Franklin Energy Blog

Innovation Sprint Recap - June 2020

Posted by Danielle Marquis on June 29, 2020

The first time I met Megan Nyquist was shortly after the Franklin Energy and AM Conservation Group merger about 3 years ago, when I’d travelled to Port Washington to meet the local marketing team. I remember talking with her about my team's digital marketing and how we were “super users” of CRM platform HubSpot. That was the first of many times she rolled her eyes at me, then she proceeded to school me on the finer elements of the digital transformation she was trying to make happen.

I thought she was fantastic and decided that day I wanted her on my team.

Several months later, that happened. I think everyone thought we’d claw each other’s eyes out,danielle-and-megan-hiking but we’ve instead become not just close teammates, but friends. She’s a bit like the little sister I never had. Megan knows her stuff. Plus, she has a tremendous work ethic and perhaps most importantly, a profound willingness to figure things out. Megan is routinely given challenging, nebulous projects no one else can figure out. They come back completed on time, completely sorted. And, it doesn’t hurt that she’s also fun to be around.

When the idea for this Sprint first surfaced, I was working with the executive team to determine the team members and who was going to be the Decider. We wanted to focus in on the technology piece of the virtual audit prototype we’d built during the April 2020 Innovation Sprint, based on the Innovation Workshop we’d done with clients related to COVID-19 response. Megan had already facilitated many of these Sprints, was on the virtual audit product development team and was leading the kit portal product development team. Kevin suggested her. She was having a rough week—various projects going sideways, short-staffed, more work piling on—but nevertheless she happily took on this project.

Who participates in a Sprint?
Maker Creates individual components for prototyping
Stitcher Collects components from makers and combines them seamlessly to create a customer experience
Decider Makes final decisions for the team in the event of a disagreement
Facilitator Keeps everyone focused and on schedule, takes notes
Subject Matter Expert Provides unique expertise and input in their area of knowledge

For this Sprint, our goal was to develop a prototype to facilitate the technology piece of the virtual audit. We already had a video chat tool, but we wanted to explore more augmented reality (AR) functionality and bi-directional SMS support for product installation.

Much like my last conversation with Gena Rodriguez-West, I invite you to pull up a virtual chair and listen in to our conversation about our most recent Innovation Sprint.

Danielle: Welcome, Megan! Your hair looks really nice.

Megan: Thank you! I curled it today – I didn’t want to forget how.

Danielle: Smart. It looks great. When you were first invited to participate in the Sprint, what did you know about the process?

Megan: Well, I was very familiar with the process, because as you know, it was my fourth Sprint in the last several months. I’ve co-facilitated the previous three Sprints and was the Lead Facilitator in the very first one, but this was the first time I was Decider.

Danielle: Haha, yes. You’re a pro. I’m just glad you were finally able to give your opinions officially! Did you like being the Decider?

Megan: Yes. There’s a ton of work to do upfront when you’re facilitating—making the team, developing the agendas, setting up all the calendar invites and the digital whiteboard—so it was nice to just show up and participate for once.

Danielle: You’ve been through a bunch of these—what was your favorite part of the Sprint process, and why?

Megan: My favorite part is a combination of the lightning demos and the user testing. I’m a visual person, so having the physical representations is really helpful and gets me excited. It’s fun to see your ideas come to life and when people like it, it’s the best feeling ever. And even when they don’t like it, you still learn from it, even if it’s hard to hear. I get so nervous during the user testing that I just start pacing.

Danielle: So, what was your least favorite part of the process, and why?

Megan: For this sprint, it was different because we didn’t do the sketching portion. I like sketching out ideas, but the quickness of that exercise is stressful for me. In general, for all the Sprints, I don’t like the storyboarding part, either. It’s very stressful. You have all these ideas, and this is where you realize your ideas are different than others and it’s hard to document everything without losing pieces. Wednesday at 2pm is usually a dark time. But by the time you walk away, it’s good. It’s just hard to get there.

Danielle: Yeah, I was super concerned the whole SMS thing was going to get nixed. So, what surprised you about the process this time?

Megan: Just how much we condensed it. It’s crazy enough to try and build and test a prototype in five days and we did it in three, because we all had so much going on. I was worried we’d walk in and be on vastly different pages and never get alignment. But it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it’d be to pull it together into a good place.

Danielle: Agreed. I think it helped that we had a solid team that had all been frequent flyers in previous Sprints, and we did a ton of additional Voice of the Customer (VoC) research leading into this one. Did anything surprise you about the user testing?

Megan: Yeah. I was surprised everyone liked it. I thought for sure there’d be people who had issues with it from a privacy perspective, or just didn’t want to engage via these methods. But they all loved it and some even said it was fun. I said that when we were testing it in my house, too. On paper, video chatting sounds a little cumbersome, but it is fun. There wasn’t nearly as much work coming out of that testing to refine the prototype as I thought there’d be.

Danielle: Yes! I watched you get your audit and begged for him to practice on my house, too. It really was fun. And I’m like the last person on earth who’d sign up for another in-home energy audit. Been there, done that.

Megan: I think a lot of our success had to do with David Allen. He was so conversational and just great with the users. I haven’t seen an audit in person in many years, so it was interesting to see him work.

Danielle: He connected with everyone really well. He was easily able to shift gears when the situation warranted, and everyone felt very comfortable with him. I’m glad we have someone like that leading our field teams and training people. So, how is this solution better than what we can currently offer our clients?

Megan: Before COVID-19, there was really just one pathway to participation for energy audits. You schedule a time, tech comes out within a 2-hour service window, and you get your audit. What we discovered was that approach limits our market and we were forced to think more creatively about how to meet this need because of COVID-19. Even though things are opening back up, I don’t think it’ll change our approach. We’re seeing user feedback and testing data that shows us there’s a huge market for these other pathways to participation.


Danielle: So, last question, what’s your single most important takeaway from the Sprint?

Megan: I think everything is starting to come together. It’s been a very chaotic couple of months. We’ve been innovating and pivoting non-stop and everything is now getting built and we’re beginning to refine individual elements of those new products like we did here. It’s all starting to make sense and it’s going to work. It’s really the next generation audit program design, and that’s pretty exciting.

Danielle: I agree. Thank you so much, Megan. I appreciate your time today and also in your role as Decider in this Sprint. It was a pleasure as always to work alongside you and build something super cool.

These Sprints definitely take a lot of work and “sprint” is a buzzword right now, but you know what? We do it right. It’s not a revolutionary concept—I mean, we’re just following what the Google Ventures team develop—but we follow the process to a T. And we’re doing tons of user research in addition to the process to support our work. It’s a modern approach to product development, and it’s super exciting to be part of that.

Ready to learn more about our virtual energy audit technology? Schedule a meeting to learn more and get a private demo of our prototype, which has now moved into production and will be available soon.