Digitizing and democratizing design thinking

HFS OneOffice Hot Vendors - Q1 2021

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About HFS Research

The HFS OneOffice Hot Vendors are an exclusive group of emerging players, each with a differentiated value proposition for the Digital OneOffice™ (Exhibit 1). HFS analysts regularly speak with numerous exciting start-ups and emerging players. We designate a select group as the HFS Hot Vendors based on their offerings’ distinctiveness, ecosystem robustness, client impact, financial position, and the impact in our OneOffice Framework.


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In the rapidly changing space of digital operations, enterprises realise they cannot be everything to everyone.

Whether you are an enterprise consuming third-party services, a service provider, or a technology provider, you will need a smart ecosystem to succeed and survive in the future. HFS Hot Vendors are service and technology providers hand-picked by our analysts to help you flesh out your smart ecosystem with offerings that solve today’s complex business problems and exploit market opportunities. HFS Hot Vendors display truly differentiated offerings and out-of-the-box thinking that can be both inspiring and useful.

In this report, we profile six short-listed players (Exhibit 2) we designated as HFS Hot Vendors based on our rigorous five step assessment during Q1 2021. The HFS Hot Vendor designation for the following players will remain in place until the end of Q1 2022 (one year), when we repeat the process for renewing the HFS Hot Vendors designation.

Axis Workshops: Digitising and democratising design thinking

Axis Workshops are on a mission to scale creativity by making collaborative meetings more effective for distributed teams.

They aim to demystify and democratise the techniques of design thinking—the popular end-user-value centred, ideation-to-pilot solutioning process. It’s a proven and effective creative workshop process for iterating products, services, and strategies, but it is resource intense and considered best delivered in-room. Good facilitators who can draw out a clear plan as an output to proceed with are rarer than hens’ teeth.

Axis developed a platform to take design thinking online, making its processes and techniques digitally accessible to all. It adds smartphone interactions to give every stakeholder a voice in the journey.

Axis is a London, UK-based start-up, launched in 2017 and exposed to rapid learning through the trial-by-fire cycles of deploying with hundreds of users at Accenture, its charter customer. The leadership of the small team includes 15-year Accenture management consulting veteran Rob Hopkin, ex-Tesco Head of Technology, Paul Williams, and ex-Columns Creative Director, Danny Draper.

The Axis platform supports users by storyboarding their workshop planning out each step and ensuring a plan-on-a-page outcome. It offers a range of off-the-shelf templates to suit regular business needs from campaign planning to project prioritisation.

The platform offers a simplified and accelerated take on design thinking (cutting time to plan by 30% to 50%) with functions enabling online users to

  • Frame the context by working as a team to understand organisational opportunities and constraints;
  • Brainstorm new ideas by collaborating and clarifying through team-work;
  • Evaluate ideas by scoring and building the case for change;
  • Plan for change by agreeing on accountabilities and timelines;
  • Extract the plan straight into Excel, avoiding write-up time lag and ensuring accuracy.

In HFS’ reference checks, customers agree the platform’s clear structure cuts planning time and speeds time to outcome delivery. They find it effective in a range of contexts, from strategic decision making to brand planning.

“If you want to reach alignment with a structure that enables everyone’s voice to count in a wide range of collaboration workshop contexts—and get to an outcome at speed—Axis is well-suited,”

- observed a client who has been using Axis for three years.

Customers identify the need to add in workarounds when using Axis for Customer Journey Mapping or aspects of user experience (UX) design but highlight Axis’s willingness to generate bespoke solutions when required.

Axis completed a significant funding round early in 2021, enabling the company to further evolve the product with a focus on needs-based templates across agile delivery, strategy, customer experience, project and program delivery, and sales and marketing. It also aims to expand its analytics and insight capabilities

HFS' take

HFS has designated Axis Workshops a OneOffice Hot Vendor because the platform can help democratise and demystify design thinking. It raises any organisation’s design thinking capabilities, enhancing employee digital fluency skills and ensuring customer and employee experiences are central to rapid ideation and decision making.

Axis’s straightforward online approach disrupts the “theatre” of design thinking, making it a widely accessible tool that teams working from anywhere can collaborate with. Design thinking is transformed from a once-in-a-while offsite activity into an everyday way of working available, virtually, to all.

In doing so, it delivers design thinking as enhanced Digital Fluency skills—essential supporting components of the OneOffice Emerging Tech Platform —the technology to deliver the HFS OneOffice Organisation vision. HFS’ Point of View: Adopt Design Thinking To Craft Your Work-From-Anywhere Future highlights design thinking as a critical transformational activity in 2021.

Vendor factsheet

  • Axis was founded in London in 2017.
  • Key executives include Robert Hopkin, who has 15 years in consulting and extensive design thinking and workshop experience; Paul Williams, a prior Head of Technology at Tesco; and Danny Draper, ex-Creative Director of a Top 100 London design agency with over 20 years experience working with digital brands.
  • Funding sources include a consortium of angel investors.
  • Axis is used in over 30 organisations, including consultancies, corporations, government organisations, and nonprofit, non-governmental organisations (NGO).
  • Notable clients include Accenture, Axis’ charter customer. Within Accenture, Axis is part of the digital worker toolkit available globally across the business.

Solution portfolio

Axis is a cloud-first SaaS solution for collaborative meeting design and delivery. The solution is free to trial for up to three attendees. Paid subscriptions include $25 per month for one workshop with unlimited attendees and an enterprise level with custom support. In addition to SaaS, Axis also provides professional services to build custom Axis templates that support the cross organisational standardisation of key workshops and meetings, e.g., marketing strategy, pipeline management, account planning, and project governance.


Axis collaborates with Accenture, Purple Goat, Private Goodness, and Unida Diversity Consulting on an Innovate UK-supported project to define how collaboration can be made more inclusive. The project is researching why certain voices tend to dominate to the detriment of others.

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