With the simultaneous print and digital workflow becoming the new norm in publishing, project teams are looking for more efficient ways to collaborate and problem solve. With so many stakeholders in the project lifecycle, it can be hard to find time to get everyone onboard and align project goals.
The design sprint process, based on Google Venture’s unique five-day process, has become a go-to solution for publishers large and small looking to facilitate better collaboration and create efficiencies within their teams and projects. But what does it mean to undertake a design sprint, and how do you know if they are right for your team?
Are Design Sprints Right for Me?
While design sprints might not be right for every business and organization, they have the ability to increase efficiency and reinvent the publishing workflow. Esther Wieringa of Angi Studio, for example, shared how her team used design sprint planning to help their client (a Dutch newspaper publisher) target entrepreneurs in the manufacturing industry. By working with everyone from editors to readers, they were able to come up with different content types and uncover new ways to connect with their audience.
That’s because introducing the opportunity for teams to fail fast and learn from doing opens up a whole new level of collaboration for publishers. Teams can quickly validate new ideas or test new concepts without having to invest too much time and energy upfront. Instead, they work using a strict iterative and collaborative process that’s been shown to work across digital organizations far and wide. Now that publishing is almost through with its digital transformation, managing the modern team and timeline calls for a more agile approach.
Design Sprint Planning for Publishers
In the traditional world of sprint planning, teams work in a strict five-day process that takes them from identifying a problem or challenge on day one, all the way through building a living prototype and testing it with real users on day five.
While this timeline may not be realistic for every team, project, or organization, it is especially helpful for teams that are looking to create more data-driven learning experiences or solve big problems in a crunch.
Bec Evans, the founder of Prolifiko, shared how her team incorporated sprint planning into their publishing practices back in 2016. Although they had to tweak the traditional five-day timeline in order to meet the needs associated with traditional academic publishing, the concept quickly became a company-wide practice.
Let’s take a look at what this (ideally) five-day process looks like when applied to the basic publishing workflow:
Day One: Identify The Challenge
On day one, the core project team works alongside stakeholders (editors, subject matter experts, marketers, etc) in order to identify the problem or task that needs to be conquered throughout the sprint.
If you had to earmark one day of the sprint process for mandatory attendance, it would be this one. Gathering requirements from all stakeholders allows the project team to create solutions that meet everyone’s needs instead of just their own. More important, it helps them pinpoint their goals for the sprint.
Don’t let busy calendars slow you down, either. While in-person collaboration is always preferred, you can also create a digital space for stakeholders to see, share, and comment on the process. Remember, the goal of day one is to map out where you’re doing, and how you’re going to get there on day five.
Day Two: Brainstorm Your Solutions
Day two is all about problem-solving and coming up with ideas. Teams use day two to sketch out possible solutions and brainstorm different ways of tackling a problem, without focusing too much on the details.
Be careful not to overthink this step or the ideas that come up throughout your brainstorming session. You want to come up with as many possible solutions to the problem as you can identify, and hear from different perspectives. Remember: the goal here is to troubleshoot ideas, not to become the next Picasso.
Day Three: Deliberate and Decide
Now that all of the possible solutions are outlined, take the time to critique them all and decide which one has the potential to reach your goal. Remember to keep in mind the goal you set on day one, and collaborate with stakeholders to determine which idea has the best chances of meeting it. Once you have a winner, turn that concept into a storyboard. This will be used on day four and is the beginning of your prototype.
Day Four: Time for Rapid Prototyping
If you haven’t noticed by now, there really isn’t much time to slow down in design sprints. Day four is one of the most exciting days in the design sprint because it’s dedicated to taking your storyboard and using it to create a realistic prototype that gets the job done.
The purpose of the prototype is to give you just enough functionality to test your idea before committing to creation. Think minimum viable product, or whatever is needed to get your idea in front of your audience so you can see (and measure) what they think. Use tools that allow you to create, share, and publish seamlessly in order to get your prototype in front of your audience’s eyes, and test your hypothesis on day five.
Day Five: Test and Share
Day five is when you put all of your hard work to the test. Now that you have a working prototype, put it in front of your audience and see what they think. This is especially helpful when you’re dealing with interactive options or trying to identify the best way to boost reader engagement.
Measure things like the time that they spent viewing the content, where they click, and what they interact with. Keep track of this feedback and use it to inform your next steps. For good measure, share the feedback with your stakeholders and identify any areas that need to be revisited. Chances are, even the stakeholders who aren’t traditionally invested in the final product will be interested to see how this one turns out.