Editor’s note: This is the second part of a multi-part series highlighting innovation stories within InVision’s Future of Work Leadership Forum, which brings together leaders across all industries to share their insights on how they transformed collaboration across teams and geographies. You can read part one here.
Over the past 10 years, collaborative tools and cloud-based systems have emerged as a means to accelerate development, and create shared environments for small and large teams around the world. The past five years, and specifically the global pandemic in 2020, supercharged their need, proliferation and usage.
But here is the thing, they did not immediately solve the challenge to bring cross functional global teams together to ideate, create, and solve problems together in ways that are harmonious, natural and holistic. More on why below.
Creating a culture of transparency across teams
Adoption and adaptation of cross-collaborative technology requires a different approach, a different perspective, and a different way of working that enables more diverse perspectives, while creating a culture of transparency and trust that is critical for success. If used incorrectly, these tools can ultimately create more siloed thinking and fragmented outcomes; resulting in lower quality products and a frustrating customer experience.
“MVP to MLP” Freehand Template – Step 6: Wants and Needs
Product, Design and Engineering teams have been using tools and technologies for years – to better align customer facing products through collaboration and a shared common vision. However, with Discovery+, we had an opportunity to bring together critical teams from around the globe to unlock the power, and harness the energy of these tools through guided synchronous and asynchronous activities.
Platforms like InVision provided us with the tools and means to not only create prototypes, but also share everything from mood boards, CX flows, comps, and wireframes in an environment that was easy to access from anywhere in the world. When we needed critical, and time sensitive approvals, InVision Freehand with other collaboration tools acted as spaces where we could easily ideate, discuss and share our thinking – including key pain points and customer feedback from our product research.
However, tools and technology are not enough by themselves to empower autonomy, drive collaboration and generate successful outcomes at the speed of light. There are always challenges, always hills and valleys, and always resilience required when developing a “Share and Learn” foundation for a “Test and Learn” culture to thrive. As important tools and technology have become in this new era, how we use them, apply them and communicate through them is the secret to empowering teams to succeed. Just as these tools and technologies need to become your best friends for collaboration; creating tailored templates that empower individuals and teams to unlock their creativity and problem solving prowess is even more important in large global organizations looking to innovate and iterate for their customers.
Tailor your templates to empower autonomy
Before adopting visual collaboration tools, we needed to empower every group and team within the organization across the globe. Our approach focused on tailoring templates and visual tools to provide an opportunity to include our Business, Sales & Marketing, Brand, Content, Strategy, Finance and Legal teams more closely into the product, design and development cycles. This streamlined and supercharged our decision making power through transparency, product and design reviews, and asynchronous communications.
Creating spaces where team members from different parts of the global organization could collaborate, comment and connect on key decision points necessary for our products was one of the most vital ingredients to our success.
There are many models and methods that people use to drive decisions; however, I wanted to share a few examples that highlight the value of collaboration, collaborative tools and platforms. The five examples below are selected from my experience navigating these sometimes turbulent cross-functional waters and workflows on the journey to building several Most Lovable Products at Discovery+.
Example 01: C-Suite Reviews & Approvals
In most large organizations, C-Suite Executives have rigorous and busy schedules. Yet, keeping them informed with the ability to weigh in on key progress points, deliverables and key decisions is paramount to the success of any customer-facing product. We used several collaborative tools to provide our C-Suite with an easy way to check progress, status, decisions and even approvals for key product screens, campaigns and prototypes via remote boards, and online whiteboards. Our executives, sponsors and stakeholders could quickly view progress, easily make notes and comments, and come fully prepared with questions for review meetings on their own schedules.
Example 02: Legal Approvals for Partner Flows
Acquisition and Partner flows are two of the most important parts of any subscription service. These also tend to be incredibly complex when introducing global territories, languages and specific localized laws. We needed an easy way for our Legal and Partner Teams to collaborate, view and approve these critical time sensitive flows. Through InVision, we were able to provide functional prototypes and visual boards all in one place to capture notes, feedback and approvals within 24 hours and across five time zones.
