“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be difficult, but I still don’t understand.”
Though I don’t recall the year, I distinctly remember uttering those words at a past HIMSS conference during one of the countless “speed-dating” sessions journalists have with vendors. Perhaps because these meet-and-greets are so short, they take on a very intense “get-to-the-point” tone, at least from my point of view. In the session referred to above, the vendor either wouldn’t or couldn’t accomplish that objective.
After receiving an answer still peppered with words like: collaborate, partner, synergize, etc., I found myself no more enlightened than when I sat down. I tried to explain, with an eye toward being of some larger service, that if they couldn’t explain their raison d’être and business model to me in a few minutes, chances are they couldn’t explain it to potential customers either.
When it comes to running a successful business, it’s about clarity and simplicity — about doing a few things better than anyone else, then communicating that value to likely customers. Do not be tempted into thinking that a complex or confused business model can be overcome with nuanced marketing, that you have more than the 15 minutes I described above to get across why this or that element of your business is not exactly as it seems. In truth, you have less time — you have a few seconds.
Because we are faced with so much information, it is a natural human reaction to quickly categorize. When we can’t take company A and fit it into a mental box, it winds up relegated to what I’ll call the mental cloud — a hazy purgatory from whence few businesses emerge.
And so it had been with McKesson’s Horizon/Paragon paradigm. I don’t recall exactly when I first attempted to mentally situate these products, but whatever information was at my disposal at that time saw me quickly and happily labeling Horizon with “Big” and Paragon with “Small.” This was all fine and dandy for a while, until Paragon seemed to be creeping up into ever larger facilities. At that point, the labels stuck to those boxes began to peel, and haze crept over my mental picture. I wanted more clarity to chase it away, and therefore investigated further.
The word from McKesson came that my labels didn’t fit, that the ones I had applied should be replaced with Horizon “component” and Paragon “integrated/enterprise.” Paragon, they said, had no inherent scaling issues. With my new labels securely affixed, the haze lifted and I could go about my business again.
On Tuesday, I had a very nice interview with McKesson Provider Technologies President David Souerwine (see Chapter I of our 2-part interview), during which he was very candid about both the genesis of the company’s reorganization and its new strategy. On the positive side, I think Souerwine is dead-on when it comes to the premise fueling the new strategy — namely that health systems want integrated software packages that cover their hospitals and physician practices, clinical and revenue realms.
What I wish, what my clarity-craving mind would have loved to see was a statement that Horizon was going away, being sunset in a few years, and all the organization’s considerable resources would be poured into Paragon. When one thinks about how far that product has come, one wonders what such singular focus could have produced. Will the shifting focus onto Paragon, while Horizon still hangs around, be enough to change the current market dynamics? We’ll have to see.
What I do know is that my labels for the McKesson products have changed again. Despite the word from McKesson that Horizon still has a future, I can’t help affix it with a “Winding down” tag and Paragon with one that reads “go-forward.” Take a few minutes to read or, even better, listen to my interview with Souerwine. As I said, he’s extremely honest and thoughtful, giving you more than enough information to label, or relabel, the company’s products as you see fit.