Go Studio: A New Home for Innovation

At InComm, we’re laying a foundation that leads to the future.

Date:March 13, 2020

Our mission and strategy is to continue evolving, and to that end, our newest addition – an innovation studio – is both a physical manifestation and conceptual extension of that goal. For those who will design, develop, and manage Go Studio™, this means four walls with no limits.

 

InComm’s past is punctuated with the steps that lead from founder and CEO Brooks Smith’s development of point-of-sale activation technology to its present as a global leader boasting myriad payment technologies. The company’s timeline is littered with firsts, with 386 global patents (and counting) following Smith’s initial patent approval in 1996, and an increasingly diversified offering of payment solutions.

 

As InComm has grown, fueled by this mantra and its increasing collection of technologies, it has constantly evolved to meet payment needs. With progress nowhere close to slowing down in our fast-paced digital era, a central hub for research and development certainly seems like the next logical step.

 

Michael Parlotto, Vice President of Emerging Technology at InComm, first joined the company 16 years ago as its web operations manager. Excluding a one-year stint as director of online sales at Helio, Parlotto has seen InComm grow from sixty core employees spread across one office to a five-continent-spanning, over 2,500-employee enterprise, and he’s watched its business interests broaden to encompass a wide array of payments technology solutions, from prepaid wireless and physical and digital gift cards to employee and customer rewards and incentives and supplemental healthcare benefits. As Vice President of Emerging Technologies, the position he’s held since 2010, he’s had his finger on the pulse of these continuous changes.

 

Over dinner with his brother, Brian Parlotto, InComm’s Executive Vice President, in 2017, the two reflected on InComm’s history of innovation and how new technology was at once ingrained in everything they did and yet at that time unharnessed, with advances and improvements often coming from specific departments and branches and filtering up through to implementation. “We’ve been doing this innovation, but with no plan on how to organize or monetize it,” said Brian.

 

Out of that spark came the InComm Innovation Task Force, a small team (it was limited to a maximum of 10 members) tasked with focusing on innovation across the board and identifying where the company should go with new developments. The Task Force helped elevate the company’s focus on innovation, stimulating research and development and creating an environment where concepts could more directly find a footing, flourish, and develop into substantive output.

 

“What if we built this out?” thought Parlotto. He shared the idea of a more permanent, concrete innovation directive, and it gained traction right away. Mark Holt, InComm’s Chief Information Officer and a veteran in emerging technology fields, didn’t need convincing. At Holt’s direction, Parlotto put together a plan for an in-house location for innovative research and development. Brooks Smith approved it on the spot.

 

 

InComm image

 

 

The purpose of Go Studio is both simple (to foster innovation) and open-ended (“this will be ever-evolving,” said Parlotto). Permanent staff will be sparse, at least initially, with the studio serving as a collaborative environment, bringing employees (and concepts and ideas) from various departments together to work not just with their InComm colleagues but with partners from outside the organization. In addition to business partners and vendors, Parlotto and Holt intend to maintain relationships with local universities through internships and pre-defined programs, allowing students to gain real-world work experience while helping build out InComm’s innovations. This strategy speaks to the studio’s focus; take a challenge or problem and put bright minds from different backgrounds on it, providing unique perspectives, collaborative support, and technical skills to develop new technology, products, or even companies.

 

The design is sleek and modern, with a minimalist feel. Hearing it described conveys the feeling of a spaceship control station with the embedded soul of a Silicon Valley startup. Go Studio will be highlighted with a rotating cast of interactive props, which Parlotto prefers to keep close to the hip in order to preserve the “wow” factor for first-time guests. The space will be dynamic, with adjustable furniture, Trevi glide whiteboards, active digital screens and various technical displays. The work will be light and fast, befitting today’s tech landscape. In what Parlotto calls “60-day sprints,” ideas will sink or swim quickly, with those showing potential for success resulting in proof-of-concepts being fine-tuned for the appropriate sponsors, or shelved for later if no use-cases are imminent. If there’s no success or no clear application, Go Studio’s leaders will move right on to the next brainstorm, and the next technology. “We’re not doing projects for the sake of using new tech,” said Parlotto. Echoed Holt: “Our end goal is to improve the customer payment experience. True success, for us, is in merchant/customer adoption.”

 

Beyond just research and development, the studio will be a functioning learning environment. Re-arrangeable workspaces and interactive tech displays will just be part of the total package; Go Studio will also host guest speakers and visitors, presenting opportunities for information exchanges and professional development.

 

The studio is in part inspired by other corporate innovation studios and in-house think tanks, such as Accenture Labs, Delta’s Hangar, and Visa’s Innovation Centers. These enterprises represent a distinct response to a disrupted system, as retailers fully embrace digital transformation and adapt to changing consumer demands. New ideas are becoming necessary to both survive and thrive in the current marketplace, and concentrated hubs aim to provide the most efficient resource for collaborative problem-solving. InComm, with its global network of partners, stands uniquely positioned to tackle a diverse range of challenges from all angles and significantly shape certain elements of the retail landscape.

 



“If our partners are successful, InComm will be.”
 

MICHAEL PARLOTTO
Vice President of Emerging Technologies, InComm

 


 

Those other corporate studios aren’t competitors in the field; rather, Parlotto sees them as examples and, ideally, potential collaborators. An area partner with its own dedicated laboratory could be a boon for the brainstorming that often precipitates advancement. Ultimately, Parlotto intends to utilize whatever resources he can to develop new technology to solve partner and merchant challenges. His motivation is simple: “If our partners are successful, InComm will be.” The results will be innovations that improve the end-user customer experience as much as they do the client’s. “Everything we do is for all customers,” emphasized Holt.

 

As is so often the case, advancements that may appear to follow a linear model at first glance tend to be more natural in progression, buoyed by little moments, constant nudges, and the support and conviction of multiple visionaries along the way. From a conversational tangent between a meal to a sleek new space with dreams of expansion, InComm’s Go Studio is fresh in name and design but deep-rooted in spirit.

 

Go Studio officially kicked off with a Grand Opening Reception on February 11, 2020. Though still in its growing stages, it’s clear the optimism and visions for the studio are blossoming as fast as the tech it will house; said Parlotto, “it’s become much more than even we expected it to be.”