Sunday, May 2, 2021

Meet the Rapid Innovation Sprint Team

Ben Wakeman, Sr. Director, Head of Product Management
Strategy / Innovation

In the first part of this series on Rapid Innovation Sprint Engagement (RISE) we introduced the concept and discussed how it can be the right tool for companies that might be stuck in a closed loop. 


As important as the methodology and approach are in a RISE, it's ultimately about the team and how they collaborate that transforms an idea into a fully formed reality. When our teams converge on a problem, they bring an incredible amount of momentum from working together across previous engagements in a wide variety of industries. While each role is clearly defined, every member of the team contributes well beyond the bounds of their specialty and this is often where the magic happens. The safe, experimental space fostered in a RISE allows everyone, including our clients, to roll up their sleeves and contribute to the solution without fear of overstepping their role or making an uninformed suggestion.

The Product Manager serves as the facilitator guiding the team through the journey. They are experts at orchestrating all of the RISE collaboration activities and are excellent teachers, cheerleaders and instigators. As a contributor, the Product Manager brings an entrepreneurial instinct and a practical understanding of how to convert problems into opportunities. They are grounded in driving outcomes for the business through the lens of empathy for the customer. At a tactical level, the Product Manager is responsible for transcribing key findings that come out of the collaboration sessions into a backlog of actionable tasks and user stories. They are also the bridge between design and technology, constantly working with the business owner to translate, prioritize and consider trade-offs that will lead to the most impactful solution.


The Design Lead drives all aspects of the process related to understanding the customer mindset and needs, and how those needs will be addressed in the best possible User Experience (UX). This is a multidisciplinary role that's more complex than designing pretty products. The work requires a business mindset, strong UX/UI and interaction skills and a natural ability to analyze feedback.


Their blend of skills working inside the collaborative RISE process enables the ideas and concepts to come to life. The Design Lead is ultimately responsible for understanding and translating the ideas generated from the exercises into prototype experiences. Like every member of the team, they are excellent communicators and collaborators. Throughout the RISE, they encourage others to explore their ideas through exercises, sketches, journey maps and storyboards. The Design Lead is instrumental during the testing phase, where they facilitate user testing and prioritize critical changes to the design in response.


The Technology Lead is the voice of reason as well as the enabler in a RISE. They bring a breadth and depth of understanding of the underlying technologies required to make a solution real. Still, their primary motivation is to move mountains to enable a user experience to positively impact the customer. During the collaboration sessions, the Technology Lead will provide essential insights into what's possible and what choices might be limiting based on the complexity of implementing a particular feature. They will ultimately be responsible for designing the architecture, identifying the correct technology stack, performing any significant technical spikes to validate viability and, if necessary, developing aspects of prototypes that require higher fidelity. 


The Project Manager's role is to make sure that the team coordinates throughout the working sessions and the ongoing sprint work. But they are so much more than a scribe, a scheduler of meetings and a keeper of the timeline: Our project manager is the scrum master, collaborating with the team daily and keeping everything flowing by removing blockers as they present themselves. They are often the quiet voice in the back of the workshop, offering a brilliant idea for a feature when the rest of the team is stumped.


The Client Decider is typically a senior-level executive from the partner company who is empowered to make the final call on myriad decisions that arise throughout the RISE. While no role is ultimately more important than another in our process, the Client Decider's role is vital because they are the originator of the spark we hope to fan into a sustaining flame. After delivering the initial brief to the team, the Client Decider will settle in as a member of the innovation team, contributing ideas, sketches and votes. At each crossroad we come to in defining the solution, they will be the ones to decide whether we go left or right based on everything they've observed and their deep knowledge of the business.


Client Stakeholders and various subject matter experts (SME) are also essential members of the RISE team. They bring invaluable insights, historical context and great ideas into the problem space. There is typically at least a full day dedicated to interviewing these various SMEs as a group to pick their brains about their specific areas of expertise.


In the third and final part of this series, we will go into the inner workings of the five stages in a RISE and provide an overarching narrative of the process and the value that it creates.