So another year arrives, but this time with some big news for both Foolproof and Flow Interactive. We’re bringing the two businesses together to make Europe’s largest specialist UX and experience design practice.
I thought it might be useful to say a little more about our motivations for the deal, and the advantages we think it offers to us and to our clients.
Flow is a company that we’ve admired for as long as we’ve been in business at Foolproof: a bit like that cooler, older kid in the playground from schooldays. And in recent years we’ve got to know them pretty well.
In our sector most of the main agencies probably consider each other ‘Frenemies’. Technically, we’re competitors but there’s plenty of work meaning that competition rarely becomes fierce or unpleasant. Sometimes we can all get a little snooty about each others’ methods – there’s intellectual point-scoring at times – but broadly we all know that we’re pulling in the same direction, trying to create a positive change in both business and society.
With this backdrop, putting our two companies together means that we don’t have to worry too much about old pitch wounds or ideological differences, but what do we – and our clients – get out of this? I’d sum it up in two words:
Bigger doesn’t guarantee better, but it offers some real benefits in our sector at the moment.
User experience is becoming an ever-increasing consideration in business strategy. When we started out, almost all of our work was purely tactical: briefs were mostly focused on fixing and tuning digital customer experiences that didn’t work. But over a decade the emphasis has changed. Clients are far more likely to consider user experience systematically and right from the start of the design process. More companies also now understand that strategic thinking about digital customer experience has the potential to create competitive advantage.
The upshot of this is that more and more of our engagements last for months (or even years) rather than weeks. It’s reassuring for clients embarking on a major channel or platform programme that their user experience partner has got the depth and flexibility to deliver.
Far more exciting than the boost to our raw size is the growth in our collective experience and problem-solving ability.
Put simply, for any European client with a user experience problem or opportunity – however big or gnarly – we have probably the largest specialist pool of expertise and experience that they can call on. We are able to access years of learning across a spectrum of industry sectors and technologies. There’s a really high chance that people on our team will have worked on a similar brief before, or if it’s entirely new territory, be able to apply methods and ideas that worked well somewhere else.
On a personal level, the greatest ambition I’ve ever had for my career is to be surrounded by bright, committed people who are always trying to do the best work they possibly can. Putting Flow and Foolproof together means I’m convinced that 2011 is going to be one of the very best years of my working life.