LightStarters: New Design Process Improves Product, Productivity, and Customer Satisfaction

July 27, 2018      By Ultimate Software


Inspired by a passion for constant improvement, three Ultimate Software employees are experimenting with an innovative design process at Ultimate Software.

Business Analyst Gaby Antoni, User Experience Manager Marta Guerra, and Manager of Software Engineering Chris Patullo have reshaped a design framework and methodology to suit Ultimate’s unique needs and to enhance team collaboration.

The framework, named LightStarters, places fierce focus on customer-centric product design, reduces meetings, helps teams collaborate better, delivers a higher quality product for customers, and does it all faster and more efficiently than ever.

In other processes, product teams work on feature requirements, functionality and design. Later, developers begin building based on these feature requirements. But developers frequently raise valuable concerns or questions as they’re building, causing designers to re-evaluate and go back to the drawing board.

After researching an alternative design sprint framework approach and attending a Design Disruptors show, team members were inspired to tweak and test this process. “At first, we followed the original design sprint methodology with some modifications so we could complete the design sprint in two or three days instead of five,” Chris said.

In addition to expediting the design process, a key element to this new methodology is that all key stakeholders need to be present: Developers, QAs, Designers, BAs, PM, Engineering Managers. The session challenges participants to collaborate and achieve a consensus on the most important outcomes before any detailed planning or development begins. By the end of a LightStarters workshop, the team produces a final sketch of the best ideas with enough detail for designers to build an interactive prototype suitable to test with customers. This allows Ultimate to obtain quick validation straight from the customer before making costly commitments.

“From a team perspective, it’s super cool because everyone is engaged, shares their ideas and these ideas make it to the final solution. We also involve customers multiple times before the session takes place to understand their needs, use cases and expectations as well as after the session to validate our final solution,” said Gaby, who guides LightStarters teams through a series of activities designed to foster creative thinking and innovation.

There have been 30 LightStarters workshops to date, and many live features in UltiPro were born through these sessions. “The motivation to create LightStarters comes from the desire to share with others something that is working great for us. We want to give everyone the chance to participate in the solution process which always results in meaningful and engaging outcomes for employees, customers, and our products,” Marta said.

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