Product Design

How to Generate Value in a Single Day by Means of a Design Workshop

Practical guide and success stories

Oleg Slyusarchuk
Jul 7, 2020 · 8 min read

In my previous story, I described how we evolved the initial steps of the engagement process into “one-day” design workshops. Why am I putting that in quotes? Because this “one day” is just the start of the journey. Sometimes it takes two days or a week, or it gradually turns into a full-fledged Product Design Phase.

Our team has established the practice of starting every project with a design workshop.

Why did we come up with this idea?

With the outbreak of COVID-19, we had to reimagine traditional ways of engaging customers and focus on extending our design service offerings. We have already established quite a good collaboration with the sales team, who was actively involved in generating new leads by outbound campaigns. So, we came up with an idea of suggesting free one-day workshops to new prospects, as a part of the engagement activities.

We’ve already had a positive experience with running design workshops on-site within the engagement process. Instead of endless remote calls or email exchanges, we traveled to the customer’s side at least for one day. During this day, we were focused on brainstorming, problem framing, or aligning everyone on the product vision. Customers were pretty satisfied with the outcomes and were looking forward to our further cooperation.

A decision-making framework of the engagement process, using the one-day workshop approach.

However, we faced a few challenges on the way. The main one was around finding the answer to a critical question: how might we identify value and bring it to a new prospect within just one day? We ended up with the following hypotheses and assumptions:

  • If the target customer group is not defined yet, is it valid to elaborate on the customer personas?
  • If business stakeholders are not aligned yet, should we focus on business model canvas and value proposition canvas? The latter is a powerful product-market fit tool that connects the customer segment with future product features.
  • If our prospect has already researched the market and customers, what else can we offer? What if interviews, personas and journey maps are in place. Well, then we can proceed with story mapping and service blueprinting. Owing to these methods, we, as a vendor, understand the ultimate solution more clearly. We can even visualize potential work breakdown structure, roadmap, and priorities. It also helps us, as a vendor, to better understand and define the work breakdown structure of future product features, prioritize them, and make a roadmap for the next steps.
Story mapping and Design studio workshops as a part of one of our Product Design phases.

From zero to customer research

Once there happened an exciting story. I traveled to Los Angeles to conduct a one-day workshop. The flight from Lviv takes about 12 hours. During the workshop, we designed personas, covered the story-mapping, and defined the product features. It was so effective that the client decided to sign the contract for Product Design Service just the next night after the workshop. We’ve been left only with one challenge: gather business analysis and solution architecture experts to form the cross-functional team, and ask them to move to the west coast of the US for a couple of weeks.

Educational workshop on Service design.

Brainstorming on a new blockchain idea

Once, together with our deputy CTO, we conducted a workshop with an existing client from Japan. The idea was to create a solution to motivate employees to appreciate each other by giving digital coins for their work achievements or business activities. We have previously developed a similar solution inside our company, which was based on the cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. So we could benefit from the already available expertise. As for the workshop itself, we focused on brainwriting sessions and the design of the value proposition canvas. Why?

  • Preliminary we’ve had already described who our target audience would be (a proto persona).
  • Another aspect was that we have invited three stakeholders, with different ideas about an appliance. That’s why it was essential to bring all those ideas on the table and hear everyone’s voice. Then prioritization, using the dot-voting method, gave us a shortlist of ideas pull. Our tech expert also has validated those ideas on the feasibility of implementation.
  • Next, having the ideas of the product, and a portrait of the future audience, we designed the value proposition canvas, where users' needs and pain-points were matched with the product features.
Individual participant spaces and the general workshop space during the Personas workshop.

Service blueprinting for a data science solution

Another workshop was conducted for a prospect with an idea of a data science solution. An exciting and new aspect here was that the potential customer brought his investor to our workshop. His idea was to convince the investor to move forward with the solution implementation and further investments. So, our team was prototyping the whole service based on the service blueprint methodology. It turned out to be a success due to the right techniques used during the workshop, vast domain knowledge, and contribution from our head of Data Science.

Feature breakdown for a farming company

Another case is related to creating an application for an accounting of farmers and the agriculture sector for the East and African countries. The company has consulted farming for years. They knew the gaps and business opportunities very well, so it was quite easy to break down product features, create a prioritization, and define a roadmap.

