Software Development4 Min

How our workshop results helped us beat the Escape Room

… and drove our product development forward

How do you develop an excellent product? The best way is to bring together different points of view. At SMS digital, our teams are made up of experts who collaborate across continents. To create a seamless user experience for our customers, we have product and project managers as well as UI/UX designers and software developers working hand-in-hand. Aiming to take a closer look at the development of the next generation of our MES 4.0 production planning system as well as designing a more user-friendly interface, our UI/UX design team met with colleagues from the Center of Competence Production Planning for a series of workshops in Düsseldorf. 

For many of our team members it was the first time seeing their co-workers from the other team in person – because the locations in Germany and Brazil are separated by a whole ocean. A marathon of six workshops provided a good opportunity to get to know one another and work intensively on product innovations. In this way, we were able to exchange ideas about customer feedback, new technologies, and user-friendly systems and functions. So, we put our heads together and came back from the workshops with promising results – which also helped us get out of an Escape Room at the same time. In pursuing both goals of developing our products further and positioning ourselves as experts, we adopted the design-driven development approach.

What is the design-driven development approach and how does it help?

Design-driven development uses design as part of a process to learn and define requirements for building better and more mature technology solutions. For us as a company, the design-driven product approach aims at creating a user experience that is focused on clear and easy communication across our global teams. Utilizing design methods helps us to develop processes and outcomes for our products and projects. The MES 4.0 is ideally suited as a pilot project for this design-driven product approach.

Our main goal is to strengthen the soft and hard skills of our product stakeholders and position ourselves as digital product specialists. With robust processes and accountability, we can deliver results that are high quality and competitive in the market. To develop these products, we take a product perspective for our team, start small, learn quickly from mistakes, and evolve rapidly based on impact measurements and data. In doing so, it is important that we consolidate our position as product professionals vis-à-vis the company and try to promote the team as specialists who need to be involved in strategic decisions about products and digital solutions.

Workshops are best held in a relaxed atmosphere, like here in our social room
Only the genius rule...

Escaping the traditional day at work

After all the theory comes the practice – and what better way to learn than playfully, of course, in an Escape Room. This was the best way of demonstrating what we learned in the workshops, i.e., to free ourselves from standard thought patterns, to think out of the box more often, and to use our ‘swarm intelligence’ efficiently – because a player cannot escape an Escape Room alone. It requires teamwork, communication, and the willingness to listen to other suggestions. Participants must exchange ideas with each other to develop ideas and solutions together as well as divide tasks among themselves. This is exactly why an Escape Room is perfect for getting closer as a team, supporting each other while working together, as well as promoting logical thinking and creativity. We were able to use this knowledge in our design-driven workshops to further develop our product in an innovative and efficient way.

A quick recap

Only one of the five groups managed to break out within the allotted time. However, all the others were not far behind. 

The Escape Rooms not only opened up new perspectives for us but were also a lot of fun. As an important learning source in terms of teamwork, it gave us the ability to hold constructive discussions within a short period of time. Not only that, the discussions were very focused, as we were not able to see each other because our group had been divided into two separate cells from which we had to break out. This required precise descriptions and attentive listening, not least because communication between the different participating cultures was in English. This allowed us to draw interesting conclusions about the different requirements of these cultures. 

Through the workshops and the Escape Room, we have developed from both a personal and technical perspective. Our global team has grown closer together. We succeeded in breaking down local and cultural barriers and using them as a strength.


Interested in working with us? See our open positions here.

Edda Müller
Junior Product Manager
SMS digital GmbH