This Sponsor Onboarding Lab is designed to get you started with NEXT in your role as a Theme Sponsor. The lab glosses over the work routines and experience for project teams, but only to the extent and level of details necessary for you as a Sponsor.
In this lab, you're going to:
This section explains the key concepts that you will encounter when following this lab.
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:
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:
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.
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.
A 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.
A Champion is the driving force behind the adoption of a design-led way of working for the Theme. On a Theme-level, Champions enable Sponsor to take ownership of their Theme by organizing Opportunity Mapping sessions, challenging them on their North Star, prioritize Opportunities and initiate new projects. On a project-level, Champions help [new] project teams get started with their project in NEXT, guide them through the process and ensure projects follow best-practice routines, such as Weekly Standups and Wrap-up sessions with Sponsors at the end of each phase.
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.
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 all the information Sponsors need to remain updated on the status and progress of a project.
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.
At NEXT we believe digital technologies shall NOT replace physical interactions but augment them. Phase-ends are critical moments in a project's life cycle where the Sponsor must interact with the project team and discuss the team's progress and decisions. To facilitate these conversations, NEXT provides teams with the ability to export the entire Canvas or any one part of the Canvas into PowerPoint at the click of a button.
Note that a guidance slide in the presentation outlines the scope and nature of a productive conversation. This slide specifically provides tips to the team on what they shall focus on in updating the Sponsor as well as what are meaningful questions for the Sponsor to consider asking.
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 in NEXT, we first have to get access and 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:
NEXT always had a special relationship with the Chrome web browser. You can install NEXT to your desktop to access it directly - with one click:
Now you're ready to go to the next steps!
NEXT is there for you to succeed in your Sponsor role -- that is, NEXT helps you monitor progress, select opportunities to pursue and initiate new projects bringing you closer to your North Star. Now that we have reviewed the Theme, Project, Canvas, and other aspects of the NEXT application, let's get started with what you, as a Sponsor, will actually do during a project's lifecycle and in NEXT.
The next steps of this lab will guide you how to do these actions in the application.
As explained in the overview section, the North Star is the strategic expression of the Sponsor's ambitions for the Theme. By formalizing the goals and ambitions for the Theme, Sponsors establish a direction for the project in the Theme. We call this the "North Star" – the star to which all projects in the Theme need to align.
As the Sponsor, you're accountable for a specific Theme within your organization. You also have the ultimate authority for the Theme and its Projects. Yet, at times things get hectic and you might not want to delay Projects just because you're busy with other priorities (or are out of office). A shadow Sponsor can support you in managing the Theme and associated Projects.
Your initial set of projects will get started and executed over the next weeks. Managing a Theme is an ongoing effort. You should in regular intervals:
This exercise will allow you to build-up a backlog of projects that you will operationalize over time based on the resources available to you.
Theme opportunity mapping is a regular exercise. Participants include the Theme Sponsors and the associated Champions. We recommend you start with quarterly opportunity mapping labs and then adjust the frequency based on your business momentum, traction, and resource availability.
The key to ensuring a healthy Theme is to maintain a backlog of Opportunities that are groomed and nurtured until they're ready to become Projects.
Opportunity Mapping is an exercise we recommend doing at least once every quarter. It will help you identify new projects to start, that will bring you close to the ambitions of your Theme. As soon as you've created multiple opportunities, added them to your Theme and enriched them, it's time to select 3-5 Opportunities to start as a project.
After setting up your Theme having completed Opportunity Mapping session & selection, it's time to create your initial set of projects! It's advised to start with 3-5 projects. This gives you the dynamic of a real Theme without being overburdened with too many projects from day 1.
Generally, we recommend starting Projects based on Opportunities. To do so:
That's it! Your initial projects are setup and ready to go - the project team can get started!
Sometimes, you might just want to create a project without a previously created Opportunity. If that's the case, you can follow the steps below.
Congratulations, you've successfully set up your Theme, created your first North Star and have a thorough understanding of how you can dive into the details of a Project's deliverables by drilling down into its Canvas.
You now know how to manage a Theme and how to enable the project teams to be successful. Next, you're responsible for driving innovation in your Theme - in other words, starting new projects and assigning them to teams.
PS: Still something unclear? NEXT Support is always there to help.