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The Crisis as an Accelerant

07. Dec 2021

The coronavirus changed the business reality for many Danish SMEs overnight. Design sprints became the launching pad for the urgent transformation, they needed

Long reads

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on Danish companies, especially on small and medium-sized companies which do not have the same capacity to survive sudden and unforeseen challenges as larger companies. Particularly within the digital arena, Danish SMEs have been left with no choice but to quickly adapt and transform themselves in order to survive.

In that sense, the crisis has been a sort of accelerant which brought forward and made visible a range of problems that would have hit many SMEs eventually, no matter the circumstances. These digital challenges rose quickly to the surface and Danish SMEs were forced to start doing things differently – often in radical ways – to adapt and transform. Design as an intervention has been and remains a particularly good tool for facilitating precisely this kind of development.

Design processes are good at pushing us forward quickly and in unison, and this is something that we are in great need of right now as the very foundation we stand on suddenly begins to shift.

The crisis as a launching pad

“The sprint enabled a whole new analysis of internal and external processes which we would not have honed in on otherwise,” says a Sprint participant.

The vast majority of SMEs wanted to use the crisis as a launching pad to transform their companies as they knew that digitization and future-proofing are synonymous terms, but mental reserves were in short supply at the height of the crisis with most energy being channeled into simply keeping things afloat.

“It was only because Regndans (design partner and sprint facilitator) knew us and the business that any of this was possible. I didn’t have the energy to explain from scratch how we do things, and how the business works. The crisis was all-consuming. We found ourselves in a situation where what we were doing no longer worked and we had to find another solution fast”

Kellers Badehotel

The fresh perspective from the sprint and the sprint facilitators was crucial in mobilizing the right resources within the SMEs, driving development forward, and keeping it in focus during the crisis. This allowed SMEs to fully exploit the potential for digital transformation. 

In the case of Kellers Badehotel, this meant building a new online food ordering solution that could buoy the company’s revenue streams at a time when the hotel and restaurant sector was under lockdown.

Design sprints based on the needs of each SME 

The SMEs in the Sprint:Digital program have generally felt that the sprint method and format have been particularly well suited to their company, almost as if custom-designed.

“The strength is that a small company like ours can get help to understand what is possible and to create value within the realm of digitization,” says a Sprint participant.

Using the sprint format, external facilitators were able to put the specific needs, wishes, challenges, and circumstances of each company at the core of the digital development process. This made the sprint process feel like a tailored program designed for the individual company, even if its original format is broadly used in many contexts.

The evaluation report

Download the full Sprint evaluation report here

“Our need for digitization was met across a wide range of internal processes and succeeded in unleashing the potential that we believe lies ahead of us. We are now ready for the digital journey that we are going to embark upon going forward”

Sprint participant

Speed up!

When the crisis hit, it happened suddenly and with such far-reaching consequences for the economy that very few could have seen it coming. The challenges to Danish SMEs became clear overnight, as did the huge need for solutions that could be developed and implemented at equal speed. As its name indicates, the sprint program is designed to do just that. The sprint turbocharges ordinary development processes which would otherwise take months or even years, and within the space of just one week, it turns ideas into a solid physical or digital prototype that has been tested on a target group. As one participant in Sprint:Digital puts it:

“Design thinking and sprints are effective methods. I wish that I had been introduced to them sooner in my life as a self-employed entrepreneur. Without a doubt, they can effectively accelerate development processes as the product concerned becomes fully defined.”

The design sprint is thus a valuable resource for solving new and complex problems in an effective and time-saving manner, and this is one of the advantages that the SMEs highlight following their participation. Time to market has been crucial:

“The sprint meant that we were able to get back in the market very quickly. We are beginning to move once more in regards to marketing. We effectively used our time to develop and that is something we want to show the world” –

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