Q&Agency: TandemSeven

Welcome to Q&Agency! Each week, I get to talk to agencies small and large and get to hear (in their words) what differentiates them and the experiences they create. To help bring some of that information to you, I'm showcasing an ongoing series of interviews with small to mid-size interactive and design agencies. If you'd like to see your agency or an agency you work with here, let me know!

On April 21st, I talked with Frank Torbey the CEO of TandemSeven. Edited excerpts from that conversation follow.

Forrester: Tell me a little bit about your agency?

Frank: TandemSeven is a specialized user experience firm dedicated 100% to business applications and portals. We specialize in creating usable, intuitive interfaces for complex applications. We work with IT, product managers and business unit leaders to create strategic business applications that break out of the norm and deliver a whole new level of user experience. We’re the UX company for complex business and transactional applications.

We were founded in 2001 and have 55 employees in three offices in Boston, New York, and Chicago.

Forrester: What is your elevator pitch?

Frank: We’re the user experience experts for business applications and portals. Tomorrow’s business applications require a whole new level of user experience. Business users’ needs are evolving rapidly just like consumers' needs; they want highly intuitive and usable applications no matter what platform or device they’re using. We help companies like Bloomberg, JP Morgan, Orbitz, and others create applications where the user experience improves productivity and increases competitive advantage. We’re all about delivering business results for our clients by helping them deliver usable applications.

Forrester: What are the three key things that differentiate you from your competitors?

Frank: It all comes back to the type of expertise we provide and who we provide it to. One of our clients, Bloomberg, told us they selected us because of our analytical approach to design as well as our user experience and domain expertise. We hear that a lot with clients developing complex B2B applications. Our track record and expertise really sets us apart with complex apps. We’ve helped Leapfrog create a synchronized user experience for their next generation of learning products; we developed RIA extensions for Orbitz that resulted in a 3.6% increase in profit per unique visiting customer. All of this provides strong competitive advantage for our clients – this is our differentiator.

Forrester: Why is your agency well suited to deliver a great customer experience for your clients (and their customers)?

Frank: Achieving a great customer experience requires a great process to get there. TandemSeven’s user experience methodology has been used for over 100 client engagements. It’s a methodology that includes 4 tracks: user research, interaction design, visual design, and technology and development. Each track contains very specific activities that require very specific roles or expertise--from user experience architects to visual designers to technical architects and developers. But, we were founded on the premise that design and technology work best in tandem to create business results. There are several points when user experience architects work in tandem with visual designers, technical experts, our clients, and our clients’ users. This collaborative and iterative approach has many benefits. For example, having information architects that not only do user research but complete the cognitive design and testing, allows them to empathize with user needs and help propose and implement the best design solution to meet those needs. This is how breakthrough applications are created. Another example would be as task flow and wireframes are created, our visual designers apply creative and brand, not after the design is completed but as a part of the task flow. We’ve entered the era of branded portals and applications. Our team has extensive expertise in creating compelling visual design for complex business applications – even for heavy workflow and transactional systems. Our approach for our technical experts is that they get to work closely with designers; they participate in the solution, they’re not just given a specification. We truly believe that amazing results happen when world class design and technology work in tandem.

Forrester: What’s it like to work at your agency?

Frank: We have a collaborative culture focused on one goal: providing the best solution for the client. Our team is highly specialized and experienced. That works well for our clients because often their applications are complex and transactional. Our team is part of the clients’ most strategic initiatives. We are constantly trying to find the best insights from user research and apply them to complex problems. All of this is mirrored in our company: We provide our staff the opportunity to work with fantastic clients and exciting applications, along with that they reap rewards of being a top consultant in the industry – providing strategic business results for clients. It’s exciting work with top rewards. That really motivates our team well.