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Developing a product takes a lot of time, resources, and understanding about what consumers need and want. Instead of going through the product development process from start to finish before understanding the market, at Aspire we use an iterative product development process to make incremental, but tested, progress. The iterative process includes a series of “sprints”; where we rapidly create a prototype to test our ideas with consumers throughout the development process.

In January we held our first Design Sprint, a process developed by Google Ventures to quickly dive into critical business questions, design a product, build a prototype, and test it with consumers within a five-day period. The method for rapid prototyping was an effective way to get consumer feedback as soon as possible, so our development teams don’t waste valuable time creating a product with no market fit.

In the same way that we refine products through iterations, we’re taking the same approach with the design process itself—adjusting the way we conduct sprints to achieve better outcomes.

We sat down with Aspire’s Chief Operating Officer Alison Lowery to discuss the sprint process, and what we’re doing at Aspire to make it uniquely our own.

What is the purpose of a design sprint?

A design sprint strives to test ideas and to create something people will want as quickly as possible. We wanted a chance to experiment with a process that combined the use of cross-functional teams with a fast, repeatable process that would fit in with Aspire’s strategy.

From your perspective, how successful was Aspire’s first Design Sprint?

It was a fun and focused effort that I believe was quite successful. Working with a cross-functional team during the sprint made it a great opportunity for team building. We also learned that we can create potential solutions to problems within a very short period of time.

The results were much better than a traditional waterfall development approach, which is a sequential process that makes revisions and course corrections more difficult with little opportunity to get consumer insights early in the process. Aspire follows a more agile approach, where you do as much as you can to learn, then take that learning, fold it back in and repeat until you get to something that works.

What, do you believe, are some areas for improvement in Aspire’s next sprint?

During the last sprint we listed several areas for improvement. For example, we found it would be good to distribute the market research packet prior to the sprint to allow everyone time to read and come into the sprint with their questions. Other areas for improvement include sticking to the agreed sprint norms, focusing on the user journey development and ensuring the prototype development focuses on the questions that will be tested on Day 5 of the sprint.

Moving forward, how will Aspire continue using the sprint process, and what will we do differently?

The sprint process will become an important part of Aspire’s overall product development process. We will be using the design sprint process to do early testing of our concepts before investing in the prototyping effort.

We will keep the core techniques of sprints in place, but we plan to learn from each sprint effort. Aspire’s concepting sprints will continue to evolve over time as we refine the process. We will introduce some of those changes next week, when we begin a new concepting sprint for an internal product, the Aspire Dashboard.