What does it take for companies to reimagine their response to rapidly evolving customer needs?

Large organizations often find the process of developing new services and solutions to be utterly cumbersome. Well-established businesses often limit new offerings to fit with existing capabilities out fear of protracted timelines that eat up dollars and lead to missed market opportunities. The result is that internal limitations rather than customer insights end up driving the development process. But what if exactly the opposite approach was taken? What if companies could start with customer insights and blue-sky opportunities while still ensuring a rapid response to market needs?

Collective Next recently partnered with a global life sciences company and helped them reinvent the way they develop customer solutions. Our client’s goal was ambitious: move from the current 18-month cycle for getting a new wraparound service/solution in front of customers to developing a functioning prototype in 90 days.

This radical transformation would require a whole new way of working. Essential ingredients would have to include an expanded lens for viewing possible solutions, accelerated methods for fostering partnerships and collaboration, and a refined capability for pinpointing customer needs. Our approach: Embed a collaborative workshop—what Collective Next calls a DesignSession—at the heart of the process.

Planning Phase

The pilot for this new rapid prototyping process was focused on a specific goal: leverage voice technology (and other new technology) to develop a wraparound solution for patients newly diagnosed with a disease requiring significant lifestyle changes. Beginning with this clearly defined problem statement was critical. In order to build and evaluate effective prototypes, teams require explicit focus and durable guardrails.

In preparation for the collaborative workshop, the client reached out to a set of external vendors, including tech companies and experts in voice, to participate in the development process. Rather than approaching these companies with a solution already in mind, the client brought them in under NDAs as longer-term thought partners who would help shape the overall approach to meeting customer needs. In addition to offering input on the services and solutions themselves, these external tech vendors were experienced in rapid prototyping and iteration. They could assist in the internal shift to a new mindset.

The client also conducted in-depth research into the patient population and the challenges they faced. These insights then became inputs into a set of patient personas in the workshop.

Collaborative Workshop

The goal of the workshop was to equip the full range of solution developers—both internal experts and external thought partners—with a clear understanding of patient needs and problems in need of solution. By kicking off the onboarding process with a carefully designed, one-day workshop involving all stakeholders and developers we would accelerate and enhance the overall process.

In the past, onboarding took weeks or months. The process relied on one-off communications with diverse stakeholders. External partners were generally not involved until after the visioning process, thus obscuring their view of the organization’s larger goals and context. We turned this process on its head.

We began the workshop by introducing a set of patient and provider personas. These personas were fully developed with names and real-life circumstances in order to ground participants in the concrete problems we were seeking to solve. In the very first step, we asked internal and external participants to work together to develop day-in-the-life scenarios for each persona. Based on these scenarios, the participants worked in teams to identify “moments that matter”, activities and points in time in which we could most effectively impact lifestyle changes. These “moments” ranged from choosing a diet to picking the right exercise regimen.

Participants then identified a list of “jobs to do” in each moment. In other words, activities required to make lifestyle changes at this moment. In the case of choosing what to eat this might involve identifying recipes, mapping ingredients against a recommended diet, developing a shopping list, etc.  Once the list of “jobs” was generated, the technology partners mapped them against potential solutions. Members from the client-side provided feedback on these potential solutions in real-time based on what could make the biggest impact in solving customer needs. By the close of the session, each of the top solution possibilities had been identified.

Within one day, the developers had accomplished a large portion of the work involved in the traditional prototyping process and the partners were equipped to develop functioning prototypes for review within two weeks.

Prototype Conceptualization & Review

Two weeks later, the technology partners returned to present functioning concepts. The client was then able to give feedback and make a decision on which prototypes they wanted to move forward with. Based on this review, the tech partners returned to their labs to refine and enhance while our client worked to assemble a set of customers who could test the new solutions. Roughly 45 days after that, our client met their goal of testing a functioning prototype with real patients and providers.

Not only were the results of the pilot remarkable, but this accelerated prototyping process could now be scaled throughout the organization. Indeed, our client has successfully leveraged this methodology in many other areas where rapid solution development is required. What is more, they have extended this approach beyond products to new processes and strategies, thus transforming the way they work in all the ways that matter most.