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How Partnerships Help Accelerate Promising Ideas to Market

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For those of you who might not be aware, Interac is not a large organization, we have only 250-300 employees.

Yet we handled 5.7Bn retail transactions in 2017, more than all credit card companies combined in Canada. We also run one of the largest P2P payment networks in the world, on par transaction-wise with the largest in the US. We have one of the lowest fraud rates among major payment networks worldwide, and have consistently been ahead of the curve on innovations like chip cards, P2P (since 2003), card tokenization, mobile payments. That is no easy feat for an org of our size when most of our peers are global giants at least 10x our size and far better funded.

To accomplish this – we rely heavily on partnerships. Such as those with Financial Institutions, and technology partners. More recently also with community partners like Communitech and MaRS – who have been helping us connect with many brilliant entrepreneurs.

There are a few lessons we’ve learned over the years about how to make these partnerships successful.

#1: Ensure you have a clear problem statement

With innovation moving faster today than at any point in the multi-hundred-year history of financial services, there is a lot of pressure on many of us to ship. Which often requires cutting corners, but when the problem is not properly fleshed out, the product ends up poorly aligned with market needs and requires significant redesign or pivots. Requiring much more time and resources to fix than validation would have taken.

Some of the ways we accomplish this are to aggressively try to poke holes in our theorized problem statement. Asking Product 101 questions like “How can we verify this is a problem large enough to be worth solving? “ and “Have we spoken with people experiencing the problem and enough of them to ensure they represent the overall market and not just anecdotal evidence?”

When working with a partner, it is important that we have alignment on the problem we are trying to solve. Exercises like design thinking and Basecamp with our partners in multi-day working sessions that involve small, cross-functional teams, brainstorming, rapid prototyping, and engaging with real customers help us align. Allowing us to rapidly iterate several generations of design and refine the finer details that often differentiate a product that languishes from a home run.

#2: Trust is key in any relationship

When working with a partner, we are one team – even though we may belong to different organizations. Trust comes from clear, honest communication and everyone doing whatever they can to live up to any expectations they create. It means having the tough conversations when there is a misalignment or a delay. We have found ourselves in many spots requiring tough conversations, but afterwards the team almost invariably left stronger and feeling they could rely on each other when things get tough.

Trust also comes from taking into account the interests of all our partners, not just the ones in the room or those who pay the most.

#3: Successful Launch

The last key learning is to flesh out and align on the key success criteria that need to be in place before launch. This is a key component of the product vision that drives in numerous small decisions along the development path. If the partners are not on the same page early on, it significantly increases the risks of delivery and scale.

Security & Ubiquity and foundational to Interac and how we go to market. We’ve found that these are critical to successfully scale. Security because it is critical for gaining the necessary trust from consumers and financial organization. Not only security in the product’s intended use case but in how it affects the payments ecosystem overall. Ubiquity provides a great user experience. Due to the multi-party nature of most financial systems, their market value depends heavily on scaled inter-connectivity.

When the whole team is aligned upfront on making sure these key success factors are set before launch, it sets up the product for success and fully leverages the team’s capabilities towards making that happen.

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