Modern Application Architecture: Greenhouse workshops

You have probably heard about Google Ventures - Design Sprints methodology. It's an amazing approach on how to solve big problems and test ideas in just 5 days. Two years ago, even before I heard about it for the first time, I was spending some time thinking on a framework to enable problem solving and idea validation in the company that I work. Here I will share my thoughts and experience on how we build our framework.

I had the pleasure to collaborate in the Apple + IBM enterprise apps initiative (Rapid Handover and Safe site) and I was trying to compile all the good learning from that experience and also how to scale it in the enterprise environment.

Even before I started, I knew that two relevant characteristics should be considered:

  • Lack of credibility on IT about short-term deliverables (IT projects usually was taking 1 year to be delivered)
  • Lack of availability/interest from the business side to engage in full time on solution development

So, I took some assumptions:

  • We should shortener the time-frame to understand the problem and provide an outline of the MVP product to the business in a "same-day-design" experience;
  • If we should show a good working prototype of the solution, it will help to bring more engagement to end users and also the buy to the interactive development process;
  • In the corporate space, your end users are much easier to map. So we should have less uncertainty and create more assertive personas;
  • Journeys, data sources, pain points, should be all captured and validated during the process;
  • Business value/Impact provided should be a must-have, but, when you are not working with the consumer space, your end-user goals are much closer to the goals of the business processes, so, consider the impact on the business process helps a lot to measure delivered value;
  • We should define and choose the size of the problem to be covered by the process (no silver bullet) and for this, we should define in advance criteria to prioritize solutions.

First things first

During the process, I could collaborate with a South Brazilian Interaction Design Studio — Sensorama Design to develop the idea.

We started simple. 2 days of workshop, 1 week to understand the problem in advance, a capture process to ensure we gather all previous needed information and a week after to compile, refine and deliver the package.

So, we defined the process having some steps:

1. Capture process

We engage our business partners in order to capture opportunities, understand the impact on business and create a backlog of opportunities to be evaluated by the team.

2. Prioritization and detailing

The Digital Solution team (accountable for the portfolio) analyze the opportunities and based on impact, size, and adherence to the company strategy, prioritize opportunities to be developed in the greenhouse

3. Greenhouse workshop

2 or 3 days in place workshop. It has the goal to refine personas, journey, prioritize and capture pain-points, elaborate the solution design, outline the MVP with the baseline of user stories, validate the impact and value provided to the business and finally present a prototype of the discussed solution.

Ok, sounds crazy to do all this amount of work during just 2 or 3 days of workshop, but remember, one of our assumptions was to control the size of the problem in order to fit in the time-box to develop the solution. What if the problem is bigger than the solution? Break down in more problems and schedule a new round to finish.

Previuous activities

Sensorama developed pre-made UI use cases kit with the company's brand in the design software in order to make easier to prototype the solution during the workshop.

Obs. Mateus Peixoto, one of the designers engaged by Sensorama liked so much the idea, he created an open source iOS UI Kit for Keynote to help other designers to prototype fast with this tool.

How to prepare to the workshop?

In order to be prepared to the workshop, we created a capture document that should help the Greenhouse team in any needed information in advance. This document have these sections:

  1. Business context
  2. Main pain points captured
  3. Personas
  4. Impact / Value provided
  5. Describe the Journeys
  6. Is it Mobile First?
  7. Is this solution empower end-users?
  8. There are integrations with legacy systems? Are they available?
  9. The business representatives are available to engage?
  10. What is the business impact (Low, Medium or High) ?

Who to bring to a Greenhouse workshop?

We discussed a lot and based on the requirements, we composed the team with:

  1. A facilitator from the company (Host the workshop)
  2. An UX Designer (Host the workshop)
  3. An Interaction Designer (Prototype the solution)
  4. A Solution Architect (Experienced with the company's IT environment)
  5. The IT functional project manager (Will get the definitions and conduct the implementation)
  6. End users (A whole bunch of end-users! :] )
  7. Post-its and pens :)

It's been 1 year that we are running these workshops, with 14 apps designed and a lot of good feedbacks and opportunities to improve.

In the next posts I will describe some sessions that we did.

Stay tuned !