New player Flipside aims to challenge consulting and agency space

07 February 2019 7 min. read

A new network-based consulting provider is setting out to take on large consultancies and agencies for a slice of the lucrative ‘digital transformation’ market. According to Flipside’s founder Nick Parminter, the firm will offer a tailored service which will enable it to win business from firms which offer a more one-size-fits-all proposition.

With hype surrounding technological innovation having reached deafening levels, recent years have seen corporate entities of all shapes and sizes involved in a scramble for digital supremacy. In the UK, this is particularly pronounced, to the extent that Britain currently tops even the US in terms of investment in FinTech, one of the most profitable digital disruption scenes around. While technologies could improve output across all industries, however, profitability remains low.

Many leaders have seemingly pursued transformation exercises on the basis of the dreaded FOMO (fear of losing out), rather than in pursuit of tactics tailored to their own business’ needs. Due to this, a recent study from KPMG found that CEOs across UK businesses are under pressure from board members, who appear to feel a degree of buyer’s remorse when it comes to digital transformation efforts. On top of this, the digitalisation programmes which come under scrutiny are often driven by expensive advice from consulting firms, meaning CEOs are short of places to turn to for expert help to address this.

A new London-based professional services firm named Flipside is aiming to help clients change that for the better. The firm has been working behind the scenes over the last year with a handful of businesses, includeing FTSE 100 leaders and even one of the UK’s fastest-growing startups. Following a successful pilot period, Flipside has officially launched to offer its digital transformation expertise to clients across all industries.

New player Flipside aims to challenge consulting and agency space

Named to reflect its differing proposition from other consulting firms in the digital transformation field, the core philosophy driving Flipside is not about proprietary methodologies, but the swift and valuable delivery of key talent. A tried and tested proposition in other fields, this would see Flipside emulate the likes of Eden McCallum in the consulting and digital agency space, leveraging a small core team supplemented by a large network of independents to tailor teams for individual projects. This talent-led approach allows it to run bespoke projects to help clients understand the change they want to make.

Flipside founder Nick Parminter explained, “While it may be easier and more reassuring to buy, work delivered by different people, in a different context, in the past, doesn’t guarantee success… In this context, the people in agencies are an afterthought – fungible resource, staffed as ‘whoever is available’ regardless of experience or fit. We believe the opposite. We start from the perspective that great work starts with great talent. And the job of any agency or consultancy is to give them the platform to do just that – to practice their craft, to do impactful work, and to see it go live.”

One example Parminter points toward is a project the firm is currently working on for a High Street Bank’s innovation function. As the bank seeks to launch a new challenger brand, Flipside has crafted a team to run all things digital product, innovation, design and brand for launch, as well as for establishing the capability to let them do it for themselves beyond launch. On the other end of the spectrum, the firm is also working with private equity backed mid-cap companies (mid-caps are companies with market caps that are between $2 billion and $10 billion) to redefine the client as ‘digital by default.’

"The range of our services is as broad as our talent network, which covers designers, developers, brand strategists, systems integrators, technical architects, sound designers and everything in between," added Parminter. "It’s deliberately diverse to fit the complex nature of our client’s problems. Likewise, our commercial model lets us work with areas of the market that a larger and more expensive firm just couldn’t - their challenges aren’t important or big enough. In fact, these are the challenges that we enjoy – empowering mid-cap companies to be as ambitious as megacorps in their digital strategy."

Network building

As mentioned, the consultancy is more than a network, and is centred on five core members. Alongside Parminter, ex-EY professional Ben Langdon is the firm’s Chair. They are joined by Partners Alastair Cottrill – a former Practice Director, Business Design at EY Seren; Arvid Brobeck – former UX Director of Digitas UK; and Ashley Webster – former Business Development Director, EMEA at Lippincott. This core team will work with an ecosystem of like-minded partners from the strategy, design, technology, and data sectors – whom they are in the process of recruiting.

According to Parminter, Flipside’s model means that the ecosystem gives its Partner team easy access to top talent. It is particularly ready to take advantage of a side-effect of the flurry of M&A activity in the converging consulting and digital agency space, with a number of people (usually disgruntled senior managers who miss doing the work) “spinning out to either freelance” or founding their own small companies – a trend which he believes will only gather momentum.

“We start from the perspective that great work starts with great talent. And the job of any agency or consultancy is to give them the platform to do just that – to practice their craft, to do impactful work, and to see it go live.”
– Nick Parminter, founder of Flipside

Parminter stated, “These are the people with whom we share the same mission, approach and values. And these are the people we work with every day. Currently our network consists of more than 250 people who we’ve worked with before, many of whom are proven combinations - from the most prestigious design and innovation agencies, the sturdiest systems integrators and tier-one strategy houses. We also have partnerships with more established firms that can fill in the gaps for us (like offshore agile delivery, or detailed data science)… Because of our commercial model, we are able to make senior talent available full time at a fraction of the cost. Unlike the ‘pyramid’ model on which larger firms are dependent to stay profitable – the people most experienced and critical to delivering successful outcomes are the ones made most available.

When asked what the firm’s long term ambition is, Parminter said it was ultimately to be a viable alternative to the largest consultancies, and he claimed that the firm’s early projects had provided a lot of faith in achieving that. The firm’s more immediate goals for the end of its first year include being able to point toward “tangible examples” of how it helped clients to take the first steps in becoming digital businesses. By the end of “year 5”, the firm is aiming to deliver “more of the same but at a larger, international scale.”

Reinforcing why he believes the digital transformation consulting sector is ripe for disruption, Parminter concluded, “We’ve all witnessed the unhealthy convergence of design agencies and traditional consultancies – and the broken incentives and expensive failures that it has yielded. Too often clients are paying through the nose for frameworks, reports, processes, and ‘journey maps’ that lead them on a path to nowhere – all in the promise of ‘transformation’.”

Related: Four areas to consider for developing digital transformation strategies.