Choose an Innovative Partner to Grow With July 18, 2017July 19, 2017 Joe Phalen Choose an Innovative Partner to Grow With Is innovation important? The answer seems obvious. However, upon review of some recent history, we find companies that did not prioritize innovation and development: Blackberry, Blockbuster and MySpace come to mind. They thought they could tread water and keep their place in the market, but we know how their stories end. And then there are companies like Netflix, Amazon and Google that continue to innovate, even while dominating the market. Who would you rather partner with? It’s clear that innovation is key to long-term success and growth. With that said, how can we spot innovation when choosing important partner or vendor relationships? Here are a few tips to make sure you are not chaining yourself to the next Blackberry: Is there a roadmap? When exploring a partnership, make sure to review the roadmap with that vendor. If they cannot present a roadmap, take it as a major red flag. It is not enough to simply throw out ideas in a meeting. The truly innovative companies have a roadmap showing the plan to get there. How is the roadmap organized? A successful roadmap needs to have a mixture of short-term and long-term priorities, with new innovations and enhancements spanning the entire timeline. It is imperative that the vendor is using their resources to solve short-term enhancements while focusing on long-term goals. If it is just a list of long-term goals, they will miss all the short-term improvements necessary in this fast-paced world. They might be aiming at building a virtual reality app in two years, but in-between they are missing out on smartphone and tablet enhancements. If the roadmap only consists of short-term objectives, the company can get lost chasing technology “fads” (i.e. Google Glass). Often, companies who only focus on the short-term enhancements are also slow to build for the larger, more dramatic shifts in the market. The best vendors will have a healthy mix of both. Are they active thought leaders? A true innovator can be found on the conference stage. They routinely have new features to demonstrate. These companies might also have executives on banking boards and other FinTech innovation committees. This company will be on top of the market shifts and user trends. They are worth a deeper look. Are they open to input? No one company has all the answers. A successful partner has open lines of communication with their customers to receive their unique perspective and feedback that needs to be taken into account for future design. The best companies engage in dialogue with those customers to make sure they are hearing the concerns or ideas. After some dialogue and filtering, ideas make their way into the roadmap and future of the product. The least successful companies shut the door, and enhancement requests go into a black hole never to be seen again. It is simple: if you don’t listen to your customers, you will lose them. Find an innovative partner / vendor that you can grow with. Surrounding yourself with energetic and innovative thinkers will only boost your own company efforts.