Let’s talk about the ROI of Design Sprints! Are they worth your time?

Spoiler: Primary research says YES!

Amr Khalifeh
Feb 25, 2020 · 4 min read

Ever since Jake Knapp released Sprint in 2016, the methodology has only been rising in popularity! Every day, more and more people are using design sprints to solve big challenges, co-create, and cut busy work.

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The popularity of the term ‘design sprint’ on Google Trends

The Inevitable Questions

But eventually, those who have experienced the value of design sprints first hand, or those who wish to do so, need to convince other colleagues or bosses that they should invest in doing a design sprint. And when they try to get others on board, they inevitably have to answer two key questions:

Is it worth the time & hassle? After all, booking a team’s time for a few days and finding the right slot in everyone’s calendar to do so can take a lot of work.

Is it worth the money? People’s time isn’t free. Asking people to reserve multiple working days is a big ask. And it’s even more expensive if you need to hire a consultant to help you run the design sprint.

Finding The Answers

Months ago, I tried to find the the answer those two questions. I poked around the interwebs trying to find answers but was disappointed to discover that there currently isn’t a set of objective data, i.e. academic research, on the topic. Anecdotes and individual success stories are good, but they’re not good enough!

So I set out to create a set of objective, non-biased data to find out whether design sprints are worth the time & money by making those two questions the key questions in my master thesis!

I interviewed 11 research participants for my master thesis, 10 of whom were the decision makers in their respective teams and were best positioned to evaluate all aspects of their teams’ design sprint experience.

Although I’ve seen first hand the power of design sprints, I could not let my personal opinion influence the results in any way. And that meant designing questions that didn’t put words in the participants’ mouths or prime them to say positive things about design sprints. If I had, my research would not be valid.

And tedious as it might be, producing objective, non-biased results is what makes academic research so vital in answering important questions.

What The Research Revealed

On average, research participants reported that design sprints yielded a 7x savings in time.

To answer the question of how does a design sprint compare time-wise vs. not doing a design sprint, participants were asked to evaluate how long it would have taken them to produce a comparable level of output based on their prior knowledge of their internal timelines & pace.

As you can see, the time savings are dramatic to say the least. Many factors contribute to the time savings. Among the factors participants cited are time-boxing exercises that would have dragged on for much longer otherwise, noting-and-voting instead of endless discussions, and working together in the same room for a focused period of time.

It’s worth noting that zero participants argued that doing a design sprint was slower than their normal workflow—provided the a challenge of the appropriate size was chosen and the sprint wasn’t used as a hammer for every nail.

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Primary research done at AJ&Smart

On average, research participants reported that design sprints yielded at least 2x savings in money—and that’s when hiring an external consultant.

Out of the 11 participants interviewed, 10 of them had hired an external consultant (AJ&Smart) to help them run their design sprint. On average, participants reported that the investment was still a net gain with at least 2x return on investment (ROI).

It’s worth noting that that the bigger a company was in terms of size and market cap, the more savings the participants reported, with 2 participants reporting 4x and even 6x budget savings over producing the same level of results using their normal workflow.

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Primary research done at AJ&Smart

Conclusion: is it worth your time & money?

Yes, primary research strongly shows that your time & money will be well spent and you will get your investment back many times over!

As you can see the numbers speak for themselves. I know what you might be thinking. “Why should I trust these numbers?” I’ll tell you why. Although this researched was conducted by interviewing participants who had done design sprints with AJ&Smart, this research was not an AJ&Smart project or marketing effort. This research was done as part of my master thesis at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences and as such it had to be completely objective.

For more questions about the research, please feel free to email me directly at amr@ajsmart.com and I’ll be happy to discuss the details of the research with you—as long as it doesn’t involve asking for the personal information about the participants or the names of their companies as that information is confidential.

So there you have it! Now you can go run your sprint knowing full well that—if done correctly—a design sprint will be a great investment for you and your team!

Note: the research has not been published yet.

Amr on Products

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