It’s official. This month, we hit one year of remote working. Since then, like many other companies, COVID-19 has forced us to re-evaluate the way we do business.
One of the biggest challenges for us as a team was understanding how to conduct our discoveries – workshops that were fundamentally built on being in-person – into a remote experience. To understand why this posed a challenge, it’s important to know why we hold these sessions. Discovery allows us to dive into the nitty-gritty details of a product with our clients. Together, we formulate the value proposition, identify the personas, and outline the user journeys (among other key workshops). All of these pieces come together to form the whole of what we hope to build while creating the foundation of mutual understanding that is key to a successful project. To do that, we need three things: open discussion, clear visuals, and 100% participation. By now, I hope you can see why having everyone in the room is such an asset. Given a choice, we would continue to conduct these sessions in person, however, Covid-19 has shown us that we don’t always have the control we’d like. And so, days after we started remote work, we began to brainstorm how we could recreate those core pillars in a virtual setting.
Shortly after that discussion, Josephine, our VP of design, wrote a post that went over key tips for running a smooth remote discovery. In that article, she identified Miro – a virtual whiteboard tool – that we believed would help us capture the spirit of in-person discoveries. Now, eight months later, we know we made the right choice.
The value in Miro is the flexibility it provides. We started by using it for discovery but, since then, it’s grown into a staple for many of our workflows: design sprint workshops, data models, and mind mapping. It even made a company-wide appearance during our Happy Hour event in January, as a way to host a variety of icebreaker games.
From Day One, we focused on using Miro as a means to recreate a process that we knew worked well. We weren’t trying to re-invent the wheel, just digitize it. As mentioned, the main benefits of Miro were outlined in a previous blog, but one thing that worked really well for us was the template feature. Obviously, templates are nothing new, but being able to templatize our workshops meant that the setup for our sessions was reduced drastically, allowing us to focus more on our research and client onboarding, rather than on rote creation. It also helps us ensure that we aren’t missing anything, and to quickly swap out one workshop for another where needed. With this flexibility, we know we’re able to provide the value we need to our clients, without the constraints we find when we conduct the sessions in-person.
Shortly after finessing our discovery workshops, we realized that we could produce one of our most valuable deliverables – mindmaps – through the Miro whiteboard itself. This ensures that the details captured in our session boards stay within the same software, refining our process and saving time.
Beyond that, we’re able to keep content in the same software the client has used before, eliminating the learning curve when we handoff the deliverable. The collaborative aspect of Miro, that allows our client to share valuable insights, corrections or clarifications before we close discovery, is another benefit to this approach.
Design Sprint Workshops
Once we realized we could templatize our discovery workshops and incorporate our mind maps, we started experimenting with other ways to harness this product. In January, we held a 3-hour Design Sprint for our Product Department to identify the priorities and values for our upcoming product Shop Studio Live (SSL). During this sprint, we were able to introduce new members of our team to Miro, and further update our perspective on how a tool like this could be used. We weren’t limited to simply recreating existing flows but could utilize this tool for new processes from the get-go.
Having seen the benefits of Miro for client work, it was time to look internally. Before working remotely, our data models, diagrams and process improvement brainstorming sessions were captured on the whiteboards that populate our walls. Without those, it was harder to share abstract concepts person-to-person, or even cross-departmentally. When faced with this challenge, Miro was a natural fit.
Since then, we’ve used Miro to strategize in our Continuous Improvement Meetings, outline architectural diagrams, and even build the data model for our Notion Workspace (another go-to platform here at TTT). Before we began implementing the structure for Notion, we outlined all the needs for our departments and the permissions that would ensure the logic of the platform. Visually laid out in Miro, all the departments were able to collaborate on and confirm the structure before we actually started making adjustments.
Perhaps the most unlikely use for Miro came in our team-building exercise. At the beginning of the year, we had the opportunity to expand our team. However, we no longer had the office environment to help form relationships and the necessary trust for executing projects. As this became more apparent, we started looking for new, creative ideas to bring new hires into the fold. Enter Miro. We were able to create four ice breaker boards that allowed our employees to get to know each other a bit better, harnessing everything from drawing portraits to playing Two Truths and a Lie. There were few limits to what we could do and, in the end, we emerged with a stronger bond than we started with (plus a few icebreakers we wouldn’t mind running through with clients). It was clear: we’d only started to scratch the surface on what we could do with Miro.
So what’s next for Miro? To be honest, we’re not quite sure. Although we’ve crossed the one-year mark, there is still uncertainty ahead of us. Even as people make their return to the office in the near future, the removal of remote discoveries entirely seems unlikely. Simply put, there are certain things that a tool like Miro provides that an in-person discovery can’t replicate, and we’re not ready to discard them just yet. With the ability to collaborate with your team from anywhere, dozens of templates and designs, and opportunities for creative, outside-the-box uses, Miro and other whiteboard tools aren’t just a fad. So for now, despite the uncertainty, there’s one thing we know: as long as we find value with what these platforms offer, remote or not, we’ll continue to use them.
Which is your go-to digital whiteboard?
Featured image credit: @new_data_services