Fixers of Big Messes

It’s always enlightening to describe your work to a friend or family member. Recently, I was telling a friend what Factor does. I tried to speak plainly and simply, but I ended up using a lot of long sentences and terms of art to describe the kinds of problems we solve.

After listening thoughtfully for awhile, my friend said, “it sounds like you help fix big messes.”

That felt exactly right. Whether we call it UX, Taxonomy, or something more specific like Enterprise Content Management or Pre-cart Findability,  we get called in when someone has a big mess and they need help fixing it. It’s what we do. This is not to say that our clients have “made a mess” of their businesses. It’s almost the opposite – their businesses are usually thriving.

But they’ve reached a point of consequence with a certain organizational challenge that is preventing them from accomplishing a specific goal. That’s usually because some part of it has become, well, a big mess. Solutions come from defining the problem space and transforming something that seems chaotic at first into a system that serves the organization’s needs.

Almost always, at the root of the big mess is some kind of organizational alignment challenge.

  • A company’s departments or systems aren’t communicating as well as they’d like because they use different taxonomies or terms.
  • A company’s web site confuses customers because it reflects the divisions of groups within company instead of reflecting its customer goals and tasks.
  • An e-commerce company’s customers can’t find products because the product navigation reproduces the merchandising system, and that’s not the way customers think of its categories or labels for products.

At heart, fixing big messes is about identifying not just a common language but a shared purpose, such as helping people find the information they need. Every organization has an equivalent of helping customers ‘get products into their carts’, and we all want to make that journey as simple and seamless as possible. So we’ve evolved a version of this that sounds more positive: “Bring us your toughest problems.”

What challenges have you encountered when you set forth to fix a big mess? Have you developed a method for resolving those challenges? We’d love to hear your stories here or on Twitter at And if you’ve reached a point where you can use some help, contact us, and let’s get started solving *your* toughest problems.

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