Who this lab is for

What you'll do

In this lab, you're going to:

What you'll learn

What you'll need

What's NEXT?

NEXT is Business Design software trusted by high performing organizations. Rooted in design thinking and lean methods, NEXT helps clients engage, empower, and cross-functionally align their workforce to:

What's a Champion?

In NEXT, your role as a Champion is to serve as an accelerator for adopting a design-led way of working for any R&D, innovation, transformation or other project or initiative, that requires a user-centric approach, through NEXT – that is, guide and enable teams and sponsors to do their work.

As the saying goes: "Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime".

Anchoring NEXT requires you to take care of these two main factors:

Themes & Projects

NEXT is made of 2 key overarching concepts: 1) Themes and 2) Projects. Together, they help you embed design [thinking] in your organization in every project, and at leadership level.

What's a Theme?

A Theme is a portfolio of projects that collectively contribute towards a common goal - the "North Star". Themes generally reflect the formal business structure and P&L lines in a company (e.g. your service lines, regions, product lines, etc.). They allow organizations to break down their strategy and drive projects within the Theme to reach their ambitions.

Every Theme has a dedicated "Sponsor" and "Theme Champion", who work together to make the "Theme" self-sufficient at continuously, identifying, initiating and running projects.

Smart and organized, Themes let Sponsors easily manage projects at a portfolio level and serve as a single measure unit of success for adopting design & NEXT at your organization.

Themes consists of 4 key elements:

  1. Project Dashboard;
  2. Opportunities (business backlog of the Theme);
  3. The "North Star"; and
  4. Theme Owners (Sponsor & Champion).

Project Dashboard

The Theme Dashboard provides an overview of all projects currently running (or paused) in your Theme. It shows you where in the process each project sits, whether it's running on time, who is working on it, and it shows you a "Design Index" score for each project.


"Opportunities" is the business backlog of a Theme. It helps Sponsors and Champions capture anything that leads to desirable business outcomes, such as ideas, trends, market insights, and more. The key to an opportunity is that it has business value and comes from hard work and inspiration.

Opportunities are captured on a Theme level to build your backlog for new projects. Here, you can prioritize, nurture and groom them with supporting facts or insights, so you can transform them into projects when they're ready to go.

Opportunities are important, because they're the key to a healthy Theme with a continuous flow of projects. We recommend organizing regular Opportunity Mapping sessions with the Theme Sponsor and Champion, aimed at selecting new projects to initiate.

North Star

A Theme North Star is an important key element outlining the vision and ambitions for your Theme. It is designed to let Theme Sponsors define and express their strategic goals their Theme. The North Star serves as guidance for Sponsors and Champions when determining which opportunities to pursue and projects to start.

What's a Theme Sponsor?

A Theme Sponsor owns and manages the project portfolio within a Theme and drives projects through the design process. On a project-level, Sponsors help project teams progress further at essential steps in the process by making Go/No Go decisions after each phase, taking away barriers and ensuring teams progress in the right direction. On a Theme-level, Sponsors provide strategic direction by defining and continuously refining the Theme's North Star (vision/ambition), reviewing overall progress and, most importantly, prioritizing Opportunities and selecting new projects.

What's a Project?

A Project is a design effort initiated to solve a business Challenge and operationalize an Opportunity. Projects collectively contribute towards the objectives (North Star) of the Theme.

A project's life cycle in NEXT is broken down into 5 phases. Teams start from an initial business Challenge and finish with a fully-fledged business case, articulated in the form of a Canvas. Teams produce the Canvas by going through the design-led step-by-step process embedded in NEXT. This ensures that projects result in business cases rooted in verified customer needs and market trends, are systematically creative by combining internal ideas with external inspiration, are prototyped and tested, and have a thoughtful plan for their implementation.

Project roles

Each project has a Team Lead, Team Participants, a Project Sponsor and a Champion (you). Each project member has a different role:

Click here for a more detailed overview of the different roles & routines NEXT recommends.

What's a Canvas?

The final deliverable of every project is a Canvas - think of it as a modern-day business case.

The canvas provides real-time visibility and access to a project in a single view. The Canvas is auto-populated as the team progresses through their project - you can think of the Canvas as the dashboard of the project. All data is always updated to the minute and aligned with the latest thinking of the project team. All deliverables are pushed into the Canvas in real-time, providing Sponsors with easy access and visibility into projects.

In a single view, the Canvas provides a Champion with all information needed to get an update on the latest deliverables created by the project team.

The Canvas lets you drill down, slice & dice, and explore

The Canvas is alive! You can click into any part of the Canvas for details, supporting data, and related material. This advanced exploration capability helps Sponsors make up their own mind regarding the strength and relevance of the supporting data. All project data is recorded, organized, and served back to Sponsors in logical ways to help you assess the validity and strength of the project's outcome. Check out the Sponsor Onboarding Lab if you want a detailed explanation and examples of drilling down in a Canvas.

Benefits of the NEXT Canvas

Traditional Business Model Canvas are static - a one page print out that you fill with assumptions. In contrast, the NEXT Canvas is dynamic and contains validated deliverables. For example, you can not only see for whom the problem was solved but - with one click - learn all about the Goals, Pains, Behaviors, etc. of this particular Persona. If you wonder why, for instance, the team thinks that a Persona experiences a certain Pain: You can click the source of the Pain and find out during which User Interview, Wild Safari, or other task, the finding was detected. In other words, NEXT continuously provides you with the evidence needed to verify each finding - a so-called "system of record".

Before you can get going with NEXT, you first have to get access and set up your profile.

