Embracing WFH with a Remote Design Sprint

Sanaea Kakalia
Apr 13, 2020 · 5 min read
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Remote Collaboration is the new “normal”

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, VMware employees are working from home as we do our part to flatten the curve. As product designers, collaboration is a critical component in delivering a meaningful user experience. We are embracing WFH as an opportunity to develop and refine remote collaboration, whether it be for ideation sessions or design reviews.

We recently piloted a Remote Design Sprint within our Project Pacific design team, using a we discovered in the Figma Community.

is a newly launched feature on VMware’s vSphere 7. vSphere is VMware’s cloud computing virtualization platform. With the introduction of Project Pacific, vSphere has transformed from an infrastructure-centric to an application-centric platform by delivering natively in vSphere. Our customers rely on Project Pacific to run modern applications alongside their traditional virtual infrastructure. Kubernetes and Project Pacific are both complex, and IT Admins and developers will depend on the user experience to ease their onboarding and to help them get the most out of this powerful new tool. Our design sprint challenge was creating a dashboard that would help IT Admins with onboarding, supporting and managing a new Project Pacific environment.

This remote design sprint delivered the same high level of collaboration and engagement as experienced through in-person sprints. Traditional design sprints can take up to a week to execute, but we managed to condense the sprint into 8 hours across 3 days. The process below outlines how you and your team can achieve the same outcome.

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Design Sprint Figma File and our Sprint Agenda

Design Sprint Day 1

Preparation

Design sprints usually require careful preparation, especially when it comes to setting up an agenda and gathering materials. The Remote Design Sprint template already has everything you need set-up within the document, from timers to sticky-notes and whiteboards. This allowed us to jump right into the sprint itself with minimal preparation.

All you need: Zoom and Figma.

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Using the timer plug-in, virtual sticky notes, and voting dots

Setting Context

We kicked-off our sprint by defining roles and setting context around our Sprint Challenge. Creating roles for participants allow the sprint to run smoothly. At the minimum, every sprint should have a facilitator and expert(s). The facilitator is responsible for guiding the team through the sprint, and helps keep the team on track. The expert is someone with deep knowledge in the space and provides context, challenges, technical limitations, and more.

How Might We & Experience Mapping

After aligning on our Sprint Challenge and the goals and pain-points surrounding it, we started creating How Might We questions. How Might We questions are an ideation method used for launching brainstorms. They reframe insights and challenges as questions.

The traditional method includes sticky-notes on whiteboards, but this digital experience of yellow rectangles on artboards was a fun and waste-free alternative! We also did not need to document our results along the way, since the Figma file already contained all of our artifacts.

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Our How Might We voting results

We wrapped up Day 1 with some homework: to find best-practice examples of dashboards. Providing “homework” allowed us to keep our sprint meetings relatively short and allowed for everyone to find meaningful examples and come back with more insight.

Design Sprint Day 2

Best Practices

Day 2 of our sprint began with a roundtable shareout of our Best Practice homework. We analyzed what worked well, what didn’t work well, and common themes across the examples.

Crazy 8’s and Solution Sketching

After understanding our problem and defining our focus, we were ready to begin sketching. Crazy 8’s is an ideation method that focuses on generating as many ideas as possible within a short timeframe, traditionally with a pen and paper. “Sketching” it digitally takes much longer, but the activity can also be done with a pen and paper and then uploaded to Figma.

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Some examples from our digital Crazy 8’s

Solution Sketching is another Design Sprint method that focuses on storyboarding one idea from the Crazy 8’s exercise. Performing it digitally provided value here, as we were able to pull in VMware Design assets through the Figma library.

Both Crazy 8’s and Solution Sketching incorporated voting dots at the end of each activity to draw alignment around stronger ideas and priorities.

Design Sprint Day 3

Prototyping

Before we met on Day 3, we had homework to individually create prototypes using ideas from previous exercises. We each had 2 hours, on our own time, to create these prototypes.

Prototype Review

The true impact of this design sprint shone here. We each came back with prototypes that had taken our collective ideas and repurposed them in unique and thoughtful ways. Although these prototypes came from different perspectives, they were also cohesive together.

After walking through our prototypes, we wrapped up our sprint by discussing major takeaways and clarifying the next steps for the project.

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Our prototypes, created in 2 hours

Takeaways

This remote design sprint was a fun way to embrace the WFH spirit. We welcomed spending time collaborating on the file together and were inspired and energized by the final results. Our high-fidelity prototypes are valuable deliverables from the sprint that we can now share with stakeholders.

In just 8 hours, we were able to achieve a set of completely different and compelling prototypes, which all also aligned with the bigger vision. Due to the open-ended nature of our problem, this translated to a perfect Sprint Challenge.

If your team isn’t able to dedicate enough time to this remote design sprint, this template is still a great tool to use for documenting your design process. Better yet, your team can pick and choose some diverging and converging methods to get some ideation and alignment in a short amount of time.

We feel lucky to be empowered by tools that help foster a sense of community while still working from home. I hope you and your team can find ways to take advantage of them as well!

Special thanks to Vic & Leo for making available to the Figma Design Community.

VMware Design

The VMware Design team | Transforming enterprise user…

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