Who this lab is for

What you'll do

In this lab, you're going to:

What you'll learn

What you'll need

This section explains the essential concepts that you need to know before starting this lab. Further concepts will be introduced when you encounter them for the first time during the lab.

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:

Essentially, NEXT is an intuitive tool, helping you to simplify your innovation journey and build well-substantiated and validated value propositions.

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.

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 in NEXT, we 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 on your desktop (Chrome only)

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 to go to the next steps!

After learning how NEXT will help you execute your project: Let's start doing real things in NEXT! Did your Champion not create your project yet? Start with creating one first.

Create a project

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

  1. Give the Project a name, assign it to a theme and determine the privacy level

  1. Click "Create" and your project will appear.

Explore Project

  1. On top of the screen you'll see the name of your project and tabs for the key sections of your project:

  1. Below you see the timeline, which shows you where you are in the process. It also allows you to access other phases (note: your organization might have changed the phase names to match your internal lingo):

  1. Below that, you will see the phase specific content. For Briefing, this will be the (empty) "Brief card" of your project:

You will find all these elements on every phase overview page.

Explore Brief

  1. Click the "Brief card"
  2. On the right side, you see the Brief -- the deliverables of this phase. This will fill up automatically as you work through the steps of the process on the left-hand side.

  1. On the left side of the screen you see the steps of the process, which you need to take to develop your Brief:

You will find this structure on detail page for every deliverable.

Creating a winning team

A project team in NEXT consists of members with different roles:

Add team members

  1. In "Step 1" click "Add team members"
  2. In the Manage Members dialog, add all of your team members (Leads, Participants, Sponsors, and Followers if relevant)

  1. Change the role of Lead(s) and Sponsor from "Participant" to "Lead" and "Sponsor" respectively.

Set project end-date

  1. Click on "Define timeline" under Step 1.
  2. Set the start- and end-date of your project

  1. Modify phase deadlines by clicking on "Show phase deadlines"
  2. Click on "Save" once you're finished setting your timeline.
  3. Note that the start- and end-date you set now show up under the process figure in your project's workspace and under your project's name in the Brief workspace.

Set a project photo

  1. Click the "Surprise me" button in the photo placeholder (big black circle)
  2. Pick one of the photo suggestions. If you don't find anything suitable, change the search term and click the "search" button.
  3. Click the "Select" button

What's a step?

In every phase, NEXT provides you with a step-by-step method to complete your deliverables. A step guides you towards completing a distinct aspect of the deliverable (e.g. "Create your Challenge", "Identify your project ambitions", etc). The logic and order of these steps is rooted in the best practices of design thinking and lean methodology. As such, it's recommended you proceed through steps in the order provided (Step 1, Step 2, ...)

Schedule your next Step

  1. Click the step "Create your Challenge"

  1. Read the step's description to get a feeling for what the step aims to achieve
  2. Click the empty due date field in the left upper corner

  1. Select a date and click outside the date selector
  2. Repeat step 1-4 for each "Step" in the "Briefing" phase

What's a task?

Tasks are recommended design actions to help you accomplish the objectives of a Step. A task is supported by videos, content, templates and other learning materials. With NEXT, you'll have the tools best designers use at your disposal!

The order of tasks in a card is not random, although sometimes you may choose to do the Tasks in a different order than recommended by NEXT.

You can schedule multiple instances of a task. For example, there are typically many "User Interviews" in a project. You can also decide not to do certain Tasks, e.g. Wild Safaris to observe users in their natural habitat might not be feasible in a war zone.

NEXT provides you with many best-practice design tasks, acquired from industry leading design institutions. You can use these tasks to drive your innovation projects through the design process. You can also add a "Custom Task" if you need something outside this range. For example, generic tasks like "Meet to discuss which users to interview" or highly company specific tasks like "Request clearance from compliance".

Schedule a task

  1. Open the step "Create your Challenge"

  1. Click the question mark in the "Challenge Framing" button to open to learn about the task. This is your black-belt innovation coach at your fingertips.

