Becoming a teenager during lockdown - Sigma turns 13
By Hilary Stephenson | 04/05/2020
Today, we are 13. I registered Sigma on this day in 2007, with one other slightly wary colleague. We celebrated our 100% growth two weeks later when two other trusting friends joined. And we built from there. This time last year, most of us were spotting wildlife on an amazing Sigma trip to South Africa. This year, we haven’t seen each other in real life since the middle of March.
Rather than look back over the whole 13 years, I wanted to share a little about what is happening right now, and what we are facing this year. In short, the lockdown has been hard for us, but probably way easier than it’s been for many others. We were lucky and grateful that we could send everyone home 6 weeks ago, and knew we could rely on everyone just to carry on, but it’s still really hard not to see each other in person. I hope after 13 years we have a strong sense of team and our methods mean remote user research and co-production don’t need to stop but we know there is fear, uncertainty and very real strain on our colleagues right now. Some are shielding, some are home schooling while working and others are embedded in client teams, who themselves adapt to the situation. This is where we are as we celebrate our 13th year. Daily lunch-time drop-ins, solid use of collaboration tools and comedy Friday quizzes all help but we’d be rubbish without the friendships, trust, humour and purpose that underpin our culture.
Being part of a bigger family
So we can carry on and we are incredibly fortunate to have projects, services and clients that allow us to do so. We are also using this time to refresh our brand. For 12 years, we were the only Sigma in the UK (well, apart for the other 300+ on Companies house but that was mentioned in our 10th anniversary post). We are and have always been 100% owned and supported by Sigma IT, a Swedish consulting group of over 4500 people working across specialist business areas. Ours just happens to be user experience design. Last year, we ramped up our collaboration with our colleagues in Sweden and we now have a real opportunity to support other parts of the group in the UK market. A Society, our sister company that focuses on specialist recruitment opened in Cambridge last year and they were closely followed by Sigma Enterprise Applications, an extension of our Swedish group working with Microsoft Dynamics. We also have a great programme of work underway with our Sigma Worklife colleagues, where we are helping them bring affordable, accessible O365 solutions to the UK market to enable the sectors we focus on to build inclusive, useful ways of collaborating in this rapid move to remote working.
This is all good but means that we can no longer claim the generic “Sigma” as our own. So, we have focused on the things we do best to identify a new name: Designed by Sigma. It’s still us, but it hopefully sets us apart from the other strong brands within our family, by focusing on the design, research and build services we have in the UK team. We aren’t always great at the big fanfare stuff so you will see this new name emerge on our website and social media channels in the coming weeks.
How we are coping
It’s been interesting, if at times overwhelming in recent weeks to see all the wealth of leadership advice, optimal team set-up, and predictions of what “the new normal” will be. I received so much thought leadership on professional home working that I almost felt guilty for not equipping everyone with their own green screen. We felt it more appropriate to focus on practical matters, such as sharing advice on how to make communications inclusive during this time of rapid information sharing, publishing tips on using MS Teams, or giving helpful instructions on how people could support charities. We are also thinking about more stuff we can deliver online to help people in their own work, as we have some amazing speakers and presenters in our team who have had to put their event work on hold. Keep an eye out for webinars in the coming weeks, as the training and events side of our business adapts to the remote working world.
Finally, above all we wanted to help our clients carry on, so we have focused our attentions on tangible ways of helping them, including a new site launch for NCC group, working with Diversity Role Models on ways to deliver their vital work while schools are closed and building a new Coronavirus emergency appeal for Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex. We are also doing a number of remote accessibility audits and expert reviews of client sites as they recognise the need to be more inclusive in their communications, possibly more than ever.
Hopefully this is a useful update and reflection on how things are at, erm Designed by Sigma just now and thanks for all your on-going support. The team will be celebrating in style, in person in the not too distant future.
Hil and the team