In their book Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small, Yale professors Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres describe how to take a business situation and look at it differently to solve a problem. The authors describe four ways to look at things differently. One way, which they call "idea arbitrage," starts by asking the question: Where else will it work?
That's the approach CrownPeak, an application service provider (ASP) specializing in hosted Web content management tools, adopted to solve a business challenge for 5THink, a healthcare consulting firm. Robert Rose, Vice President, Marketing, for CrownPeak, says the ASP "turned our usual access control, content management, work flow, and approval processes on their heads" to solve the problem for 5THink.
The result: a new line of business for CrownPeak.
Here's how this came about.
California's devastating earthquakes have created a land office business for 5THink, a California hospital consulting firm. The Northridge quake in 1994 caused the California legislature to pass a law requiring every hospital in the state to meet federal earthquake building codes by 2008. Krysten Johnson, a 5THink Partner, says 400 health care facilities had to rebuild or retrofit to comply. Given the specialized needs of hospitals, Johnson says "it is more cost effective to build than refit."
5THink helps hospitals move from their old building to their new one. The process can take up to three years and 5THink wants to get involved before construction starts. For example, determining which service elevator will deliver meals can impact the operations of the hospital for its entire working life, she points out.
How CrownPeak Changed Its Offering
The light bulb went on for a new use of CrownPeak's hosted web content management solution when 5THink began working with St. Joseph's Medical Center. The hospital broke ground in Burbank in 2003; it plans on opening its doors in February 2005. 5THink began the relocation process in December 2003 by establishing 26 teams with up to 10 hospital staff members on each team. For example, team members on the surgical team include janitors who clean the operating rooms to the surgeons themselves.
At the outset the St. Joseph teams created task lists using Microsoft Word documents. Each team faxed or mailed its documents to the coordinators at 5THink, who collated the documents to produce an overall report. Each team had to complete its report after each monthly meeting.
This system grew unwieldy given so many participants, so 5THink looked for a more efficient way to organize its interaction with the hospital's teams. It approached CrownPeak. 5THink wanted to use Crown Peak's content management solution, called Advantage CMS, to create task and issue databases to automate this complicated move.
Why not? CrownPeak created a password-protected extranet for 5Think. "Tasks, events, and issues are just content with dates tied to associate them. So, with some creative configuration of workflow, we were able to give 5Think a fully featured content management system that tracked the tasks and issues," says Rose. The content management system dates the entries "so we can see who did what when," says Johnson. Now, it takes "just an instant" to update meeting agendas. The free flow of knowledge helps everyone handle the myriad of details that go into such a complex move. "Everyone involved in the move knows what's going on at all times," says the 5THink executive.
Johnson says the best part of outsourcing is her firm "doesn't have to micro-manage and babysit the project teams any more. We don't have to call them day after day after day. Our management headaches went away." She says three emails now do the work of 17 phone calls. Johnson estimates her job took three times as long before outsourcing.
Here's the best part: Johnson says 5THink is cloning the entire system for its next hospital job because the tasks are similar. "Because the application is built to support multiple clients, CrownPeak can easily clone the entire system very rapidly. 5THink can use its knowledge of our system for multiple clients. All they just have to do is change the user names and passwords, and they're ready to launch a new project. They don't miss a step," says Rose.
The Lesson for Suppliers
Suppliers, here's your homework: Look at your offerings and ask: "Where else will it work?"