to companies that have embraced creative research and development.

A design sprint will involve a team of executives and facilitators confined in a room engaged in a marathon exercise that results in great products or unanimous decisions.

The 5-day design sprint concept has been adopted as a standard formula for product development.

However, Covid-19 disrupted how sprints are executed.

Unfortunately, it poses endless risks to bring a group of individuals into a room and confine them for 5 days without resulting in a viral outbreak.

But all is not lost.

Enter - remote design sprints.


What is a remote design sprint?
 
Remote design sprints were not entirely occasioned by the Covid pandemic.

Some experienced design sprint agencies had been conducting remote sprints albeit as a secondary option.

Flying to the client’s location or the client coming to your office - was and remains the best option for conducting design sprints.

The facilitator is the conductor of this intricate orchestra and having the entire team in one room minus any distractions make it a smooth process. Productivity is also high as everyone is focused and the facilitator has a relatively easier time running the process.

However, when the group is spread across the globe in various locations several challenges like time zone and environmental distractions may hinder the process towards achieving great results.

In a separate article, we explored the design sprint process that has a signature 5-day time frame.

For a recap, during the 5 days, the facilitator takes the team through the following steps.


  1. Empathy - What is the problem we are solving and for whom?
  2. Define - What problems does the user face and how will our solution help them solve their problem
  3. Ideation - Brainstorming session where solutions are proposed to solve the problems experienced by the user
  4. Prototyping - Knockout stage where ideas are validated against criteria to remain with one direction that addresses the problem best. A prototype is created after narrowing down on the most appropriate candidate.
  5. Test - Having identified the user in the earlier stages of the sprint they are presented with the prototype in real-time and they interact and experience the solution for the first time to provide feedback for the creators to either conclude the process as a success or start again.

That process involves rapid decision-making sessions where whiteboards, sticky papers, and vibrant brainstorming sessions are part of the process.

With remote sprints, you are relying heavily on cloud-based applications, good internet, and luck to ensure the process runs uninterrupted.

Luck is being used loosely to invoke instances where the participant is unable to join the proceedings for various reasons including tech failure.





A successful remote design sprint must factor in time differences, schedule, and also internet connection(we cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good internet connection).

Hardware for supporting the video conferencing must also include good quality microphones and lighting where necessary.

To ensure fewer hiccups, pick your team in advance and circulate the design brief. Then schedule the sprint by the day and hour. When it is convenient for all participants.

Unfortunately, tech challenges may interrupt the smooth flow of proceedings. Some team members probably haven’t interacted with some of the applications we are going to highlight next.

However, the facilitator must ensure everyone is comfortable and tagging along with every step of the process.

Let’s take a look at the applications you will need for a remote design sprint.

Tools to help run a remote design sprint smoothly.

For video conferencing, Zoom is a great tool, easy to use, and available globally. You can share screens and record your sessions for review after the sprint is done.

Note-taking can be done on Notion - a great platform to keep all your notes and tasks well documented.

The prototyping can be done on Figma and despite this tool being a design output application you can fiddle around and come up with a decent prototype as a newbie.

UserTesting is your go-to test tool. It comes in handy to collect user feedback on a prototype

The whiteboard sessions that feature prominently in design sprints can be handled on Miro or the equivalent Mural. Both tools have great benefits but Miro is highly recommended in the design sprint circles.

Scheduling the design sprint looks simple. With the chances of the team being on different sides of the globe, it presents unique challenges.

The facilitator must ensure they synchronize the best sprint times for everyone.

The tools do not skew the design sprint process. That means all the steps you take in a physical setup will be replicated online although shuffling between different tools.

I reckon the remote design sprints will become a default choice for conducting design thinking exercises.


Who should be in a design sprint?


Design sprints are productive when decision-makers are involved. You don’t need hangers-on and critic experts.

The team needed for remote and on-location design sprints are not any different.

  1. The decider - a key representative of the client company. They make the final or call on important decisions regarding the sprint. 
  2. The facilitator is the captain of the ship. Ensuring all are on board and participating in the process from start to end.
  3. A designer to help create visuals for ideas generated in the sprint
  4. A marketing expert who will help the team understand the target customer better
  5. Finally - the tech engineer. Lots of sophisticated resources are used in this exercise and having someone well versed in technology will be a sound decision. They also have another role of ensuring the prototype can meet basic technical requirements to function well.

Some companies may prefer having two individuals present for each role. This goes for the marketing, design, and engineering roles.

Ultimately, assembling a team that has a great work ethic and chemistry will make your remote design sprint successful.


Cost of a design sprint

The consultancy fees for a remote design sprint and on-location have a slight difference.
Without travel and accommodation costs, the invoice will decrease significantly. That narrows the costs to the core deliverables and design thinking consultant fees.

The expected costs for a design sprint will range between 10,000 dollars and 20,000 dollars for the 5-day session. That covers the team compensation, preparation, prototype, user tests, and videos.

In some cases, NDAs must be signed because intellectual property is a minefield with research and development.

The cost variables are determined by two key factors
●     Complexity and impact of the project - what is being built and the expectations of the client
●     Status of the company, ie, multinational, SME, NGO, or early-stage startup - The bigger the company the more complex the decision-making chain of command gets. That means quick decisions need approval from the higher echelons and that (not encouraged) might result in extending beyond 5 days for the sprint.


That sums it up. Remote design sprints are more favourable for busy professionals and they will get the right results only when done right.

We are design thinking professionals ready to help you create and validate awesome products.

Let’s kickstart your project with a design sprint!
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