How innovative are you as a service provider?

  • Assessing innovation archetypes can improve relationships between service providers and clients.

  • Better innovation alignment helps service providers optimize sales, marketing, and support.

While innovation means different things to different companies, scoring of an innovation model can create a common frame of reference between a company and its service provider. The same is true for service providers seeking a better understanding of their clients’ innovation needs.

As a service provider, you can assess your innovation posture to identify appropriate alignment vectors and develop strategies that sync with your clients’ innovation mindsets. In the end, this creates a much improved understanding of client expectations and a smoother path to working together to meet and exceed them.

Take a moment to determine your own company’s innovation profile.

Next, create profiles for your most strategic clients using your understanding of their operating model, risk tolerance, and the other factors used in the assessment. Below is the Assessment Tool you can use for client assessments:

Putting your clients to the test

After tallying your score, there are five innovation categories that most of your clients will fall within. The following describes each of those innovation mindsets and offers guidance on how you can best align your business activities with each client innovation archetype.



An innovation archetype comprises the key characteristics that contribute to an organization’s overall innovation readiness:

  • When your client is an Innovation Sideliner.

When you attempt to engage in discussions around strongly innovative solutions with an Innovation Sideliner, your recommendations will likely fall on deaf ears. Sideliners want to keep things as they are; stability and operational consistency are leading objectives. It is typically counterproductive to go against the grain of a Sideliner’s operating model. This company is seeking to work with established products, purchased at a good price, with five-nines availability. For these reasons, transformative business opportunities with Sideliners are scarce.

  • When your client is an Innovation Tinkerer.

This type of client presents an opportunity for you to begin building a strategic relationship with the company’s budding center(s) of innovation. As a service providers, your business can play a role in helping the Tinkerer to better understand and identify future opportunities. You can collaborate with the Tinkerer around how to address business opportunities that may still be four to six quarters out. You have an opportunity to be an innovation guiding force for the Tinkerer as long as you are strategic and patient with the gradual pace of adoption you can expect from this type of client.

  • When your client is an Innovation Believer.

This type of client is half on the fence, in transition, and you need to accurately identify where innovation resonates and where it is not yet ready to be adopted. Identify innovators within the organization and align your objectives with the Believer’s goals. The company is likely to be receptive to innovation activities that promote ideation around out-of-the-box solutions. Immersive field engagements or innovation workshops are excellent examples of how to engage a Believer. But beware the status-quo supporters; they still yield much influence, and you will need to secure their buy-in early on.

  • When your client is an Innovation Evangelist.

Be prepared to be highly innovative with Evangelists or suffer the miserable consequences of being relegated to abyss of the procurement office. With an Evangelist, you should always lead with an innovation angle. Even when dealing with normalized products, it is important to offer creative solutions. The company expects service providers to be consistently innovative. Every engagement must crank it up a notch. Competition in serving Innovation Evangelists is fierce, and these companies like it that way.

  • When your client is an Innovation Junkie.

This company’s entire business model is about transformation, and it has organized itself to be ultra-agile. The Innovation Junkie only works with service providers that are equally innovative. To be effective, you must be able to transform your business in pace with your client’s business. From a service provider’s perspective, working with an Innovation Junkie is exhilarating. Established, traditional service providers typically struggle to maintain a profitable relationship with Innovation Junkies because of their need to constantly re-invent themselves. As a result, these relationships are frequently exchanged out for new ones.

Optimizing service provider sales, marketing, and support

It is important to note that innovation alignment does not constrain you in positioning specific technologies with your clients. Even a Tinkerer will entertain the most innovative technologies — such as IoT, Cloud Services, Network on Demand — though they may apply them in less transformative ways than an Evangelist or Junkie would.

With the assessment of client innovation archetypes complete, you can begin to strategically position activities using the language, methods, and behaviors that are appropriate for each client’s model. This in turn can help optimize your organization’s sales, marketing, and support activities with each client — and drive improved performance for client organizations.

For more information about innovation alignment, or how AT&T can assist your organization with increasing the effectiveness of your innovation initiatives, email

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How innovative is your company?

Norbert Sluzewski Global Business Solutions Signature Client Group Strategic Advisory Services Director AT&T About Norbert