More and more companies I see these days are making strategic process changes to drive unprecedented business model innovation. Forbes has embraced online collaborative publishing as it adds a substantial online presence to its traditional print magazine. Healthcare organizations are implementing electronic health records systems so they can migrate from islands of medical services to sharing patient data across care providers. Consumer packaged goods manufacturers are monitoring social media to get real-time information on their customers' perceptions and share it with brand managers.
Business model innovation — often enabled by new technology platforms — isn't new. It was the driver of dramatic growth for, among other companies, Dell, FedEx, and Wal-Mart. In the late 1990s the dot-com boom made every organization look at the potential for online presence and examine its business model. But the pace has been heating up with emerging social (Facebook), mobile (smart phones and iPads), "cloud," and "big data" technologies that are creating new ways to compete, and, along with them, new ways of working.
Embrace Industry Disruption
Consider the transformation at Forbes, the business publishing and media company, which has embraced the shift from traditional print media to online publishing, salvaging a business that was being disrupted, and becoming a disrupter itself. Forbes is well known for its lists, such as of the richest Americans (the Forbes 400). In 1996 the company launched a website at a time when other media companies were trying to figure out how to respond to the rise of the Internet. Forbes.com quickly grew to 18 million monthly unique users. Forbes then took another bold step by deciding to move beyond its website to a more inclusive and scalable digital publishing platform. 30 million unique users now visit Forbes.com monthly, and it has 1,000 content creators.
This latest change was driven by Lewis DVorkin, an experienced veteran of both the traditional news industry and digital media, who joined Forbes as its Chief Product Officer (a newly created position) in 2010. In 2011 DVorkin rolled out a "New Newsroom" on a blog-based platform (WordPress) and a new organization. The New Newsroom added outside contributors to Forbes' traditional staff reporters. Forbes gave the outside contributors visibility to help build their personal brands, and in return the contributors broadened Forbes' coverage. The self-publishing tools Forbes provided to contributors made it easy to write something and publish it, to put images into it, to link to other media, or to embed videos.
For example, as contributors write, the platform suggests images which Forbes has already paid for; they can just click on one, put it into their post, and write a caption. Forbes also gives contributors control over comments. They can highlight comments they think are valuable and they can delete or mark as spam comments that are weak or abusive. And Forbes provides contributors with real-time feedback on how many views each post is getting. The counter at the top of every post helps contributors see what is working and learn to better serve their readers. Each contributor has an individualized real-time data dashboard.
Knit Your Network Together
Partners Healthcare, the large healthcare provider in the Boston area, is also putting in a new technology platform and processes to enable a new business model in an industry undergoing disruption. According to the Boston Globe, Partners is negotiating to buy a standard enterprise system (Epic) to knit together its nine hospitals with 6,000 physicians and other healthcare providers in Massachusetts:
"Expected to cost at least $600 million over 10 years, the Epic system would give each patient a single up-to-date record accessible by all Partners providers, at a time when doctors and hospitals are under pressure to keep closer tabs on the sickest people they care for and to better track their own performance over time... Its executives said the decision is an important step toward a more integrated, statewide system for sharing medical records."
With the new system, data for a patient who is referred from a primary care office to an orthopedist, has surgery, and later is discharged with home care would be available in real time, and would make it easier to apply quality control tools — such as warnings of possible drug interactions — uniformly across all healthcare providers.
Monitor the Pulse of Customer Opinions in Real Time
Consumer goods companies are realizing that they can keep their fingers on the pulse of consumer opinion in real time by tapping into the flow of consumer commentary in social media. In a recent article, Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald described the process change from his experience:
"In 1984, when I was the Tide brand manager, I would get a cassette tape of consumer comments from the 1-800 line and listen to them in the car on the way home. Then, back at the office, I'd read and react to the letters we'd received. Today that's obviously not sufficient — you've got blogs, tweets, all kinds of things. And so we've developed something called 'consumer pulse,' which uses Bayesian analysis [a statistical technique that can determine which items are important] to scan the universe of comments, categorize them by individual brand, and then put them on the screen of the relevant individual. I personally see the comments about the P&G brand. This allows for real-time reaction to what's going on in the marketplace, because we know that if something happens in a blog and you don't react immediately — or, worse, you don't know about it — it could spin out of control by the time you get involved."
Today's new generation of technologies, e.g., social and mobile, are enabling a new wave of process changes. For many organizations, the technology is moving faster than they are, but if harnessed, associated process changes can drive industry disruption and competitive advantage.
Questions: Do you see competition with processes heating up? What changes have you seen in the C-Suite when process changes jump onto the strategic agenda?