Going Behind the Scenes: Live from the San Francisco Garage

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If there is one thing we know at the Garage, it is to learn — and learn fast! When we first agreed to host a Facebook Live event, I sure didn’t know there would be so much that went into planning the event. In no short order, the San Francisco Garage wrote a script, designed a set, and directed production – and made a floating shark an IoT device! Literally and metaphorically, the Garage had a lot of moving parts to coordinate for a great event.

Planning: Frank and his wandering shark

Client engagements start with a visit to the Garage. The Facebook Live event had a very similar start. In November 2016, Katie Farrer, Brittany Detamore, and Nicole Shelvin from IBM Marketing all dropped in to the SF Garage. I spoke with them about how we could get a social media event going for the Garage. Like many introductory client visits, we discussed our capabilities and our experience, and we listened closely to the IBM Marketing team to identify how we could move forward together. We ultimately decided on a Facebook Live event that would feature the IBM Cloud Garage Method at a glance.

With a big-picture goal set, the Garage team went to work. We ideated on what would be the best project to run through. Our ideation processes mirrored the IBM Design Thinking workshops we host at the Garage, with a goal to identify an innovative experience that would delight our viewers. The idea of using a floating shark was something we all loved, and Bubbles the Shark was born. We agreed upon creating Bubbles as a way of capturing our ability to create an MVP with trending technologies, like IoT. Marlena Compton and Dwight Ford went to work on building out all that we needed to track Bubbles, including a mobile app to track the nearable IoT device that was attached to Bubbles. Building out Bubbles would help us showcase Bluemix IoT capabilities, pair programing, and solution architecture.

I worked with Lavanya Kumar to create a problem space for the event. We created a persona and an As-Is scenario for “Frank.” This would our event to feature a realistic, potential user with real pain points which is the first step in all of our workshops. Frank is a pet-owner who has trouble keeping up with his pet shark, Bubbles, when they are out at the park. In a real Garage engagement, we start with the problem space and then find a way forward, but we were all too excited about using Bubbles and had to use a little creativity here. Including Frank is important because it allowed us to showcase a user-centric approach. We would do this with clients that come with solutions to validate we are headed in the right direction.

Based on all of our work, we wrote a loose script that would step us through all the phases of a typical Garage engagement. This allowed us to plan our execution prior to hosting the event. The Garage team then worked with Nicole, Joseph Zubac, Dan Tannor, and Peter Barossi to prepare our shots and the set here in the SF Garage.

We were ready to go live!

Execution: Learning to pivot at the Garage

The second most important thing to know when working with the Garage is to take what you learn and pivot. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to go live at the originally scheduled time. We were, however, all ready and pivoted to do a ‘soft-launch” and ensure we could still make use of our planned execution.

In its final instance, the event followed a bite-sized version of a typical client engagement. We had a design thinking workshop led by Lavanya; Marlena Compton and Andy Nguyen as pair programmers charged with deploying the solution; and Dwight Ford working on the technical blueprint as our solution architect. We started with a question and answer session with our co-founder and IBM Fellow, Rachel Reinitz, and SF Garage Practice Lead, Sonia Cyrus.

Our goal was to give viewers insight into how we work and why we believe in our process at the Garage while being more than just talking heads. We wanted to show actual design thinking activities, programmers working on real code, and a working prototype. From start to finish, we applied our own practices – up until the very end.

Even though we had to pivot at the last minute, we were able to deliver on all of these for a Live event. The video on IBM’s Facebook is over 11 thousand views at the time of writing. The SF Garage is looking forward to the next event with IBM Marketing, in the meantime you can share the recording of our event.

If you want to drop by a Garage and experience our practice – and, of course, meet Bubbles the Shark in San Francisco – schedule a visit today.

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