  1. Take some minutes to learn how to execute the task. Pay special attention to who should join the task and how much time you will need:

  1. Click the "back"-button in the upper left corner to leave the learning view
  2. Click the "Challenge Framing" button to add the task to your step

  1. Click the date placeholder to schedule when the task will take place, or if you don't know just yet, schedule the deadline instead
  2. Click the link "Add to calendar" that appears behind the date-button to download the task as an agenda item, which you can send to the rest of your team
  3. Click on "Add participants" to assign the task to members. Challenge Framing is a team task, simply click on "Add all leads and participants" in the "Add participant" dialog.

  1. Repeat these steps to schedule the tasks: "Sponsor Interview", "Passion & Purpose" and "Playback".
  2. Continue with scheduling the tasks for the Steps "Identify your project ambitions" and "Align with organization strategy" to plan ahead for the entire Briefing phase.

Schedule a Custom Task

Sometimes, you might want to schedule custom tasks. Let's schedule our first custom task:

  1. Click on "Custom Task"

  1. Click on the name of the task, and change it to: "Schedule next tasks"

  1. Plan a 30-minute meeting together with your team, in which you will schedule the tasks "Sponsor Interview" and "Passion & Purpose", and in which you'll get started with step 3 of the "Brief" phase: "Identify your project ambitions"
  2. Once you've agreed on a date, schedule it by clicking on "Set date"
  3. Add participants (your team) and add notes to outline the agenda for the meeting.
  4. On the planned day, repeat the steps in the section "Schedule a task"

After scheduling a task, it's time to execute!

Execute task

Let's try out the steps you will have to take once you're executing a task:

  1. Open Step 1: "Create your Challenge"
  2. Open the scheduled task "Challenge Framing" by clicking it

  1. Click the "Learn more" link in "Instructions for Challenge Framing"
  2. Take a few minutes to learn how to execute this task - pay special attention to who should join and the time allocation

  1. Print the Challenge Framing Canvas template provided and get started by following the instructions provided
  2. Once you finished internally discussing your challenge, head to the task
  3. Click the report card of the task which currently reads "No Challenge defined yet."

  1. Enter the Challenge based on your discussion, click outside the text field when finished
  2. Click on "Mark complete" to finish your task
  3. Note that the checkbox in front of the task name "Challenge Framing" and the date button are now marked green. To "uncomplete" the task, simply click the checkbox. to mark the task as completed.
  4. Notice that in the Step overview, now you can see the task you accomplished

  1. All tasks in NEXT follow this same logic.

Mark step as complete

Let's try out the steps you will have to take once your first step is completed:

  1. Open step "Create your Challenge"
  2. Click the button "Mark complete". This will change the button to indicate its completed state. The deadline turns green as well to indicate that step is completed.
  3. [Clean up] Click again on the "Completed" button to set the step back to not completed
  4. Click "x" to close the "Create your Challenge" step

What's a wrap-up session?

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. It's a vital moment in the process where the Sponsor and team need to align, to ensure the hard work gets supported from every angle.

To facilitate these conversations, NEXT provides project teams with the ability to export the Canvas or any one part of the Canvas into PowerPoint.

Select the Brief for the project

  1. Open the Briefing overview page by clicking on "Workspace" in the left upper corner.
  2. Click the " ..." button in the Brief card

  1. Click on "Select brief" to include your Brief in the Canvas

  1. Click on "Download your Brief" - this will download a PowerPoint summary of your Brief.

View your Brief in the Canvas

Every project produces a standard business case that we articulate in terms of a Canvas: a one pager bringing together all key elements of your project (e.g. your Brief). To view this:

  1. Return to the application and open the Canvas tab from the top of the page

  1. Note the selected Challenge, which appeared in the Problem section of the Canvas
  2. As you progress with your project, this canvas will auto-populate.
  3. You can drill down in each section of the canvas.
  4. Go back to project overview page by opening the "Workspace" tab

Explore Design Index

While you follow the design process with your project in NEXT you're mitigating many risks, thereby increasing the likelihood of developing value propositions that delight customers. NEXT gives you an indication of how well you've been able to mitigate these risks with a "Design Index" score. Each projects moving through the process receives a score from 1-10 after completing a phase, specifically for the following risks:

We recommend using the Design Index score during wrap-up sessions after each phase with your Sponsor and Champion.

