How To Evaluate Your Co‑Innovation Partner

April 11, 2023 | John Telford

While in the previous decade many companies experienced a “rising tide lifting all boats” many are now discovering that its converse is also true: a “falling tide reveals all shoals.” Macroeconomic and geo-political volatility  are revealing companies' blemishes masked by easy access to capital and overall economic growth. In this new era, it is more critical than ever that organizations win in their market and capture share from their competitors. The only way to compete and win is via innovative products and offerings that provide more value at a lower cost than your competition.  According to research commissioned by Bounteous, companies that invest in Co-Innovation to fuel digital maturity are much more likely to experience double-digit revenue growth than their stagnant colleagues.

Co-Innovation is a connected, collaborative, and continuous approach to produce value by doing better things, and doing things better.  

By its very definition, Co-Innovation cannot be achieved alone. This underscores the importance of selecting the right partner. Our research shows that selecting the right partner is one of the most critical steps toward increasing digital maturity. Key partners create collaborative value over many years, while poor partners “deliver projects.” Companies can realize sustainable growth by investing in digital solutions that move at the speed of their customers, selecting partners who co-innovate rather than just doing what they are told. 
Leading companies like Caesars Entertainment have committed to Co-Innovation and reaped the rewards. By accelerating digital capabilities and investing in personalized experience innovation, Caesars realized a 20x return on their technology investment. 

How can companies best evaluate their Co-Innovation partners? Our research suggests that company leadership should ask themselves the following six questions:

Does Your Partner Focus on Your Objectives?

Are they focused on project delivery? Or are they attuned to your business model and needs? The best partners don’t just meet deadlines, they anticipate, suggest, and collaborate to drive innovation. Great partners orchestrate value for your bottom line and opt into performance-based agreements. This ensures alignment and focus on larger business goals.

Jay Topper, Chief Digital Officer, explains how partners focus on objectives for Chico’s FAS: “This is a three-way partnership that will pay dividends within our digital and customer-first pillars for years to come. We have complete belief in both fabric’s platform and Bounteous as a transformative partner to help us achieve new heights in our commerce channels, service channels and general Connected Commerce strategy.”

Do They Share Insights, Information, and Technology?

Some digital partners keep competitive knowledge  tight to the chest. Others freely share and enable your organization with the right data, technology, talent, and methods in open collaboration. Ideal Co-Innovation partners become part of your company’s team to deliver innovative customer experiences and create revenue. Seventy-six percent of surveyed advanced companies said they work in blended teams that include their employees and partners, where everyone collaborates on initiatives. 

Is Your Partner Nimble and Open to Change? 

A good Co-Innovation partner is willing to change course when new information or business scenarios arise. Flexibility, which is often associated with moonshot innovation projects, can also prove beneficial for optimizing current processes and practices.

Do They Use Data to Drive Decisions? 

Instinct and “gut” can only take you so far. In order to achieve the high-velocity digital capabilities that we call Digital Flow, your Co-Innovation partner must be adept at not just analyzing data, but creating experiences that produce meaningful data which in turns increases your knowledge of your customer. . Leaders know the importance of data, and digitally-advanced companies report better ability to use customer insights to improve results. 

Do They Work Well Across Your Partner Technology Ecosystem?

Digitally mature companies are outpacing laggards with investments in AI and Machine Learning, MarTech, Personalization, Commerce Platforms, and Customer Data Platforms. Companies must select Co-Innovation partners that are well-versed with all key digital technology stacks in order to harmonize and activate critical customer data.

When CVS looked to revolutionize personalization across the retail, pharmacy, and medical care space with Adobe’s Customer Experience stack, they turned to an industry-leading Adobe technology partner in Bounteous. Certifications And relationships is only step one: A great partner understands the governance, processes, and organizational alignment required to increase customer satisfaction through technology activation. 

Are They Focused on The Long Term?

Change takes time, alignment, and commitment. This is one of the reasons that two-thirds of companies report digital transformation initiatives fail to deliver value. Leadership changes and the speed of technology evolution are to be expected. The best Co-Innovation partners are well-versed in delivering on long-term goals. Here at Bounteous, we’ve worked with leading brands like Domino’s and Wawa for over 15 years. Often, companies give into temptation to swap vendors and agencies frequently. To achieve growth with Co-Innovation, companies must build lasting relationships with partners who understand their business model inside and out.

In short, your company has the right to a Co-Innovation partner that shares your values. We’ve created a Co-Innovation Bill of Rights outlining this and eight other rights that companies must demand from partners to achieve growth. Read those in the Co-Innovation Manifesto, review our commissioned research outlining the habits of companies succeeding with Co-Innovation, and take action. If you don’t have a partner driving Co-Innovation at your company, I implore you to find one, or growth may prove elusive.