Our experience in running a remote discovery workshop

Richard Jones,

We’ve all had to change how we work in these past few weeks. But trying times like these often bring out the best in people, giving us the chance to rise to new challenges and to improve our ways of working to come out on top in the face of adversity.

That’s exactly what happened with our UX team here at twentysix, when they were asked to carry out a discovery session to kick off a web development project for a major UK manufacturing client, with everyone dialling in remotely.

Long-distance discovery

Every time we engage a new web development client or start a new project, it is hugely important that we understand our client’s business, their operating environment, market, customers and business objectives.

Each project always starts with a discovery phase so we can get under the skin of what the business is trying to achieve, to allow us to design the best possible experience and customer solutions, utilising our skills and helping us to make the right technology choices.

Our first remote discovery session was with a UK manufacturer which has historically behaved with a B2B focus. But there were a number of key areas that the business had identified to drive its growth ambitions, including growing brand recognition throughout the consumer market.

The challenge

We had to deliver the initial part of our core discovery programme remotely, since neither the client nor the twentysix team were able to attend the normal face-to-face workshop sessions that drive the initiation phases of our projects.

To get everything running nice and smoothly, we reconfigured our discovery sessions to be delivered remotely utilising video conferencing, screen/asset-sharing and collaborative cloud-based software. Getting face-to-face time and facilitating collaborative working were the key ingredients to getting the discovery phase off the ground.

The software we used:        

- Microsoft Teams for video and screen sharing

- Mural for asset collaboration, real-time note taking and interaction with UX assets. If you’ve not used it before, we’d definitely recommend!

Workshop delivery

The workshop agenda was split into self-contained, 45-minute sections to avoid cognitive fatigue. Our sessions were pre-scripted, and we used pre-prepared assets where possible to enable easy focussed discussion to ensure engagement.

Our highlight had to be the use of the shared Mural Workspace – which workshop attendees had access to during the session. It was here that our UX architects were able to carry out brainstorms on a virtual whiteboard, use post-it notes and allowed participants to view site maps and wireframes whilst being able to update them in real-time.

Session splits

We needed a clear and logical structure and wanted to give each stage of the discovery phase equal importance. With this in mind, we split the session into four core elements:

  • Business objectives and KPI planning 
  • Audience and persona review and refinement  
  • Information architecture and navigation
  • Creative and brand experience definition

Facilitation

As with all interactive sessions, in-person or remote, facilitation is key to retaining engagement, to elicit the correct insight and to ensure a shared understanding of project objectives and crucially, the key success measures. They’re all important in their own way and thanks to our collaborative approach and an amenable client, each session was well-structured, productive and organised.

The skill level of our subject matter experts and their ability to effectively communicate and consult with our clients is key; working remotely relies on the ability to facilitate the natural ebb and flow of each session, pushing the attendees to remain positive to ensure sessions remain focused.

Results

All of the sessions were fast paced, the client was highly engaged, and technology did not let us down. There is always a certain number of “ad-hoc” or “on the fly” elements with any interactive session, but we found the information obtained and understanding gained was certainly enhanced by using technology; really allowing our client to participate in decision making in a meaningful way.

Our ability to adapt and continue to drive project timelines was applauded and the outputs from the workshop have definitely accelerated our project progress by creating a collaborative ethos. This ethos has opened many more possibilities for the delivery of future sessions.

This remote discovery workshop was a great success within the first week of working out of the office, and proof that no matter how crazy things might seem, with resourcefulness and creativity, we can all overcome new challenges in new and engaging ways.

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