By Heather Seftel-Kirk, FedHealthIT Magazine Contributing Author
Jeremy Fisher is a founding partner of Definitive Logic Corporation (DL) and continues to manage the company’s operations and growth. As a co-founder, Mr. Fisher oversees all aspects of DL’s business and has led the growth of the company from its inception to today, a 105+ employee $20M/year revenue business providing Health IT, Financial Management, and Real Estate Solutions to Federal and DoD clients. DL’s Health IT Practice delivers insight, time savings and optimization to clinical operations using advanced data management and analytics techniques.
FedHealthIT: What are some of the challenges of competing as a small business and how do you define your own opportunities?
Jeremy Fisher: It can be difficult for small businesses to approach new customers and new projects for several reasons, including a lack of experience in their line of business, not knowing their pain points, and most importantly, not knowing how to discover the knowledge they need to propose a solution. Meeting with potential clients and really getting to know their business is the only real way to overcome these issues. White papers, demonstrations, conferences, and other forms of outreach can be used but the key is to find ways to engage with customers. Having technical solutions to offer is fine, but you need to buy into the idea that you’re there to solve business challenges and to provide solutions. You want to study the overall agency by understanding their strategic plan and initiatives. Once you’ve identified their challenges, you will be able to relate to your previous experience and best practices refined at other agencies and capabilities you’ve demonstrated there.
Once the solution is discovered and proposed, the small business needs to come prepared with vehicles that offer the most advantageous and easiest path for the customer. SB’s have to be prepared with multiple options including BPAs, IDIQs, GWACs, schedules, and prime contracts with room for additional work, which may require a significant investment in time and money without any guaranteed work.
It can also be valuable to recommend discriminators such as ISO or CMMI, certification or degrees among your people, or to highlight specific resumes that show your qualifications and back up your expertise. That may eliminate some of the competition for their lack of these assets.
FedHealthIT: Are there specific key strategies important for small business?
Jeremy Fisher: There are two key strategies that are often overlooked. The first is taking time to recruit and hire the best people you can, even if you don’t need them. You never know when a contract or opportunity will hit and you’ll need good people to run it. Once you have them, you want to keep them. That means spending time understanding what motivates each one individually and then assembling the right mix of money, upward mobility, enjoyable work, and the work environment to keep them motivated and engaged.
The other element that can be challenging for a small business is focus. We all know we should develop a niche and be very disciplined about focusing on it. That can be a recipe for near term failure. There is nothing wrong with making an opportunity that has a high win probability be the means to your end. For instance, there may only be one or two health and business analytics opportunities a year in the agencies into which you have reach and you may have to wait years for them to be awarded. Along comes an opportunity to do some infrastructure work (not your niche) and you decide to take it on because it will serve as your point of entry to the customer. And not to mention, you’re building and retaining your team and corporate infrastructure to take position properly yourself for your niche work. There is nothing wrong with this but it’s important to take time once a year to refocus and be sure these non-niche projects are not taking you off track from your intended strategic path.
FedHealthIT: What are some of the trends you have identified?
Jeremy Fisher: In 2010, the government made a commitment to move to the cloud but not all of them have made it there yet. This means a lot of that movement is still to come. We’ve seen some bold moves on the part of industry vendors who are paying incentives now only for cloud-based implementation which will help push things forward but the reality is that the cloud systems are just recently achieving the level of certification needed to host much of the government’s data. There is a definite advantages available to those who can demonstrate skill and knowledge in the cloud and in transitioning there.
The other element that will be key as agencies move to the cloud is cyber security. The security postures of agencies are generally better than 2 years ago but certainly not perfect and anyone who can improve or tighten these postures has an advantage. The very fact that there are now cyber security and DHS cyber security tracks at various colleges reflects the growing demand in this industry.
The other opportunity that exists, and is a trend we expect to see catch on more, is in the area of data mining. Across the board, government talks about predicting trends but agencies rarely possess the understanding or the technical capabilities to really move forward. They often integrate the terms data mining or machine learning into RFPs but true results are rarely realized. In health for instance, predictive understanding at the patient or physician level has not been realized yet. There is a wealth of text-based data, and other operational level data in EHRs and clinical systems that is the true story behind providing care, yet disparate systems, data sets, and providers are not conducive to effective data mining. Using mathematical models to drive change towards better health policies, procedures, materials, use of pharmaceuticals, and methods of insurance is the state of the art. Using the outcomes of these models to drive change, reduce variation, and increase the use of evidence-based medicine will produce positive outcomes for all that experience the healthcare system.