Growing the business community in Buckinghamshire

Project: Service and product design

Client: Buckinghamshire Business First

Sector: B2B

Responsibilities: Service Design, Strategy, Web design, UX and UI Design

The challenge: Buckinghamshire Business First (BBF) came to us to explore the possibility of developing a solution for its business community that would foster sharing and collaboration. Although they had an initial hypothesis, we needed to conduct research to validate their initial thinking and provide strategic direction on how they could best accomplish their goals.



Buckinghamshire Business First (BBF) is a business-led, business-focused community for new, established and growing businesses across Buckinghamshire. We loved working together with them when we designed their website way back in 2016, so we were excited when we got the call to collaborate on their latest project.

BBF had an initial hypothesis that introducing an initiative or tool to encourage collaboration between Buckinghamshire businesses would lead to increased productivity and better performance. We used a human-centred design approach to understand the lived experiences of the business community with regards to sharing and collaboration. Using these insights we then proposed a framework to facilitate collaboration between businesses considering other sharing initiatives they were already involved with.  


For the first phase of the project we conducted research with the local business community in order to gain insight into existing user behaviours related to sharing and collaboration. We surveyed a large and diverse group of businesses on their working practices, concerns, attitudes towards collaboration and opinion of BBF’s services. We supplemented those insights with additional qualitative data from a series of one to one interviews with business leaders as well as internal BBF stakeholders. Finally we extensively researched the sharing economy landscape and conducted SWOT analysis of the leaders in the space.

key research themes
7 key themes emerged from our research

After consolidating all of our research, we put together a detailed findings presentation for key stakeholders. Our findings suggested that there was definitely a desire amongst local business leaders to collaborate. We compared the advantages and disadvantages of building a new online platform to facilitate this vs adapting existing BBF services and using existing communication tools. In the end, we collaboratively decided the latter approach would be more cost effective, quicker to implement and more impactful.

“We are not as collaborative as we could be and having a platform to make it easier would help. We are always too busy to do the looking.” — Bucks Business owner

It was important to collectively agree on the goals and priority metrics for the platform and to prioritise effectively, since there were so many potential directions we could take for the MVP. We conducted a strict prioritisation exercise and closely weighed the potential user impact vs level of design and technical effort required for every feature. Together we identified the areas which would bring the most benefit to our users while still being achievable within the tight timelines.

Collaboration Circles

Along with a suite of suggested strategic changes to existing BBF services, we also developed a new service offering to help Bucks businesses tackle their challenges by fostering a collaborative state of mind: Collaboration Circles. These would be small groups of local business leaders, facilitated via Whatsapp, in which they could discuss real business challenges, get advice and inspiration from the BBF team, and collaborate.

Prototype of a collaboration circles promotional page

We quickly prototyped the concept and tested in order to validate the concept and gain feedback from businesses. Using the insights gained we refined our initial hypotheses and designed a pilot testing strategy for BBF to implement.

Virtual Adviser

In addition to the collaboration circles, we also created a new Virtual Adviser. This allowed businesses to answer a few questions quickly in order to benchmark themselves against others, receive tailored advice to help them reach their goals, and see recommended collaboration circles and events.

Easy to use sliders allow a user to quickly answer questions regarding the state of their business.

The new virtual adviser can be viewed on the BBF website here. BBF is currently working to pilot the collaboration circles as well as the other strategies we outlined in our findings report.

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