  • We didn’t have a sharp image of the farmers, their possibilities of using mobile, even the LTE or 3G coverage of some agricultural areas, so we decided for future research and invested some time to be more proficient in the area.
  • The idea of the product was to gather information from the farmers and, based on these data, provide them some recommendations about increasing yields or avoiding plant diseases. That’s why the structuring of the data was so crucial for the core features and breakdown structure defining.
A template for the Personas workshop.

How we communicate it in terms of marketing

Communicating the value to the clients, we have distinguished how we can do that, and deliverables could be useful for clients:

  • Ideation & rapid prototyping. High-level product concepts, rapid prototyping, and features mapping.
  • Product-market fit. A better understanding of your target customers, their pain points, and the broader market.
  • Strategy & prioritization. A robust product roadmap, effort estimations, and proof of your solution’s value.
  • Audit of existing solutions. Gap analysis and reporting to identify business opportunities.
  • Technology consulting. Product and technology validation; high-level technical context, and multiple implementation options.

One more thing you have to remember. The one-day workshop is just a start, it goes hand in hand with a full cycle of product design. The workshop is just the first try-on of how the company works, level of experience, and what is more valuable: trust and alignment of our cultural mindset with the customers’ product team.

Remote design workshop in progress.

Workshop preparation

Let’s also consider the DesignOps aspect of organizing such a type of workshop — what is required for it to happen?

  • Templates and clear structure for different types of activities. Here is an example of the personas activity structure. Alignment of all participants form or side: business analysts or technical experts
  • Cross-functional сollaboration. Depending on what is more reasonable: knowledge in business domain or technology advice, you have to involve the right expert in the area of blockchain, data science, cloud solutions, etc.
  • Cooperation with the sales team. At a minimum, a one-day design workshop is an engagement tool to bring the clients to the next level of collaboration. So you have to check the availability of future clients or prospects for further cooperation. You have to be sure that they have a brief of the vision of the problem and a possibility to bring the right stakeholders and decision-makers.
An example of the one-day workshop structure and timeline.

The workshop should have the following required steps:

  • The first initial call, when you have to introduce the approach, introduce the team, and define the participants. Usually, an excellent way of team collaboration is in the group: 2–3 people from the client-side, two people (designer + technical or business domain expert), and a salesperson or an account manager.
  • Fit in the timeframe. Compared to offline workshops, online ones usually take no more than two hours. It’s tough to be focused on a digital exercise for a longer time. Moreover, you have to define breaks and be strict with the timeframe. Sometimes stakeholders have a very tight schedule and can have another business meeting right after your workshop.
  • Ice breakers and explanation about the tool for the virtual whiteboard (we choose Miro). Of course, you can combine those two activities. An activity about countries of the world, and true/fails usually help the participants understand how to create new post-it notes, drag-n-drop objects, etc.
  • Align about the goals. Sometimes, you cannot be 100% sure that all activities you have planned will work, that’s why you have to be flexible, have your own activities arsenal, and change any action if something goes not the way you have planned.
  • Deliverables. Right after the workshop, we usually finalize the boards and group them into deliverables for the follow-up. Then we plan the next steps. However, it’s beneficial to define the roadmap of the following steps right within the workshop timeframe.

Summary

  1. The new value we are generating with intensive design workshops increases the client engagement and project pipeline — all of that has a positive impact on the company’s business.
  2. During and after this brand new one-day workshop, our clients are providing feedback that these methods have proven to work and are scalable.
  3. How can you be one step closer to your clients? Our recipe is to be flexible. We applied a new approach to the existing design services and adapted design methods we had already known. It helps you to understand the pipeline, initial requests, and improve marketing messages.

Feel free to get in touch elsewhere: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

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Oleg Slyusarchuk

Written by

Head of Product Design in Eleks. Owner of the Product Design services. Certified UX Manager by NN/g. Lecturer. Co-founder of design educational program at UCU

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +755K people. Follow to join our community.

Oleg Slyusarchuk

Written by

Head of Product Design in Eleks. Owner of the Product Design services. Certified UX Manager by NN/g. Lecturer. Co-founder of design educational program at UCU

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +755K people. Follow to join our community.

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