JournalMay 12, 2021

The State of Hanno: May 2021

The Hanno team in the Dolomites, in front of a sunset

I can hardly believe it’s been three and a half years since our last State of Hanno. If you’re a regular reader, you might have wondered whether things had gone awry, given how infrequently we’ve posted in the Journal since then.

An update is long overdue!

Doubling down on health

When we first announced our decision to focus on healthcare and sustainability in 2017, we knew in the back of our minds that pulling off this twin specialisation would be a big ask.

We knew that we’d likely need to choose between the two in order to have maximum impact as a small team, but we didn’t expect to be making that decision just a couple of months later. It was, however, a perfectly logical outcome of the success of our HealthRedesigned podcast and client projects.

While a few of our projects since then have been measured in days and weeks, the majority of our working time since 2017 has been spent working on much larger problems with clients, increasingly measured in months and years.

That depth and focus has been a huge motivation—the deeper we’ve travelled into areas like wound management, diabetes, oncology and neurology, the more we’ve grown to enjoy the intellectual and creative challenges of working in this complex space.

But we’ve found that in order to design effective digital health products, we’ve had to go beyond the design best practices we were previously applying. We’ve become more technical, since most products now involve a complex combination of apps, hardware devices (including connected devices and wearable sensors) and offline systems. We’ve also become more scientific—both medically (through greater knowledge of clinical factors) and also behaviourally (through a better understanding of neuroscience and cognitive science).

These are exciting challenges for us, but there’s no denying that this has been a big shift from our days of building and launching products in days and weeks. While our clients still need to get to market fast, the definition of fast when it comes to building and launching a digital health product is necessarily different, thanks to greater product complexity, regulatory requirements and clinical needs.

We’ve reworked a lot of our processes and tools to help us navigate this new maze of challenges without compromising the quality of what we’re building, and have been hard at work on a brand new SaMD Playbook to explain our new process in more detail.

The team

We’ve now been working together as a team for over a decade: a huge milestone. It’s not surprising that many of us have gone through significant personal and professional changes in that time, not least marriage, children and new ventures.

While we were confident in the decision to specialise as a business, we knew that this move wouldn’t be perfectly aligned with every shipmate’s ambitions and personal goals.

Over the last four years, we’ve said fond farewells to a few of our original team who have moved on to new adventures—a shout out here to Matt, Zsolt, Laïla, Thomas and Pam, each of whom played an important part in our story. We’ve also welcomed new shipmates, who’ve brought their own healthcare experience to the team and have already made big contributions of their own.

There have also been some structural changes to the way Hanno as a company is set up, but we’ll save these for a separate Journal post in the near future.

The world has gone remote

Furthering the shift to remote work has been a big part of Hanno’s mission from the start. But back in January 2020, as we spent some quality time on our team retreat in the Dolomites discussing our goals for the coming year (and taking in some spectacular sunsets on the slopes), even we weren’t expecting the radical changes that were looming on the horizon.

When we discussed projects with new clients in the past, many had concerns about how well a remote collaboration might work. Hardly surprising, if your past experiences consist of bad conference room cameras and stilted conversations over poor video connections. We used to joke that the first week of a new client project was as much about delivering a crash-course for the client in remote collaboration as it was about solving the problem we’d been hired to work on.

While the circumstances have been far from optimal for our clients—who have been working from sheds, wardrobes and spare bedrooms while juggling childcare and cabin fever—one of the silver linings of this challenging year has been a very significant shift in our clients’ perception of remote work.

This new world of remote collaboration now looks to be here to stay, even as some teams begin to partially return to offices.

But as productive as the Hanno team has been in a locked down 2020, remote work is not quite the same when you’re not able to get together in real life once in a while. We’ve found ourselves looking back wistfully at those old photos and Journal posts from past trips and spending our weekly Zoom hangouts indulging in speculation about exotic locations for future reunions. We hope to be able to get together once again in 2022 and meet new team members in person for the first time.

What’s next for Hanno?

There are big changes on the horizon as the healthcare market becomes increasingly regulated and responds to the challenge of providing services remotely and digitally, post-COVID.

We think the role of design needs to change in order to meet this growing demand, and as our recent projects complete their clinical trials and observational studies and make it to public release, we’re looking forward to sharing case studies and hands-on experiences.

In the meantime, we’ll be finding ways over the next few weeks and months to share our learnings, along with a peek behind the curtain at how we’ve been thinking about the transition.

Stay tuned!

Posted by
Jon Lay

Jon is a Partner at Hanno. He wears many hats, but his primary focus is on leading our engineering and technical operations.