If you are in the business of building technology solutions or process capabilities within a mid-to-large size company, then you are likely to have seen many instances over the years when your organization, along with its industry collaborators and competitors alike, are reacting to the new regulations (e.g. Affordable Care Act), emerging technologies (e.g. mobile and social media), evolving customer expectations (e.g. first call resolution or concierge levels of customer service), or other catalysts for change.
As you begin to understand the new challenge, do you find yourself reaching out to trusted counterparts at non-competing firms (e.g. two hospital systems in nearby cities, regional health plans in separate geographies, etc.)? Often the solutions are the same or may already be in place within one organization, yet there is often a missed opportunity for two organizations to formally share technology or best practices.
Missed Opportunities for Sharing: What I Have Seen in my Experience…
In my former role as a Director of Consumer Capabilities at a regional health plan, I encountered this scenario several times. When considering a rebuild of a member website, I found myself constrained by budget and resources. Research told me that building a new member website from the ground-up would likely require several million dollars and I knew that I would struggle to win approval for less than one million. At the time, I recall knowing that other similar health plans were considering the same upgrades, but were faced with similar budget challenges. “Why don’t four or five plans get together to pool their resources and build a shared solution?” I thought. But amidst the pressures of operating my business area and “putting out fires,” I found myself unable to prioritize the time to build the case and the good idea sat unrealized.
Similarly, I remember speaking to executives of a health plan who had been involved in the creation of a unique and highly regarded transactional website targeted at their broker sales partners years before the need occurred to similar health plans. These executives saw the opportunity to share their solution (intellectual property) with non-competing partners and other health plans had even expressed interest in using the solution. However, among the busy hum of daily business within a large organization, the good idea failed to be prioritized and it remained just that… a good idea.
In some cases, the idea may go beyond the point of initial conversations, yet still loses momentum as senior executives, internal technology partners, or even the legal department begin to elaborate on the potential complexities of turning an internal idea, solution, or unique process into a cross-company collaboration or revenue opportunity. “Selling technology isn’t our core competency.”, “ How will you support users after go-live?”, and “Won’t we lose strategic control?” may be common questions that inhibit progress.
An Example of Success
Given the challenges that can be encountered, it is important that we look at an example of success. As I fast forward to my current role within a consulting organization, I was pleased to find that the consultancy was already working with clients to partner on technology development, promotion, and licensing to enable solution sharing and revenue creation for client firms.
One example is the Health Care Reform Planner (HCRP) tool, which SDLC Partners delivered as part of an engagement for a large health plan client. The client realized that both they and their partner health plans needed to answer critical and time sensitive questions such as: “How do you educate consumers and members so they can make educated decisions?”, and “What tools can you provide to organizations to enable them to have productive conversations with employers?”
These questions illuminated the idea to create a mobile tool which will allow health plan sales teams to have meaningful conversations with their group customers, including:
- The definition and impact of the HC reform changes associated with the Affordable Care Act, and
- Model the financial impacts of keeping group coverage versus moving employees to the public exchange.
Early on, the client understood that the HCRP tool would be valuable to other plans and sought guidance and partnership from SDLC Partners to help them position the tool to be reusable by other health plans and to capitalize on the potential for license revenue for their good idea. They also sought SDLC’s help to manage application support and maintenance for buyers of the application, reducing the client’s complexity in reselling the tool. Together, SDLC and our client successfully deployed the tool and found success in licensing the application to other health plans.
How do I Overcome Challenges and Achieve Successful Sharing?
How will you ensure that your next good idea for sharing a technology solution, best practice, or other intellectual property becomes a reality? To start, you will need to think of your solution as a product and apply the concepts of product development and product management. These concepts include:
- Market Analysis (Is the idea really unique? Will you be able to sell? Are there competitors?)
- Market Strategy (Set pricing and customer targets. Who will conduct and support sales?)
- Program Management (Build or package the solution. Develop customer training plan, etc.)
- Program Execution (Go to market, deliver, and maintain the solution.)
There are many considerations that underlie the points above, but as with any business endeavor, you should dedicate time or partner with others to assess the opportunity and to develop a detailed business case. Don’t overlook the opportunity to engage internal or external partners at this point.
Internally, many mid-size and larger companies have an Innovation or Business Development group who may be positioned to support you. Or you may seek outside expertise as our client did when developing their HCRP tool, realizing the opportunity to share the technology.
Above all else, when you have an idea for collaboration or sharing, embrace an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. Begin with hard work, engage others, and explore the idea. Prove or refute its value. Don’t allow your good idea to remain just that…an idea.
Michael Yetter is a Healthcare Industry Lead at SDLC Partners, a leading provider of business and technology solutions. Michael is a thought leader in the areas of healthcare customer experience and consumer digital capabilities. He advocates for positive collaboration between firms as a method of extending resource efficiency and converting intellectual property within large firms into revenue opportunities. Michael will be speaking on the topic of “Sharing Technology Solutions and Best Practices Across the Blues” at the 2nd Annual dotBlue conference, which is a conference exclusively for Blue plan executives to be hosted by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina on October 23rd – 25th.
To further the discussion, please contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.