Decide, quickly, whether your idea is worth designing and building.

Technology is faster than ever before. Rapidly defining and redefining the way we live and work. And today’s technology leaders need to balance time, budgets and regulatory constraints with delivering great services to millions of customers at pace.

To do that you know you need to iterate services constantly to meet rapidly changing customer needs. You know you need to make decisions based on robust evidence. You probably have lots of ideas in your mind, right now. But how do you bring these ideas to life, quickly, when you’re used to project taking months, years sometimes, to deliver anything of real value?

I think it’s time to try a new approach. As Steve Jobs said, “What you’re trying to do as a business is create value. Too many leaders get distracted by trying to manage processes.”

So instead of being slowed down by process, how do we deliver differently? How do we get your people to think and work differently? The answer is to start smaller. To take a simple, bite-sized part of a larger project to test your ideas on a defined customer pain point. To work with customers and organisational stakeholders to create a low-fidelity prototype of these ideas, incorporating KPIs that are representative of service improvement.

The best way to achieve this is with a ‘design sprint’. Originating from within GV, they are a framework that Google, Amazon, Netflix and many other organisations have been using for years to shape their projects. And they are something that can be rolled out in any organisation. But what do they look like in reality?

Let’s say you have an online process for signing up to a new financial product. You’ve found that the majority of potential customers quit before they complete the process. Based on your research and your team’s knowledge, this is a massive customer pain point and brings in hundreds of Contact Centre inquiries each day.

“The Lightning Sprints have energised the whole organisation. Even 4 weeks after we are still buzzing.

Deputy Product Owner.  UK Government department

Before re-writing your code from scratch, you decide to look at the issues that are making four out of five applicants give up before hitting ‘submit’. On further investigation, you see a problem with the customer interface, driven by confusing instructions and a clunky, sluggish form. You have some ideas, but they need testing, and you don’t have much time.

Using a design sprint, in just one week, you will meet with users and get them to help you design a solution, before you write a line of code.

On Monday you will clarify the vision; on Tuesday you’ll sketch out competing ideas; on Wednesday you’ll decide on the right course of action; on Thursday you’ll build a low-fidelity prototype; and on Friday you’ll test and validate the prototyped solution with customers, based on your chosen success metrics, such as task completion, customer comprehension and customer satisfaction.

While it’s important to focus on the customer experience rather than individual features or technologies, you can’t ignore tech stacks and customer interfaces completely. By including engineers in your team, we are able to ensure that a viable prototype is put in the hands of customers, real people, for testing and validation. By doing this, teams can make informed, data-driven decisions about improving the customer experience.

And better still, you start moving to an approach which speeds up the cycle from idea to actual execution, from idea to realisation. An approach that is repeatable, from project to project. An approach that means projects take less time, require less investment, and allow you to see a real return on investment faster than ever before.

You know your customers better than anyone. As a technology leader, it is your role to find creative solutions that address the pain points your customers face. Rapid Prototyping and Design Sprints give you the ability to bring your ideas to life, test them, and decide whether they are right, without wasting time building and launching an entire service.

Christina Hammond Aziz is an expert in digital strategy and delivery at Rainmaker Solutions, an advocate of women in tech, and was most recently Chief Digital Officer in UK Government. @hammondazizsays

If you would like to delve into more detail about Design Sprints, please check out: https://rainmaker.solutions/lightning-lab/

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