Microsoft 365 Groups power all collaboration in Teams, Outlook, SharePoint, and more.
Any group of people anywhere in the Microsoft ecosystem are held together by the Groups platform. Microsoft Teams teams, Outlook groups, and Yammer communities are all in fact Microsoft 365 Groups behind the scenes.
Groups sprawl

What happens when too many unused or inactive groups accumulate in an organisation?
It leads to a phenomenon called Groups Sprawl. Groups Sprawl is a problem because it complicates tenant management for IT Admins.

Scripts take longer to run, it’s more difficult to distinguish active groups from inactive groups, and so on. -- Tony Redmond’s blog
My role

I lead design and research for the entire Microsoft 365 Groups platform, and was responsible for designing and facilitating this design sprint.

I’ve also been working on Outlook Desktop, Outlook Web App, Outlook on mobile web, Yammer, and groups experiences in Teams and SharePoint.

This project is an excellent example of close collaboration with the entire triad at Microsoft - Design+Research, PM and Engineering.
Over 50 hours of discussions, interviews, focus groups, and design sprints with our users.
The way things are right now, IT Admins are affected the most by Groups Sprawl. We spoke to over 35 Admins to get a comprehensive understanding of the systemic impact of Groups Sprawl.

We also interviewed over 15 end-users from our customer organisations to further understand the extend of the problem when it comes to end-user experience.
We then ran this design sprint over three weeks with 8 admins from our customer organisations to understand the situation and build solutions together.
Methodology
Running a virtual design sprint
Adapting to the new way of working, we ran a design sprint virtually for the first time.

We used this as an opportunity to use novel methods of sprinting and co-creation using digital tools.

Each activity was meticulously planned in advance. We had fail safe mechanisms in place for technical issues. We also established protocol and rhythm of business leading upto and post the sprint sessions.

Week 1
Understand


Introduction
Identifying problems
Elaborate + Cluster
Week 2
Explore


Voting and prioritization
Reviewing problem statements
Ideation and brainstorming
Buy a feature
Week 3
Validate


Developed solutions
Feedback
Conclusion
The Process
Delivering a great virtual sprint experience
Pre-reads + summaries

Every session was preceded with a pre-read that included a summary of what happened.
Open office hours

Open office hours were organized to clarify on asks we couldn’t cover in the sprint.
Pre and post session huddles

The team huddled before and after each session to assimilate feedback and plan.
Polls and parking lots

Surveys and polls helped us better connect and keep users engaged off-event.
These practices helped plan and execute the sprint meticulously and addressed a lot of the concerns participants face in a virtual sprint.
TOOLS and Frameworks


Teams enabled us to present context and have multiple modes of communication.


MURAL changed the way we collaborate visually together. Structure + Flexibility.


We used Figma to quickly prototype concepts and generate assets.


We used OneNote extensively internally for planning as well as documenting our progress.
These tools used in combination provided a cohesive experience that empowered co-creation virtually.
Activities
Leveraging virtual collaboration
Rather than be limited in what we could achieve virtually, we wanted to leverage the virtual framework to enable a more immersive co-creation experience.
“I think having the components in Mural we could use to come up with our dashboard was a great idea made it easier and faster instead of us having to draw something and send a pic which is what we have done in the past” - Participant
Experience principles


Time-bound

Time-bound thinking allows people to churn out ideas without spending time over-validating them.


Interactive

Interactive activities promote visual thinking and can help overcome bias and preconceptions.


Engaging

Create ownership through deeply engaging activities that are delightful and inclusive.


Dynamic

An organic, growing, collaboration board emanates a sense of progress with words turning into concepts.
We used these principles to craft a variety of activities that were highly engaging and insightful.

The Mural board we designed and used for the entire sprint.
Blurred to obfuscate confidential information about unreleased features.
Would you like to know more?

Drop me an email and we can catch up. I usually respond within a day. (9AM to 9PM IST)
hi@naveen.io   
hi@naveen.io
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