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Design Sprint criteria

Design Sprint decision

At the start of a project, you have many design options to consider. You may decide what software application to use to solve the problem, or you may not have chosen one yet. You may try to understand the complexity of the problem to determine the best approach.

In Pega Express™, a Design Sprint pulls together individuals with various business, technical, and Pega Platform™ application experience and can fast-track your team's progress. 

Tip: A Design Sprint uses a proven design-thinking approach to align your team around the problem and discover a solution in as little as five days.

Design Sprint inclusion

A Design Sprint, while applicable to many problems, may not give you an edge.  However, if you have a problem with no defined solution or one that is particularly complex, a Design Sprint can help your team uncover a solution quickly and with significant buy-in from the team. If you or your client organization is trying to figure out how to proceed, consider a Design Sprint. 

Hosting a Design Sprint is optional. An upgrade without human-centeredness or a pre-packaged Pega Platform application release may not require a Design Sprint. As you examine the details of what it takes to host a Design Sprint, weigh the pros and cons of applying design-thinking techniques.

Design Sprint and design thinking

Design Thinking is about creative problem-solving. Understanding users' needs and challenging assumptions lets your team clearly define the problem and come up with innovative solutions. Rather than a traditional software development process, a Design Sprint uses design thinking to encourage a subset of business stakeholders and technical team members to explore ideas in a small group. A Design Sprint is essentially a design thinking workshop (typically five days in duration).

In a Design Sprint, attendees:

  • Frame the problem from a human-centric point of view
  • Create and discuss innovative ideas 
  • Select the best option 
  • Build a working prototype 
  • Test the solution with real end-users 
  • Learn from their experience

By focusing on the human aspect of the problem, attendees empathize and immerse themselves in the mindset and behaviors of customers.

End-user participation

A Design Sprint uses design thinking - an effective and powerful approach that includes sketching, brainstorming, and prototyping (predominantly non-technical prototyping). A successful Design Sprint invites the end users who access the system. Their feedback helps the team arrive at an understanding of the users for whom they design the solution.

Design Sprint for complex or complicated designs

So, back to whether a Design Sprint is best for your project. You need to ask yourself, "is the business problem complicated, or complex?"


A project that must adhere to strict government or industry regulations is complicated. Even if the transaction processing seems straight-forward, your solution may be difficult to build and test. Consider, for example, the complicated rules required to build a solution in compliance with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). The requirements are so well documented that your project requires an analytical team to ensure that the project meets the standards.


Complex problems are different. Complexity varies. Your business problem might contain some unknowns - a little bit unknown, a little bit layered, very unknown, very new, very layered. There are no hard rules. There may be different layers of inter-relationships or solutions you have not tried before. Perhaps nobody has built a solution to this problem in the past. A complex problem could be small or large.

Complex problems lend themselves well to design thinking whereas problems that are complicated may not. For a deeper understanding of the difference between Complicated and Complex refer to The Critical Difference Between Complex and Complicated from MIT Sloan.

Prework for a Design Sprint

The Design Sprint takes place in either a dedicated room or can run virtually; third-party video tools enhance the virtual experience if face-to-face is not possible. Prework for a Design Sprint can take one to three weeks. Prework research involves Experience Designers who interview end users and observe those users carrying out tasks relevant to the team's problem. 


Steps to prepare 

  1. Get Ready: Form your team. Secure your attendees' time, book a room. or schedule virtual sessions.
  2. Do your research: Gather as much preliminary insight as you can about your client and the problem space.​
  3. Anticipate road-blocks: Consider budget, cultural issues, past attempts, and operational limitations.​
  4. Arrive informed Prep your team!​

IN ADVANCE OF THE SPRINT: Team introductions, vision alignment, contextual inquiry, operational walkthroughs, preliminary 1-1 end user interviews, empathy mapping, service-blueprint mapping, development of proto-personas and evaluation of research to date.​

Day 1: Explore and Map

Day 2: Sketch

Day 3: Decide

Day 4: Prototype

Day 5: Test


TRANSITION TO DELIVERY: Design playback to a wider audience, Delivery planning, stages & steps modeling, creating a user story list, journey-centric test planning, user story reviews, and build preparation.​

Note: The important thing is that the team members must dedicate all five days, from start to finish, full time. The team needs to collaborate and to interact fully. 

