[article originally published on UpTop Health]
As an executive, you’re always looking for ways to amp up innovation and identify next-level digital solutions for your organization. As a result, you’re probably already familiar with the concept of design thinking, an iterative and collaborative approach to problem solving. And you might even be considering adopting Jake Knapp’s well-known 5-Day Design Sprint process.
The 5-Day Design Sprint can be incredibly fruitful. But it’s best-suited to agile organizations seeking to address relatively narrow problems with a solid base of user research already on hand. And as you know, that doesn’t describe every situation. Especially not at the average company, which tends to be larger, more complex, and less agile.
But that doesn’t mean design thinking isn’t for you. It just means you need a different system, one that is tailored to an organization like yours. At UpTop, we’ve done exactly that. We developed our UX Strategy Sprint process with business organizations in mind. This highly structured, 10 week process reaps the benefits of the 5-Day Sprint while meeting businesses where they are. It allows them to chew on bigger, meatier problems, like how to update a legacy system or build a new member portal. At the same time, our process injects a jolt of velocity that enables organizations to more quickly identify innovative solutions — and create an actionable roadmap that makes it happen.
What is the 5-Day Design Sprint?
Before we dive into the details of the UX Strategy Sprint, let’s take a quick look at the 5-Day Design Sprint. This formal process is designed to move a team of 10 stakeholders from defining a problem to user testing in just five business days. Teams typically consist of a designer, researcher, developer, project manager, business executive, and business expert. Each day of the sprint’s five days has a specific goal, as follows:
- Day 1: Define the goal to solve for and understand the problem
- Day 2: Ideate on solutions
- Day 3: Decide on a solution to prototype and create a storyboard for it
- Day 4: Create a prototype of the solution
- Day 5: Test your solution with actual users
This process may be repeated several times until a team lands on the right solution.
As you can see, the Design Sprint moves quickly. Which means that it works best for agile teams that are already aligned around a narrowly defined problem (such as redesigning a specific user flow to increase conversion rates or defining the vision for a new product offering). In that context, the Design Sprint allows organizations to move quickly, thus saving time, money, and resources.
Now imagine trying to apply this process to a large organization with many stakeholders who may not even come to the table with a shared understanding of the problem that needs to be solved. It’s easy to see that the Design Sprint may not be the right fit.
What is a UX Strategy Sprint, and How Does It Work?
Although it shares many similarities with the 5-Day Design Sprint, our UX Strategy Sprint is optimized for large business organizations like yours. Rather than limiting the process to just five days, we’ve expanded our process to 6-8 weeks. We’ve found that this gives businesses the right balance of speed and structure to gain internal buy-in, align around innovative solutions, and solve more complex problems. The UX Strategy Sprint consists of the following phases:
Phase 1: Intake
Duration: 1-2 weeks
The intake phase is all about information gathering. We begin by asking our clients to craft an initial problem statement describing the big-picture issue they hope to solve during the UX Strategy Sprint.
Next, we work to quickly get up to speed on our client’s main pain points and assess their current situation relative to their stated problem. For example, let’s say a client wants to redesign their member portal to improve its usability. First, we would review and analyze the existing research, user data, and any other relevant information about the current portal. We would also look more broadly at competitors’ member portals to understand the industry-wide benchmarks for these digital spaces (as well as where our client currently sits within that framework).
Finally, we would round out our foundational insights with a UX audit of the existing portal as well as a sampling of stakeholder and user interviews.
By the time we complete our intake phase, we have a strong understanding of our client’s current state, including any technical and cultural issues that may be connected to their overarching problem.
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Phase 2: Client Workshop – Diverge and Converge
Duration: 1-3 days
Now it’s time to bring together our core group of internal stakeholders in our client workshop. The workshop includes similar participant roles and activities as the 5-Day Design Sprint, including inviting subject matter experts to provide additional insights. By gathering key stakeholder and user inputs in advance of the workshop, we ensure that each voice is heard (even those individuals who are less prone to speak up in a group setting).
We hit the ground running as we share, discuss, analyze, question, and further define the problem. Together, we map out and finalize the following elements:
- Problem statement (this may be refined or even redefined as needed based on our findings)
- Personas and user profiles
- Journey maps
- Primary user task flows
- Other research findings from our competitive analysis, user and stakeholder interviews, and more
Once everyone is aligned on the problem statement and the current state of the digital experience (if applicable), we work together to identify high-value design opportunities and key areas of improvement.
We then diverge to individually ideate on potential solutions for each opportunity. Participants sketch or write their ideas and share them with the group. We also encourage them to bring inspiring examples from within (or outside) the industry. This participatory approach ensures that the team considers a diverse set of views and inspirations.
Ultimately, however, we must decide on a course of action. To that end, we use exercises such as dot voting and impact versus effort activities to identify the most promising ideas. Often, we find a way to weave together a number of ideas into a single concept. Other times, we land on a single idea or choose to continue exploring multiple concepts.
Phase 3: Concept Design and Testing
Duration: 4-8 weeks
With the client workshop complete, we enter the final stage of our UX Strategy Sprint: concept design and testing. By synthesizing the information from the workshop, we rapidly design an initial prototype. As soon as the client confirms that the prototype is in keeping with our vision and direction, we move into lean user research. At UpTop, we use a method we call R.I.T.E. testing (which stands for “rapid iterative testing and evaluation”). This accelerated process allows us to quickly refine our prototype towards an optimal solution with actionable insights derived from just 5 or 6 test users.
By the time we complete our UX Strategy Sprint, our clients can expect to receive a meaningful, mid-to-high fidelity prototype that has been user tested. Additionally, we create a UX research summary document to help support the final design outcome. And, unlike the 5-Day Design Sprint, our UX Strategy Sprint also yields a design and technical roadmap for implementation.
Is a UX Strategy Sprint Right for Your Company?
UpTop’s UX Strategy Sprint is tailor-made for companies that want to provide rocket fuel for innovation or navigate a major crossroads when it comes to some aspect of their digital programs. It can be used to envision (or reimagine) new or existing products and services, upgrade legacy systems, redesign a member portal, or innovate towards a clear goal that isn’t necessarily backed by a full arsenal of user research or even internal buy-in.
Want to learn more about how UpTop can help your organization unlock innovative new solutions to your most complex digital problems? Let’s talk.