Development2021.07.19 5 min. read

How does a Design Sprint look like?

Andrzej Patyra Head of Innovation at Digital Transformation Department

Design Sprint in practice 

Following the introduction to the Design Sprint presented in article >> Design Sprint – How to Build a Prototype in 4 Days, I will describe this process in practice. In this section, I will expand on building a project team, sprint rules and tasks planned for each day of the workshops. 

Preparing for a sprint

Everything starts with understanding the idea or problem that we will work on during the workshops. This is usually a meeting with key people from the project and exchanging documents, research findings and ideas. Then, desk research is done, i.e. the analysis of market trends, potential technologies, methods, etc., or choosing the approach that best fits the challenge. The next step is personal interviews with each of the Sprint participants – people we select to be on the team are crucial. 

The ideal number of people in the team is 5–7. It is good when the group is diverse – this helps to ensure a broader perspective and comprehensive knowledge about the solution. I know from experience that it is best when there are representatives of the sales, marketing and finance departments. Of course, you cannot forget about a UX/UI specialist or IT people. It is also necessary to choose a decision-maker – a person with authority to make decisions in the organisation, who will make key decisions. Usually it is a Product Manager/Owner. 

Once we have a team in place, we have to set a date. At Billennium, the Design Sprint takes 4 days. The first 2 days are workshops for the whole team and the next 2 days require only the participation of selected people. All set? Let’s start!  

Principles of Design Sprint 

The key to understand how the process works and what value it delivers is to establish the basic principles: 

  1. Together alone – we work together, but we have time and room to formulate and voice our ideas. In a Sprint, every opinion is important and the process is designed to support that. 
  2. Get tangible over discussion – instead of discussing and trying to bring the team round to your way of thinking, it is better to start creating – describe, sketch and finally turn your ideas into a prototype. These ideas will be verified by the user. This way we avoid a risk of misunderstanding. 
  3. Getting started > being right – do not waste time on details and striving for perfection. In the process, we make decisions and take next steps to test the team’s idea as soon as possible. This is to break a decision deadlock and avoid endless discussions. 
  4. Don’t rely on creativity – creativity is unpredictable. Instead of waiting for ideas, we rely on a process that guides the team and helps to take a creative approach when it is needed. 

Design Sprint: Day by day 

Day 1: Goal and proposals 

This consists of two parts. From the beginning of the day, the team works to get a very good understanding of the challenge. It all starts with an interview or series of interviews with people who are experts in the chosen field. During the interview, everyone works individually, jotting down problems and sticking points, and turning them into ‘How Might We?’ questions. Turning a problem into a question opens us to finding solutions. Team members take on the role of a great optimist and create a long-term ambitious goal. Then, they become critics of the idea, looking for the most difficult questions that need to be answered during the Sprint to achieve the desired outcome. Once the goal, risks and key questions are known, we define ways to achieve this goal. A product or service map reflecting these complex processes is created. It will provide a framework for sketches and ideas. 

Later on during the day, the team creates proposals for solutions, shares suggestions and looks for models that are crucial to solve the problem. There is also time for individual work where each participant anonymously creates their proposal for the solution that they believe best addresses the Sprint goal. 

Day 2: Choosing the solution 

On the second day, the facilitator (workshop leader) presents sketches prepared on the previous day and team members decide which ones are the most interesting. Participants vote for the best concept and explain why they think the proposal chosen by them is the best. The last to vote is the decision-maker who decides on the final version of the sketch. Then, the work on its implementation begins. The process is defined, the best ideas are identified and the final form of the solution is chosen. At this stage, the scope and design of the prototype are defined and the user process is visible.  

Importantly, at the end of the day, the group workshops are over. Team work, where possible, will continue, e.g. in supporting the designer by providing content for the website or answering clarifying questions. There is no need to involve the whole team at this stage. It is worth having an extra 30 minutes at the end of the day to assign tasks for the next day to specific people and to set synchronisation times, e.g. three 30-minute sessions during the day. 

Day 3: Prototyping 

On the third day, Billennium builds one or more prototypes to give the idea a tangible form. To this end, we use both digital tools (interactive mock-ups or apps) and already existing products or printed packaging, flyers, etc.  

It is worth mentioning that creating perfect mock-ups in one day is unrealistic. We have to fake it to make it. There is no time here for long and expensive software integration. Thus, for the purpose of tests, you have to be clever and skilfully fake key elements so that the user experiences any imperfections as little as possible. When the prototypes are ready, the workshops are over. If there is someone willing to help, they can prepare content for the website or get additional information. 

Day 4: Testing 

On the last day, we get the customers’ opinions about the prepared prototypes. During meetings with users, we observe the way they use the product, their reactions and impressions they have about the materials prepared during the Sprint. The sessions are recorded and conclusions are included in a report. 

During the tests, it is worth mentioning that the product will be improved, therefore constructive criticism and any suggestions are important to us. It is also good to emphasise that we are not the creators of the product – thus, we create a climate of openness and honesty. A very important element is to write down all comments from users and visualise them on a board so that anyone who has not watched the session can quickly draw conclusions.  

We test five users. Research shows that there is no need to test more users, because the third user will do the same things as the first and most likely also as the second tester. After the fifth user, you are wasting your time by observing the same findings repeatedly, but not learning much new. 

The end. What’s next? 

Design Sprint is to answer one question in 4 days: will the solution we are creating work?  

The design is faced with the reality. Clear feedback is given based on which conclusions can be drawn and a plan for further development can be created. 

To sum up the Sprint, 1 to 3 days after testing, an additional 2-hour meeting is scheduled during which Sprint results are presented along with a plan for further development (if possible) – not only in terms of next iterations, but also specific technologies, competences and approximate costs. This is the perfect moment to invite key stakeholders who may influence the product. 

After the Sprint, you get tested mock-ups, you understand the user’s journey through the product and you have feedback, i.e. data that make the steps to be taken in the future much clearer.  

Design Sprint in a nutshell 

To sum up, Design Sprint is a method by which we can quickly verify key business assumptions. At Billennium, we do it in 4 days. Most IT projects take about a year. These four days constitute only 2% of the project time and they give the answer to the question whether further work makes sense. The method is used on a regular basis in the largest companies (e.g. Google, Facebook, Lufthansa, UN and McKinsey). It helped to create products we use every day (e.g. Uber, Hangouts and Slack).  

If you are interested in running a Design Sprint in your company and creating prototypes with the help of Billennium specialists, click >> here for more information. 

Post author

Andrzej Patyra

Head of Innovation at Digital Transformation Department

Contact us

Do you want to know, what we can do for you? Let's talk!