Quatronic, Miro and Microsoft Teams

Our tools: Facilitators, Miro and Microsoft Teams

How to run your online Design Sprint?

How the pandemic changed our way of working

At Quatronic we have a unique approach to the Design Sprint. Our approach has been crafted over years of experience with running design sprints. This 3-day approach consists of understanding the problem, followed by sketching and deciding on solutions and concluding by testing the prototype.

As the pandemic changed our way of working, we are adapting the workflow of these design sprints to fit the current situation. To accommodate design sprints when physical meetings are not possible (or feasible), online design sprints can be a perfect solution. Although its contents remain similar, some major difference exist between physical and online design sprints. However, our experience shows that doing online sprints can be just as (and sometimes even more) effective as a physical sprint! This blog post elaborates on the online design sprint process, and highlights some of the key differences, advantages and disadvantages when compared to the “traditional” physical design sprint.

The tools you'll need for an online design sprint

The ingredients you’ll need for your online sprint? All the participants of the sprint team, a stable internet connection, a comfy chair and desk, a warm cup of coffee and of course the proper software!

Quatronic, Miro and Microsoft Teams
Our tools: Facilitators, Miro and Microsoft Teams

After intensive testing and comparison of multiple software options for sharing whiteboards and design thinking tools (such as Microsoft Whiteboard, Mural and Miro) we have decided to use Miro as our tool of choice. Furthermore, we use Microsoft Teams as a way of communicating during the design sprint.

The most important reason for choosing Miro over its competitors is its stability and feature set. Importing files from all types of repositories is as easy as drag-and-drop will get, and no matter the size of the board and drawings, Miro is stable, fast and responsive.

The decision for using Microsoft Teams for communication was quite straight forward. All current communications (both internal and with clients) already happens using Teams. Furthermore, Teams is stable and offers all functionality needed, such as project group pages and chat. Miro has an option for using webcams inside their app/browser, however this drastically slows down the performance of the board and proves to be difficult especially for older laptops. Furthermore, the availability of the webcam feed inside Miro is spotty at best. We recommend using two separate screens for both the facilitator and the participants whilst running a design sprint, so you can have the Miro board on one screen and your teammates in Teams on the other.

Miro, how does it work?

In short, Miro is not much more than a big digital whiteboard. Which can be resized as much as you like and enables handy features to collaborate such as sticky notes, voting, timers, flows, images, wireframes and much, much more.
Overview of Miro
Collaboration in Miro is easy and fluid. Work together and see each other’s work.

Users can be guided in the design sprint process by limiting access to certain parts, guiding users to the facilitator using a “follow-me” tool and by using comments, tags and other ways of communicating within boards.

An important feature of Miro boards for a facilitator, is the ability to prepare a board specific to the needs of a design sprint and team. At Quatronic, we developed a template which we can tweak and adjust to the specific needs of a certain sprint. More details on tops and tips for preparing an online sprint board, and facilitation of said sprint will follow in a later blog post.

So, what's different?

Online design sprints are not just copying the design sprint formula and applying it to Miro. Because of many limitations and constraints of online communications, some adjustments are made to the “normal” design sprint process.

Firstly, time is managed differently during online design sprints. On average, the exercises of the design sprint tend to take less time to perform in an online sprint. However, these more intense exercises demand more energy from participants so more frequent breaks are a must.

“Time flies while doing a digital design sprint, but afterwards I am exhausted."

A participant of one of our design sprints

This highlights a major difference. So secondly, when working remotely on a design sprint, a major hurdle for team effort is to remain focused. There are many things that can distract participants during the design sprint so as a facilitator you have to cope with this. To check focus, a facilitator needs to check-in with participants very frequently. Even though the design sprint is online, you should still enforce a “no-device” policy (apart from the machine you are using for Miro & Teams of course).

The most glaring difference of all is the use of technology in the design sprint. Instead of using good old-fashioned whiteboards, markers, sticky notes and timers we are forced to work digitally. Using the software in our advantage, by promoting the use of picture or videos to explain ideas (especially during the lightning demos!).

However, it should be noted that not too much time should be lost creating digital art during a sprint.

"The ideation phase should focus on ideas, not designs. We recommend using markers and paper for sketches (such as the crazy 8’s)."
Quatronic

Hence, the facilitator needs to make sure all participants have markers and paper beforehand. Lastly, sometimes it is nice to “digitalize” ideas, for example in the user map. Miro offers great tools to visualize user flows. The designing of these maps is however time and click intensive, so the facilitator should attempt to do most of this during breaks or after the sprint session.

The last big difference between a physical and online design sprint can be observed in the way voting and timers are used. Miro offers great functionality for both timers and voting. However, sometimes a tailor-fit solution works better. Do you want participants to be able to see each other’s votes whilst voting? Using the sticker method from the physical design sprint in a “digital way” works better in this case than using the vote functionality of Miro.

A typical design sprint board after the first day. A mix of real and digital sketches allows for fast, but clear ideation of prototypes.
A typical design sprint board after the first day. A mix of real and digital sketches allows for fast, but clear ideation of prototypes.

Get ready to sprint?!

In short, running an online design sprint is not much different from the physical counterpart. However, some limitations (and also some “upgrades”) to the normal way of doing a design sprint should be taken into account. Also, a major benefit from doing an online design sprint is the ability to cooperate with team members all over the globe (as long as they have a stable internet connection).

Running a design sprint (physical or online) can be very beneficial for the conceptualization of new ideas, defining the problem and scope of a project and to quickly test a prototype. Regardless of its medium, the facilitator should prepare extensively to make sure the sprint reaps the most benefits. This preparation is a little different (and more complex) for online sprints, which is something we will cover in one of our next blogs. In the upcoming blog, we will elaborate on tips & tricks for running your online design sprint, as well as giving you a top-down list of preparation steps and things to consider when running the sprint as a facilitator.

In short / TL;DR

This blog hopefully shares some insight on how we adjusted our design sprints to be pandemic-proof. In short:

  1. Use the right tools for an online design sprint, we recommend Miro in combination with Microsoft Teams
  2. Major differences between physical and online design sprints include:
  • Time: exercises are quicker, but more breaks are required for focus
  • Technology: use software wisely, sometimes trust on good old post-its and markers
  • Tailor-fit: build templates in software to your specific design sprint needs
  • Tips & Tricks: next blog will feature some tips and recommendations on running an online design sprint
Jochem Vlug
Would you like to know more?

Jochem Vlug

Business Technology Consultant