ABOUT THE VENDOR
BroadVision is a provider of enterprise business portal applications. Global companies use BroadVision as the basis for their enterprise business portal initiatives -- using the Web and wireless devices to unify and extend an enterprise's applications, information, and business processes to serve its employees, partners, and customers in a personalized and collaborative way.
ABOUT THE CUSTOMER
Highmark Inc. serves more than 20 million people nationwide and ranks among the country's top health insurers. Highmark was created in 1996 through the consolidation of Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Blue Shield. Highmark's product portfolio includes traditional health insurance coverage, managed care health plans, life and casualty insurance, and dental and vision programs. The company does business as Highmark Blue Cross Shield in Western Pennsylvania, where it has more than 2.5 million members. Throughout the rest of the state, Highmark does business as Pennsylvania Blue Shield, working with the Blue Cross plans located in the Central, Eastern, and Northeastern regions.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
BroadVision enterprise business portal applications are helping Highmark reduce maintenance costs and provide more personalized health services. Pennsylvania Blue Shield members can now receive personalized health-related content based on their individual
Several years ago, Highmark's senior management adopted a very customer-focused strategy, and began looking at CRM solutions to meet their customers' needs. SearchCRM spoke with Mr. Kim Bellard, vice president of e-marketing and CRM at Highmark, about the project.
SearchCRM: Did you already have any CRM implemented when you were looking at BroadVision?
Bellard: At that time, no. Since that time we've spearheaded several initiatives around CRM. The ones that I'm responsible for largely relate around our Web initiatives -- for example, the launching of our member portals, where consumers can log in and get a variety of personalized content, have a large number of self-service options, and have a rich array of health management information and services.
SearchCRM: How did you choose BroadVision?
Bellard: We formally looked at 10 or 20 different vendors. We did an RFP process that narrowed it down to 5 or 10, and ended up choosing BroadVision. We thought their personalization capabilities were superior to the other vendors.
SearchCRM: Was it challenging to evaluate so many vendors?
Bellard: Oh, sure. We looked at lots of vendors for a lot of different things. We're one of the largest Blue plans, so a lot of people talk to us to find out what we're doing and how they can help us. We probably talk to a vendor a week. So we're pretty used to sifting through the vendors' spiels and figuring out what's of value to us. Not that we haven't made mistakes, but we're learning all the time.
SearchCRM: How was the BroadVision solution implemented?
Bellard: We've done BroadVision in a couple of phases. For our first release of the member portal, which was part of a bigger initiative, we brought BroadVision in to help us with the personalization we wanted to achieve. The second phase was just launched this last April, where we used additional BroadVision software to increase the flexibility of our site and to allow more of the business owners and my staff to manage the site without the need for many programming resources.
All of our implementations have been compressed time frames with a lot of hard work on both the Highmark side and the vendor side. They've all been delivered successfully, on time and on budget, but certainly it took a lot of heroic efforts on everyone's part.
For example, take the original release. Our business has two renewal cycles -- January 1 and July 1. We wanted to be in the marketplace for our July 1 renewals, which meant that we had to be live in May. We didn't actually pick a vendor until January of that year, so we really had three months to totally rewrite everything and build a lot of new things and get up and running.
SearchCRM: What were some of the other challenges to the implementation?
Bellard: We have an array of back end systems that support our business -- our membership system, our client information system, our billing system, and so on. So we had to work to make all of our Web applications connect up with all of these. These are big mainframe systems that are in some cases five, ten, twenty, thirty years old, so trying to make all those integrations work was a big task for us.
SearchCRM: Did you experience any internal resistance?
Bellard: Yes and no. The no comes from the fact that these projects have had very vigorous executive office support. That being said, most of the people with whom we needed to work were doing other things before and continued to do other things, so we had to do a good job of managing priorities. It wasn't that people didn't want to do it, but like at most companies, everybody's already working at 110% capacity, and when you throw in a big project like this, you start to get some pushback.
SearchCRM: So what did you do about that?
Bellard: We learned how to negotiate where possible and get interference from above when necessary.
SearchCRM: Have you seen ROI?
Bellard: We haven't tracked ROI directly. We're looking at this as more of a strategic initiative. We believe that the marketplace will come here over time, but in the short term, we have not seen the kind of traffic and savings that we're expecting to see here over time. We have 60 years of training people that they should contact us on the phone, and we have to reorient people's mindframes that now you can do 27/7 self service instead of picking up the phone.
SearchCRM: Do you have any success measures?
Bellard: We track about 50,000 members a month to our Web site. We've got three million members, so that's not a huge percentage, but for example, we have an online provider directory, and we probably get five or six hundred thousand visits a year to that. Those are either people who don't have to call us for a paper directory, or who don't have to use a paper directory that they have at home that may be outdated. So we're seeing significant use of things that would otherwise cost us significant staff time and/or paper.
SearchCRM: Do you have advice for other companies thinking of starting a similar project?
Bellard: First, make sure that you have it clearly understood what you want to accomplish. Second, realize that this is not a trivial investment; to do it right costs some significant dollars. Third, understand that those resource needs don't go away once the project is built.
Linda Formichelli's writing has appeared in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at email@example.com, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net
This was first published in July 2002