We found a virtual collaboration platform that actually works — why and how you should use it too
We have been running in-person hackathons since 2013. Our hackathon format, the InnoDays, employs design thinking methods to guide interdisciplinary teams from idea to prototype in 48 hours. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, we inevitably had to move our spring 2020 events online.
How to replicate the in-person experience?
Normally, we rely heavily on paper-based templates and physical prototyping material. We use digital tools mainly for documentation. This time, we realized we needed a digital solution to help us facilitate the event effectively.
The starting point was to lay out the requirements for an online platform to accompany us in our journey:
- Collect idea applications
- Process orientation
- Over 100 people interacting on the platform
- Team workspaces
- Good UX
- Embedded guidance
- Upload different types of documents and templates
Based on the above, we worked with the Sprintbase team to find a solution to our needs. The result is two versions of the Sprintbase platform to suit our process: a one-step version and a three-step version.
Idea Submission: One-step process
At the InnoDays, participants apply by submitting a video pitch of their ideas. We form teams based on the videos. Sprintbase allowed us to collect all videos on a visually appealing workspace that gave participants the possibility to comment on each other’s videos.
Once the deadline for video submissions ended, we created teams directly on the platform based on the similarity of interest among the video submissions. The drag and drop function made clustering videos extremely easy. Moreover, the colored labels helped us to organize the workspace in a clear and efficient way.
During the event: 3-step process
After team formation, we allocated each team to a project space, called a “sprint”, on Sprintbase. We leveraged the 3-step process to suit our InnoDays schedule. Each day corresponds to one step: Ideate, Prototype, and Validate. The three steps describe the tasks and methods.
The Sprintbase platform is divided into two main tabs: a guidance tab and a workspace. The guidance tab can be used to explain what the objective of each step is, add a checklist, tips, and any relevant documents. Sprintbase offers several useful resources that can be added to the guidance, including prototyping toolkits, templates, and guidelines. We used some of the available resources and complemented them with our own.
The workspace tab resembles the infinite board of other collaborative platforms such as Miro and Mural. We particularly liked the possibility of sequencing workspaces, instead of having to build in the process in a single digital board. Nevertheless, we used labels to give some structure to the board and remind participants about mandatory deliverables.
Sprintbase supports the upload of different types of documents ranging from video, audio, and text. Moreover, teams can collaborate on several templates directly in the workspace without having to download and upload the templates again.
We asked the participants and facilitators of our virtual InnoDays for feedback about the platform. The comments were overwhelmingly positive. Our participants praised the completeness of the instructions, easy operations, and collaborative features. Our facilitators enjoyed having a clear project overview and the possibility to directly comment on the teams’ progress. Recommended!