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Powerful partnerships: Maximising impact through strategic partnerships

In Part 3 of our new blog series, we look at how trust-based, strategic partnerships are key to unlocking the potential of innovation.

min read

Over the past 18 months, we’ve gone from helping our clients adapt and respond to disruptive forces, to being thrust head-on into that disruption ourselves. Navigating change and uncertainty is always challenging, but this period of intense, accelerated learning revealed some key success factors to driving innovation in fast-paced times.

It’s often said that “if you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” But for more and more companies, attempting to journey ‘alone’ on the path to digital transformation is back-firing. Sure, it’s easy to find a vendor that can build ad hoc digital solutions, but without a holistic approach, a patchwork of solutions ultimately slows a company down, preventing it from leveraging the full power of digital – or worse, being overtaken by a competitor.  

Rather than going it alone, building a strategic partnership with a trusted digital innovation partner can signal a new chapter in which sustained growth and impact are not only possible, but much more likely.

From delivery mindset to innovation mindset

Being trapped in a short-term, delivery mindset – with an overly strong focus on timelines, budgets and deliverables – makes innovation difficult, if not impossible. And companies that don’t innovate find themselves stagnating, and risk being out-run by competitors. 

A real innovation track is all about testing and adapting, and then scaling the right ideas. This means that often, we start without knowing exactly what the end result will look like. But in a world of metrics and KPIs, and increasing pressure to deliver results fast, how can companies allow themselves to cultivate an innovation mindset? That’s where finding a trusted strategic partner comes in.

Partnering for mutual success

Bringing in an experienced and trusted digital innovation partner enables companies to benefit from an objective perspective, new ideas, and key expertise that can drive both the short- and longer-term outcomes they’re looking for. 

At November Five, the outcomes that most of our clients are seeking have typically been too complex and valuable to simply hand off to a third party. So, unconsciously, we have built strategic partnerships that far outgo the typical client-vendor relationship for years. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we prefer the term ‘partner’ rather than ‘client’.

Some of the key aspects of these strategic partnerships are as follows:

  • Establishing mutual trust: Building trust takes time and effort, which is why we make sure we prioritise transparency and information sharing as a foundation, with the expectation that greater trust will follow. This mutual trust is crucial when we embark together on innovation endeavours that may not have a clear destination.

  • Gaining insight into each other's future vision: As we get to know each other, we gain a deep understanding of each other's business goals beyond the project in question. And to maximise our collaboration, we encourage purposeful and active cross-functional engagement across both our organisations. 

  • Learning together: To establish and maintain the most fertile ground for our collaboration, we make sure we’re speaking the same language. We share updates and knowledge with our clients, onboard them in our methodology and philosophy, and involve them in retrospectives that help us all learn and improve.

  • Finding pragmatic solutions: Throughout our partnerships, we proactively take action to ensure the best outcome for all, e.g. taking a ‘fail fast, fail smart’ approach if something is not working, cultivating a ‘one team’ culture, eliminating innovation roadblocks such as IP in a structured. 

  • Talking directly with decision-makers: Rather than talking to business through their IT departments, we position ourselves as a key interlocutor when it comes to discussing a company’s digital ambitions so that our experience and expertise can be of value at the right moment.

The advantages of building strategic partnerships are innumerable and we are committed to pursuing this approach. We’re starting to bring more structure to our partnership programmes so our clients always know that they have fertile ground for innovation wherever they turn.

Key take-away

Excelling in today’s fast-paced and competitive world is more challenging than ever, but rather than trying to do it alone, companies should shift their mindset and explore how strategic partnerships can help them drive innovation, navigate uncertainty and maximise their chances for success.

Looking for a true partner that is as invested as you are?
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About Fast Company’s ‘Best Workplace for Innovators’

Every year, Fast Company joins forces with consulting firm Accenture to compose a list of the 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators out of thousands of companies from around the globe. It’s a recognition that celebrates company cultures that empower employees at all levels to improve processes, create new products, or invent new ways of doing business. In other words, it recognises workplace cultures that foster innovation.

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Written by

Brecht Spileers


Director Strategy & Growth