Example 03: Marketing Campaign Approvals
We created a combination of clickable/swipeable prototypes with boards to distribute functional in-situ product marketing for reviews and approvals. This made it easy for team members to collaborate asynchronously, stakeholders to weigh in, and key executives to have the ability to review, comment and approve. Landing pages, emails and special promotional campaigns were published to InVision and made available for reviews online or on mobile phones to understand exactly how our customers would see it.
Example 04: & Platform Artwork Approvals
Discovery+ launched with over 60,000 episodes on day one, and included over 200,000 pieces of original artwork. Because the product and design were entirely new, we built all of the artwork from the ground up to accommodate every size and language globally. Using InVision, we were able to collaborate with teams around the world to share style guides, develop mood boards, and ultimately provide a means to review and approve key themes and directions that were culturally relevant to the local audiences they served. In addition to artwork creation, we developed custom on-platform artwork and campaigns for special promotions, new series, and live events including the Olympics.
Example 05: Future Ideation & Testing
One of the most powerful strengths of good product design and development is the exploration of new product concepts, enhanced features and ideation. Collaborative whiteboards and prototyping tools increased our ability to work across multiple teams, locations and time zones. We were able to quickly and easily take a concept directly to user testing to better inform decisions that deliver positive results. These innovative tools provided us with infinite possibilities to make decisions using data, and move at the speed of light with confidence.
Fostering an environment where we could quickly and easily gain diverse perspectives, understand local and regional challenges, and collaborate throughout the process with a shared mission around our customers provided a successful framework of ownership, autonomy and empowerment to deliver what many believed was an impossible mission.
Breaking it Down & Breaking the Mold
“MVP to MLP” Freehand Template – Step 5: Tension Points
Creating products that are truly customer-centered takes time, patience, shared purpose, and a lot of work! It is not something that happens overnight, and can sometimes take years to advance, cultivate and grow. It has taken me nearly 20 years to better understand, implement and refine a process that fosters collaboration and innovation in companies while transforming them into customer obsessed organizations.
Designing and building Discovery+ from its inception, through its flagship launch and rollout across 13 countries around the world, afforded me the opportunity to cultivate and grow this approach, while re-shaping the language towards a true customer first mindset. Most Lovable Product (MLP) is a term that reminds everyone, at every level within the organization, to think clearly about creating products that customers will love, and how the people within any organization can generate greater value, success and growth. At its core, it is about innovation and opportunity that is holistic in its approach, clear in its purpose, and truly inclusive in its nature.
When we applied this approach to other projects, campaigns and missions, we found similar results occurred – driving true value for our customers, our employees and the company. It can be tailored to fit any project, product or mission; however, the greater success and validation was watching teams and individuals around the globe implement these methods and mechanisms to drive growth opportunities.
“MVP to MLP” Freehand Template – Step 12: Measurement Exercise
The MLP Framework is rooted in changing the company culture and mindset to make your customers the heart and soul of your organization, products and marketing. It’s not always a perfect match, but there are elements that will scale to almost any company, irrespective of its size:
- Establish Strong Foundations: Align your vision, mission and core principles
- Define Your Methodologies & Tools for Success: Tailor them to align with each team’s goals
- Democratize Collaboration: Accountability and ownership builds trust and empowerment
- Find Your Secret Sauce: Allow autonomy and flexibility to benefit your customers
- Measurement & Momentum: Always focus on the holistic customer view
Most of all, you and your teams must put in the work and be resilient. You must work tirelessly not only to bring people along on the journey, but to ensure they are invested in successful outcomes for customers. Whether you are building a rocketship or a rickshaw, finding commonality through collaboration and transparent communication is critical to get where you want to go, and the key to delivering successful products people will love.
Shawn is the Former GVP Product and Design for Discovery+ | Discovery | NBCUniversal | Microsoft. His product and design career spans nearly three decades as a global leader and collaborator for some of the world's top brands. You can find him at the intersection of product, technology, and the imagination of the human spirit.