The True ROI of Design Sprint

Simon Tratnik
  • 5
    min read
  • Simon Tratnik
    May 3, 2023

First pioneered by Jake Knapp and his team at Google Ventures, and officially publicized in his 2016 book, the term Design Sprint is now common knowledge in most innovative companies. However, there are many pervasive myths about the methodology. 

While product managers are well aware of the benefits of this five day process, and big names like Netflix, Uber or Spotify have proven its results, it’s still not easy to convince stakeholders to invest. 

Perhaps because of the name or the association with ‘radically’ lean start up culture, corporate executives often misunderstand Design Sprint as some kind of ‘fancy brainstorming session’, with no clear Return on Investment. When in fact, the opposite is the case – the very aim of Design Sprinting is to produce the maximum possible tangible results and real world data, with the minimum possible time and money invested. 

In this article we’ll give you some concrete facts that make investing in Design Sprint a no-brainer. 

A visual representation of a 5-day step-by-step design sprint process. The image is divided into five horizontal sections, each representing a day of the sprint.  Day 1: Understand and Define. A group of diverse individuals engaged in brainstorming and collaborative discussions, with sticky notes and sketches on a whiteboard.  Day 2: Ideate and Sketch. Participants are shown actively generating ideas and sketching out concepts on paper and whiteboards, surrounded by markers and design tools.  Day 3: Decide and Prototype. The team is seen evaluating the generated ideas, engaging in lively conversations, and creating low-fidelity prototypes using various materials such as paper, cardboard, and digital tools.  Day 4: Test and Iterate. Testers are depicted interacting with the prototypes, providing feedback, and discussing improvements with the design team.  Day 5: Validate and Finalize. The final section shows the team analyzing user feedback, refining the prototype, and discussing potential solutions before reaching a final design decision.  The image provides a visual overview of the design sprint process, highlighting the collaborative and iterative nature of the approach.

What is a Design Sprint?

Here’s a brief recap of the format and aims of the Design Sprint process:

(For a deeper dive check out previous articles here and here)

Design Sprint is a five-day process that uses design, prototyping, and testing to answer critical business questions. The ideal team for a Design Sprint consists of 6-7 members with diverse expertise in finance, marketing, customer management, tech/logistics, and design. The team should appoint a decision maker, as well as a confident and skilled facilitator who can manage time and keep the team on track. (The facilitator can be an external expert or someone internal who’s been trained with the skills).

The primary objective of a Design Sprint is to build a prototype and get it tested by real end-users within five days. The tried and tested procedures and exercises help teams quickly iterate and validate their ideas, ultimately leading to better products and services.

Now let’s get into the ROI.

Image show design sprint team during the process where the cost of Design Sprint is not important because team is progressing from learning just from one day of user testing.

5 reasons why Design Sprint outperforms traditional methods

Five reasons that are clearly backed up by hard data:

1. Timeboxing

The time for each stage is intentionally and strategically limited to maximize productivity. You’re guaranteed immediate, actionable results in 5 working days. 

2. Multifunctional collaboration

We know that siloes are the enemy of efficient decision making. Design Sprint automatically eliminates that block by bringing together experts with diverse skills and experiences, clearing the way for green lights and eliminating unnecessary complexity. 

3. Prototyping

A pillar of the Design Sprint is protoyping right from the point of conception. Rather than waiting to have the ‘perfect’  theoretical plan, you dive straight into the practicalities, allowing you to identify problems, redundant features or UX obstacles before they become a costly mistake. 

This provides even more ROI further down the line. Our Design Sprint clients tell us that many features from our high fidelity prototypes are used as-is in the final product, saving serious development hours and dollars. 

4. User testing from day one

We cannot overstate the value of thorough user testing from the very beginning of the product idea. Putting a high fidelity product into the hands of users, watching their reactions and getting their feedback provides hard data and avoids wasting time and money on a product that users don’t actually want. Which leads us to…

5. Save time and money

In summary, all of the advanatages we’ve mentioned boil down to the same idea: massively increased ROI, the ratio of the time and money you spend vs the tangible results you obtain. Get all the insights and learnings of going to market, without the risk of a real launch. 

Now, we know that ‘saving time and money’ is a concept that’s thrown around a lot. And your stakeholders want hard numbers. No problem.


The true ROI of Design Sprint – time

Obviously each company, product and process is different, but let’s look at a rough estimate of the traditional product development process from ideation to launch:

  • Ideation 
    = 1 month
  • Market research & competitor analysis
    = 3 months
  • Development & iteration
    = 6 months
  • Since 50% of projects don’t finish on time, let’s add margin for delays
    = 3 months

So even on an optimistic estimate we’re looking at half a year before we even start refining features and optimizing the product, and a full year before going to market and collecting real insights and data. 

Design Sprint provides a condensed version of this process in just 5 days. 

It’s worth noting that, of course, Design Sprint doesn’t totally eliminate all the rest of the process in 5 days. When we work with companies who have a clear goal in mind, we often add on an iteration and execution sprint which leaves the team with a fully working MVP by week 3. 

Total time saving? At least 9 months in total. 

The Design Sprint cost can be calculated based on how big of a risk would be if company would invest in your product idea direction. The higher the risk, the more valuable Design Sprint process is. To get the exact number, the best approach would be to jump on a free call with Human1st team to discuss in details about the challenge.

The true ROI of Design Sprint – money

It’s a little trickier to put a dollar value on the product process. Firstly because there are so many variables that affect the cost – from app complexity, to company size and structure. And secondly because there’s little independent research on global figures. Most estimates you’ll find online are skewed by the bias of the service provider who publishes them. Having done a broad survey of available info, we can put the average range between 32,000 – 700,000 USD. 

Let’s say we go for the conservative end, imagining a low complexity app, and invest 80,000 USD. 

How much money does a Design Sprint save? 

80,000 USD.

The fundamental principal of Design Thinking is that a single dollar spent on developing a product that you’re not entirely sure your end-user wants, is a dollar wasted.

(If you’d like a realistic quotation of how much a Design Sprint costs, contact us. Once we know the details of your challenge, we’ll be able to give you a rough figure right away.)

Today we’ve been discussing the most measurable ROI of Design Sprints, but there’s another huge advantage for product managers and their teams: 

The culture change that a Design Sprint sparks. 

It’s impossible to convince stakeholders with different backgrounds of the advantages of an innovation focused approach through theoretical arguments and endless discussion loops. 

Design Sprint is a practical demonstration of the clear benefits of this methodology, and provides hands-on evidence in support of modernizing and optimizing throughout your organization. 


Image of Design Sprint team during 5-day step-by-step process solving complex product problem.

To wrap up…

We hope you’ve gained some valuable insights into the tangible ROI of Design Sprinting. Whether you’re interest in time, budget or the long term effects on company culture, it’s a clear win-win.

If you’d like to chat more about a Design Sprint for your current project, or about training team members to run Sprints themselves, book a free consultation with our product experts

Read more about Design Sprints:


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