Design Sprint roles

​A Design Sprint invites different business stakeholders and parties who collaborate to visualize the problem space and create a shared understanding, reducing risk and alignment effort. 

The Design Sprint team includes individuals in different roles:

  • Facilitator (an Experience Designer) – The Facilitator runs the Design Sprint and ensures the team keeps up with the daily pace, introducing various design thinking techniques. The Facilitator checks for prework completion to set up and run a successful event.
  • Decider – The Decider is typically the person with the most influence who is prepared to make decisions; they tend to have the most tangible exposure to the problem. This role is usually fulfilled by the Product Owner, but not always.
  • End-user representatives – End-user representatives serve as the voice of the customer and user of the application solution to be built; they pinpoint precise user needs and issues that customers face. 
  • Business subject matter expert (SME) – SMEs understand and confirm the business rules and requirements to ensure the solution addresses the business value required.
  • Specialists – Specialists are typically technical experts, such as a Pega Lead System Architect (LSA) and Senior Business Architect (SBA) 

You may invite subject matter experts on day one to gain additional perspective. On day five, have at least five additional end-users (who were not involved in the sprint) test the prototype.

Tip: A well-planned session increases team members' confidence that they have the right solution to the problem. Your project team gains a strong sense of shared vision and ownership. 

Design Sprint day-by-day

A typical Design Sprint is a five-day in-person workshop. Participants map out a problem out (Monday), sketch ideas (Tuesday), choose the best plan (Wednesday), create a prototype (Thursday) then test the prototype with real people to learn and adapt (Friday).


Design Sprint


Day one

The first day is focused on mapping the end-to-end customer journey and asking experts for their input. You start by agreeing on the goal of the five days. The team then begins by mapping out the problem. Participants decide whether the whole problem or only part of the problem can be addressed and solved in a one-week timeframe.

Day two

On the second day, the team performs some research and provides examples from other products or industries that offer similar solutions. Each team member sketches a solution from their point of view (technical, end user, business). These ideas are played back to the rest of the team through Lightning Demos. These demos inform team members of multiple innovative options that lead the way to the best solution.

Day three

On the third day, the team uses various techniques to decide which of the solution sketches have the most merit. Which ideas are the strongest and most likely to achieve the goals set out on day one? Everyone gets the chance to vote on ideas they believe the team should prototype. The Decider, typically a business sponsor or product manager, plays a key role. Once the winning ideas are selected, before the team moves to prototype, the team create a storyboard that strings all the best ideas together.

Day four

By day four, the team can convert the storyboard into a realistic prototype, with the help of technical experts in the group. The prototype is designed to provide a realistic enough surface for an end user to interact and work with. The prototype gives participants a feel for the end solution.

Day five

On the last day, the prototype is handed over to end users (five to seven individuals) who interact with the test solution individually rather than in a group. The team learns from the end users’ reactions to the prototype. (Team members observe from a remote location.) 

During testing, the end users are asked to think aloud so that the team can interpret what users are trying to achieve and how users interact with the prototype. This is not user-acceptance testing (UAT), as the users are testing only an early design prototype. The results from day five help the team understand what challenges a customer may face, and what aspects of the application are confusing. The team also learns what end-users like about the solution and why.  

Based on the findings, the team either improves the design, iterates the prototype and tests, or begins turning the prototype into a real solution. 

Note: Depending on the project needs, you can lead a design thinking workshop virtually or over fewer days, rather than as a five-day Design Sprint.

Microjourney reimagining with a Design Sprint

If you believe that your problem suits the complex space and want an effective way to tackle that problem, then design thinking is a good fit. Design thinking has transformed the way Pega Express approaches projects. If you need your team to reimagine a Microjourney or drive transformation, or to get people on board to deliver a new process or piece of functionality, design thinking is the way to go. A Design Sprint creates a collaborative, well-aligned, and confident atmosphere. The Pega Express delivery approach recommends you do it as early as you can on your engagement. 

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