Published October 26, 2020
Remote BI design workshops
In this article, our designer Jodie Hui explains how we maximise concentration and engagement to avoid video-conferencing fatigue in a digital environment.
What are BI design workshops?
At Aginic, our Way of Working is grounded in a blend of agile and design thinking principles. We believe design is an integral part of any data analytics project – from the initial kick-off, right through to the finale. At the beginning of any new BI project, we facilitate a design workshop to identify the project goal, problem statement, user groups, needs and pain points. Brainstorming, sketching ideas, and building a joint storyboard are also key components of this initial workshop, as they provide us with a clear direction to create a high-fidelity prototype.
“BI design workshops are our practical take on design thinking for analytics projects.”
Why do we use them at Aginic?
At Aginic, we use BI design workshops for three key reasons; they increase business value (by ensuring we are designing better products and services for the user), reduce project risk (by prototyping and ‘failing’ early), and improve team alignment (by bringing everyone along on the journey, with a clearly defined shared goal).
Now that we’re familiar with the why, let’s move onto the how.
Adapting BI workshops for remote ways of working
For many of us, working from home has quickly become the new normal. While some activities can be easily completed remotely (e.g. creating a UI mockup), adapting workshops for an online setting requires a bit more forethought. Well, that was certainly the case when our design team came together to tackle the question; how are we going to run our BI design workshops in an entirely remote setting? If you’re new to running workshops online, or you’re just keen to get the insider scoop on how we do it at Aginic, read on.
To start with, we split our in-person half-day design workshop into three remote sessions. This is especially important in a digital context, as it’s easy to fall into the trap of video-conferencing fatigue. By dividing our BI workshops into three parts*, we allow participants to recharge and step away from the screen between important stages in the design process. We also aim to keep each session under 90 minutes, to maximise concentration and engagement.
*Note: these timings are just a general guideline, we always consider client and project needs, and customise our workshops to suit.
For the first session, we focus on user mapping and persona creation activities. This provides us with invaluable context, and a deeper understanding of the users. By taking the time to uncover the nuances of each user group, we’ll be able to better empathise with them later on in the design process.
In an online setting, we’ve found that digital team collaboration software (e.g. Miro, Mural, or alternative software) is a game-changer. This allows the team to work together during the session, much the same as if the workshop was in a room with a whiteboard and butchers paper.
To maximise efficiency during the workshop, we tend to prepare the Miro board with all activities we’re planning to run during a given session. Once the board is ready to go, we’ll send a link to all participants, so they can have a play around and familiarise themselves with the tool prior to the session. This helps everyone feel more comfortable, especially for participants who might be new to digital design workshops. It also allows us to address any access issues before the day, so everyone can show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to contribute.
Journey mapping typically takes the bulk of the second session. It’s quite similar to how an in-person version would run, however, we continue to use our digital collaboration tool (usually the same board as session one), instead of a traditional whiteboard. Our goal for this workshop is to identify key moments and pain points for each user group. By doing this, we’ll be able to see if any common themes surface – whether they be about a positive or negative aspect of the current flow. This allows us to focus on areas that will be most valuable to users when brainstorming ideas and solutions in session three.
For the third session, brainstorming will be the primary focus. We typically start with a quick sketching exercise, where each participant puts their ideas on paper. We then ask participants to either upload photos of their sketches to the Miro board or equivalent.
Image (above): example of a brainstorming session output that includes written ideas and sketches
Note: it’s useful if you have a helper to ensure this runs smoothly, so one of you can focus on facilitating the session, and the other can focus on staying ahead of the conversation and creating behind-the-scenes magic.
We also like to allocate extra time for this session (so it runs for approximately 90 minutes), as there is a time overhead when trying to collect everyone’s sketches for the digital board. After all the sketches are uploaded, we take a few minutes to go around the (virtual) room, so everyone can explain their ideas to the group. After this, we have a quick sticky-dot voting session, then finish off with a joint storyboarding exercise. The joint storyboard is a collaborative way to make high-level wireframes that everyone in the team can agree on before we create a high-fidelity prototype for testing.
Together, our remote design workshops allow us to keep projects moving along, even in these unprecedented times. Let us know if our tips and tricks were useful, or if you have any other ones you’d like to share. And feel free to explore our range of remote workshops through our website here.