AIMing at long-term partnership: our journey to a critical realization

Posted by Ben Robbins

This post is the first in a series about how we realized the need for and eventually developed our AIM Model for product delivery. 


"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
African proverb

We've always embarked on a new customer engagement as if it is the beginning of an enduring partnership that will yield mutual benefit for years to come. We recently celebrated our tenth year in business, having now delivered projects of all sizes to more than 60 customers in 12 different countries. In each and every case, we have delivered successfully on the project’s agreed upon requirements and specifications. In many cases, these successes have earned us renewed engagement with customers and the opportunity to partner further on ongoing initiatives. In other cases however, we’ve learned that satisfying contractual requirements still isn’t enough to guarantee the partnership continues.

Early in our company's growth, we embraced a fast sales process that mostly led to fast projects – projects for customers we barely knew, working on all kinds of new and exciting products. This work was stimulating for us, introducing new ideas and business concepts, and the variety gave our early team a broad cross section of exposure and experience. Plus, we were good at this – at R&D, architecture, at laying a firm foundation for long-term product growth – so there was always a tingly sense that we were building potential toward something big. 

A tough lesson

It's ironic then how there would often be a sense of disappointment when these otherwise successful projects reached their agreed upon conclusion. Sometimes, a product's roadmap was only partly funded, other times no real long-term vision existed. In any case, it always seemed too soon – before the potential of what we had built could be fully realized. We talked about this a lot. Everyone longed to see their work fully utilized, their ingenuity live up to its full potential. Customers, whatever their reasons for limiting the engagement, also seemed disappointed when it was time to wind down. 

A few of those early, small collaborations were different though. Some of them blossomed into larger projects and deeper relationships. Over time, these customers would become increasingly reliant the insights that only a veteran team can offer. These contractual collaborations evolved into deep partnerships, mutually beneficial beyond what either of us could enjoy alone. Among the churn of short-term projects, these long-term partnerships became a breath of fresh air.  

The turning point

This is the way, we decided. Finding and developing real partnerships would be vital to growing our business into one that was good for everyone involved. It made sense. Partnership allowed companies with differing competencies and at varying stages of maturity and agility to leverage each other’s strengths. It was rewarding for the team to see a product vision come to fruition, the resulting stability was ideal for us, and our customers could leverage our capabilities more strategically.  

Up next: on a mission to find out what it takes to optimize every project for long-term partnership.