Access NEXT

  1. Go to https://[company_name].nextapp.co/ (e.g. https://mycompany.nextapp.co/)
  2. Sign in with the credentials provided to you earlier

Set up your profile

By default, your profile name is derived from your email address and your profile photo is an avatar initial. Configure your profile so your colleagues can find you:

  1. In the top left-hand corner of the screen, click on your name and click on "Profile & Account";
  2. Click on "Edit" to adjust your name and click "Save" once you're done;
  3. To upload a profile picture: click the big black circle.

Install NEXT

You can install NEXT on your desktop to access it directly - with one click:

  1. Open NEXT in Chrome (Note: Chrome only!)
  2. Click on your name in the upper-left corner to open the popup menu
  3. Click option "Install on desktop"

Now you're all set up and ready to get started!

Roles in NEXT

Inviting people to join NEXT is easy. But before we start inviting them, let's take a closer look at different roles (with "rights") in NEXT:

Admins: Admins have ‘superpowers' with which they can modify NEXT, add users and more.

Full users: Can see all public projects, themes and access the full people directory.

Guest users: Can see a partial people directory and can only access the projects to which they have been added.

Invite people to NEXT

Let's invite some colleagues to NEXT, so you can add them to Themes, Projects and more. We'd recommend you to first add the Sponsors and other important internal stakeholders to NEXT. You can invite people and immediately change their access rights in the process:

  1. Click on "Invite people" in the green left-hand navigation in NEXT
  2. Indicate whether the people you want to add should be "Full Users" or "Guest Users"
  3. After clicking on the type of user you'd like to add, type their email addresses.
  4. Click on "Send Invitations"

Create Theme

During the kick-off session, you defined a list of Themes, generally business areas of your organization to which budget is allocated. It's time to bring them to live in NEXT!

  1. Click on the "+" sign in the left-hand navigation menu next to "Themes"

  1. Write down the name and North Star for your test Theme and click on "Create"

  1. You'll be directed to the theme overview page. On the left-hand side, you see your theme was added. On the right-hand side you see your (currently empty) project portfolio with all phases of the NEXT process.

Assign sponsor

The Sponsor manages the Theme. Let's add them to your newly created Theme!

  1. Click on the "About" tab in your Theme overview page
  2. Click on "Manage Sponsors"
  3. Add the Sponsor to the Theme

Opportunity mapping

"Opportunities" is the business backlog of a Theme. To fill this backlog, we recommend organizing periodic Opportunity Mapping sessions with your Sponsor(s) to ensure a continuous flow of projects. As a starting point, quarterly opportunity mapping should suffice.

For more detailed information on how to organize Opportunity Mapping workshops, check out our Sponsor Onboarding Lab.

In this section you will learn how to set up projects and enable project teams to ensure project success.

Create a test project

  1. Click the "+" sign behind "Projects" in the left-hand navigation menu.

  1. Give your test Project a name, assign it to the theme you previously created and determine the privacy level (i.e. in this case choose "hidden" as it's a test project).
  2. Click "Create" and your project will appear.
  3. Follow the steps in the "Start a project" section in our Team Onboarding Lab to get going with your test project.

One of your main responsibilities as a NEXT Champion is to enable project teams to run their project successfully with NEXT.

Project Team Onboarding

Project teams that have never used NEXT need to be properly onboarded. As a Champion, your role is to facilitate this process. To help you along, we've created the Team Onboarding Lab:

  1. Go to https://labs.nextapp.co/;
  2. Open the Team Onboarding Lab ;
  3. Familiarize yourself with the concept;
  4. Schedule a 60 minute session with the Team;
  5. Execute the Team Onboarding Lab during the session (Lab takes around 60 min.);
  6. Afterwards, gather feedback from the team and answer any questions;
  7. Share the link to the Team Onboarding Lab with the Team for reference.

Facilitating Sprint Standups

After you've onboarded the team with the Team Onboarding Lab, the next step is to continuously interact with them to keep track of their progress. We encourage an agile way of working (i.e. working in fixed length iterations, called "Sprints"). To enable a team to work this way, you as a Champion should help teams build the routines of planning, executing, and reviewing their Sprints and Standups. Support them until they have internalized the approach.

To get started:

  1. Go to https://[company_name].nextapp.co/
  2. Open the Team Onboarding Lab
  3. Navigate to the section called "Sprint Planning"
  4. Familiarize yourself with the concept
  5. Execute this section while using the Team Onboarding Lab
  6. Afterwards, check in with the Team on a regular basis to ensure they keep on planning their Sprints and organize their weekly standups.

NEXT helps you schedule, plan and organize your sprints. Check the "Sprint Planning" section in our Team Onboarding Lab for more information or download the "Sprint Standup Cheat Sheet".

Monitor project progress

More experienced teams might not need Champions to organize their standups and help them plan Sprints. For those cases, you can keep track of a team's progress by tracking their project:

  1. Click on the Theme you've created previously
  2. In the dashboard, reflecting the NEXT process, you'll see your recently created project

In this example, you see an overview with multiple projects. Note that some are marked red, others grey. Red projects are overdue, grey projects are yet to be completed.

  1. The date-indicator shows if projects are running according to plan.
  1. Check for projects with Red label → Check in with the team why they're overdue
  2. Check for projects without specific date → Check in with the team to ask when they will schedule their project
  1. Click on your test project to investigate the status in more detail

You're ready to help Sponsors, Teams and other stakeholders get started with NEXT and act as an internal enabler for positioning NEXT as the backbone for designing new value propositions.

You're the champ!

You now know how to:

Next steps: