Remote and Virtual Design Sprints: What’s the difference?

Robert Skrobe
Jun 25, 2019 · 3 min read
Here you go lad! Just use this VR set and you’ll be doing Crazy 8’s in no time.

When I’m with a prospective client, I usually get asked the following question:

“So, how is a virtual sprint different from a remote sprint?

“Is a virtual sprint all in the Cloud versus some guy in Poland who’s just joining a local design sprint?”

Keeping it simple, here’s the answer I give most often.

  • Remote Design Sprints involve satellite teams (2 or more teams are in different offices), remote teams (most of the team is in an office, but a few single employees are remote) or hybrid teams with any number of variations of remote vs local.
  • Virtual Design Sprints are for fully distributed teams.
    In other words, everyone is remote.

I almost always recommend virtual design sprints for “remote first” teams. These groups tend to be fully distributed, have a non-critical center of operations, and focus on remote-friendly communication.

For everything else, I don’t usually recommend remote design sprints.

They require a LOT more process and coordination, need expert facilitators to run smoothly, and struggle with the traditional activities you’d normally do with an in-person experience. I don’t even consider them a viable option for distributed and satellite teams as a default.

What do virtual design sprints get you that remote design sprints cannot?

  1. Dedicated online-together time
    You don’t have to get together and ‘be present’ all day, every day of your design sprint. Instead, you can decide to take anywhere from 2–4 hours per day to walk through each activity, saving you a lot of time.
  2. Scheduled offline-alone time
    You can work distraction-free when your virtual design sprint team breaks for ideation, solution sketching or individual research. If you’re a creative who prefers to work after hours, you’ll have that option.
  3. More people can join your design sprint
    Virtual design sprints work better with more team members. It seems counter-intuitive, given the original model suggests anywhere from 5 to 7 practitioners. But 10 or more professionals working in a virtual design sprint environment is more common than you’d think.
  4. A common engagement model
    Each virtual design sprint participant has one screen, similar software and a systemized communication process. It’s not a room full of people in Seattle and another office in Sarasota, Florida, or even a single person dialing in from Mobile, Alabama. Everyone comes to the Sprint on equal footing.
  5. Flexible Scheduling
    Remote design sprints have some major downsides from a scheduling standpoint. Coordinating who’s going to be in the office versus who’s going to be online can be a nightmare. With virtual sprints, you only have to navigate time zones and known conflicts… both of which can be addressed through scheduling tools like Doodle.

If your team or organization is trying to figure if remote design sprints could be an option, consider going virtual instead. Much of the process overhead that comes with different types of semi-distributed teams just isn’t worth the time or the cost.

With virtual design sprints, you’ll be able to connect, collaborate and iterate with your colleagues in a much more efficient manner. Plus, everyone on your Sprint Team will have a much easier commute to the home office!

Whatever your team or organization decides to do, I hope your design sprints allow everyone to learn from one other. You rarely get the chance to enjoy the process and create something special at the same time.

Good luck!

This article is part of the 30 minute writing challenge I’m doing throughout the month of June to help and encourage others to improve upon their writing skills and become better practitioners of prose.

If you’re interested in taking the challenge, check out this article for more information: https://medium.com/dallas-design-sprints/heres-how-to-participate-in-our-month-long-writing-challenge-41ca795a5176

Dallas Design Sprints

I train individuals, teams and companies on how to…

Dallas Design Sprints

I train individuals, teams and companies on how to effectively use the design sprint process. I also enjoy highlighting other professionals and practitioners in the field, and feature their stories here on Medium.

Robert Skrobe

Written by

I run Dallas Design Sprints, The Design Sprint Referral Network and Talent Sprints.

Dallas Design Sprints

I train individuals, teams and companies on how to effectively use the design sprint process. I also enjoy highlighting other professionals and practitioners in the field, and feature their stories here on Medium.