Check your Design Index

  1. Find "Themes" in the left-hand navigation menu of your screen
  2. Click the name of the Theme to which your project belongs
  3. In front of you, you'll find the Theme Dashboard with all projects of this Theme. Each project is shown as a card. Notice that each card has a "Design Index" score.

  1. Click on the "Design Index" score of your project to see all your scores.

What are sprints?

After you learned how to execute tasks and engage with your sponsor, it's time to look at how to work together as a winning project team!

NEXT promotes an agile way of working. If you have used any agile methodology - like Scrum, Kanban, or Lean - NEXT will feel very natural to you.

The core idea is to work in fixed length iterations, called "Sprints", and steer the project as you learn more along the way. This agile workstyle tends to fit better to the less predictable nature of innovation than a static methodology which tries to plan all details on day 1. Sprints help you stay focused, increase transparency and help you prioritize work easier.

To foster this way of working, we encourage you to organize sprint standups. Sprint standups are short face-to-face or remote meetings where the team discusses what they achieved during the last period, what they plan for the next period, and what challenges they envision. Sprint standups are brief, action-oriented, and focused on the past/current period. A sprint standup should take 10-15 minutes max.

Set sprint length

  1. Decide on a sprint length. Most projects opt for a weekly sprints but you can also opt for a longer length if your project is very long running with low intensity (e.g. a 6-month project where the team only actively works bi-weekly on the project).
  2. Schedule the standups in the beginning of your sprint (e.g. every Monday for weekly sprints).
  3. To set your Sprint Length: go to your Brief overview page
  4. Click on the button for Sprint Length
  5. Determine whether to schedule it weekly, monthly or quarterly and set it according

Download sprint standups into your calendar

  1. Click the link "Add to calendar" to import the standups as recurring events into your calendar (Outlook, iCal, G-Suite, etc.)
  2. Take note of the description of the downloaded event, which summarizes best practices for the sprint standups

Run a sprint standup [dry run]

  1. Open the "Sprint" tab on top of the project-page
  2. Set the reporting period to "Last week" in the upper-right corner of the screen. This allows you to get an overview of all activities of the last period and upcoming activities.
  3. Review if all scheduled tasks for the last week were completed. Let task participants share noteworthy insights from the tasks.
  4. Review the scheduled tasks for the current and next period. For a good standup, consider asking questions such as:
  1. Is this a good work load or should you schedule further tasks?
  2. Does the workload allow us to remain on schedule?
  3. Do you need any external help completing any of the tasks (e.g. from your Sponsor, domain expert, etc.)?
  4. Are there any past due tasks? If yes, reschedule or delete them.
    Overdue tasks appear in red.
  5. Review unscheduled tasks. Should any of these tasks be scheduled for this period?

Schedule remaining Tasks

Previously, you've scheduled and completed your first Design Task (Challenge Framing) and all "Steps" of the Briefing phase. Now, it's time to plan and schedule the rest of the Briefing phase.

  1. Download and review the Phase Planning Cheat Sheet & the Phase Workload Overview
  2. Review all Design Tasks of the Briefing phase (slide 1 of Workload Overview)
  3. Collectively decide which tasks you want to complete (starred tasks are recommended)
  4. Repeat step 1-7 of the "Schedule a task" section of this lab.

Congratulations, you've successfully set up your Project.

You added your team members and configured your project. You planned the entire Briefing phase with the team and completed your first Design Task.

Now you know how to manage and execute a project with NEXT.

Happy innovating!

PS: Still something unclear? NEXT Support is always there to help.