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Middle East Business Outlook for 2023 

These five practices will continue to drive uncommon growth in the region in the year ahead.

The Middle East is set for success and growth in 2023, even as businesses in other parts of the world face more challenges. Its importance as a hub for global trade is growing and companies are attracting more significant investments and talent. Overall, the bar is rising as the region takes a more prominent place on the global stage. 

That combination is breeding optimism and ambition throughout the GCC region. We’ve identified five opportunity areas companies should consider so that they can take part in that growth. 

1. Rebalancing Transformation Strategies, Making Them More Human and Less Digital 

Human centricity should be at the heart of any transformation efforts. Organizations should be putting people–customers, employees, investors and communities–at the heart of their strategies and evolving from the inside out.  

Digital is still essential, of course. But the goal isn’t to become more digital–it’s to become better organizations. The most progressive companies recognize the difference. The first question is no longer, “What technology should we invest in?”, it’s “What do our people need to be more productive, and how can we best support that?” And with this human-centric approach, companies are redefining what it means to be a modern enterprise. 

2. Defining Purpose Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Lens 

Environmental, social and governance policies are growing in importance, shaping businesses worldwide. But here, the emphasis is somewhat different. Organizations in the Middle East are more focused on sustainable development goals. These 17 global SDGs, set by the United Nations to achieve by 2030, matter more than the ESG goals devised by individual companies. 

Governments are setting the vision, sometimes with breathtaking ambition. The UAE, for example, has excelled, working SDGs into its national agenda. And it’s paying especially close attention to the guidelines for developing growth and innovation. This approach reflects its national ideals and challenges many people’s perceptions of the priorities of a Middle Eastern nation. Both these focus areas are now enshrined in the SDGs as it moves toward turning commitments into action. 

For companies, it’s inherently more confusing than simply delineating a strategy that best suits them. So, companies are plunging in with trial-and-error gusto as each tries to find a path forward. They want to comply, of course, and successfully navigate among many shifting government mandates. But they also want to do so in ways that build on their individual purpose, controlling what is theirs to control. They face intense pressure as they make these decisions–from employees, customers, investors, NGOs and regional communities. As they realize they don’t have to align with every SDG, the most forward-thinking companies choose the goals they can best contribute to and embed those into their purpose and strategies.  

For example, we’ll see continued growth in sustainable travel and tourism, with companies carefully examining how people’s hotels, itineraries and experiences impact the entire value chain. And since the region is heavily dependent on foreign investors, there will be greater efforts to demonstrate that companies act responsibly. 

3. Investing in the Start-Up Ecosystem 

The region is on track to produce a substantial number of unicorns in the next ten years. Uber, for example, recently scooped up Careem, based in the UAE, for $3.1 billion. And companies like Kitopi, a cloud-kitchen company; Fawry, an Egyptian fin-tech company; and Swvl, a mass transit system, are all in the $1 billion valuation club. 

This start-up ecosystem’s emergence encourages larger companies to chase business innovations. They’re making strategic bets on new business models. We see companies striving for greater agility. They’re using pod-based innovation, for example, as they look for new ways to collaborate. They’re more deliberate in efforts to break down silos and optimize spending. And they’re more likely to pursue joint ventures.  

4. Creating Data-driven Experiences That are Customized for Audiences  

Digital thinking continues to be the lifeblood of business. But–as is true in C-suites around the world–leaders in the Middle East recognize that data is only valuable when used strategically.  

People in the Middle East, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are among the most connected and digitally savvy in the world. Consumers want things now. They expect a seamless brand experience. They want holistic omnichannel experiences with personalized communication at every stage of the purchasing funnel. Now that brands have access to more customer data, it’s imperative to use this to unlock the opportunities it presents–delivering very tailored, specific products and personalized messages and communications. 

That means moving beyond broader mass-marketing tactics that simply target groups like millennials and Gen Z. Yes, the youth market is intensely significant in the Middle East. But younger consumers only spend on things they care deeply about. They prize authenticity in the companies, brands and influencers they deal with.  

Prophet’s recent Gen Z research finds that younger people are increasingly determined to curate their own digital experience. They want to connect with others that share their values and are eager to balance digital interactions with those that are human. 

5. Designing an Employee Experience that Delivers Well-Being 

More traditional leaders may still roll their eyes at the expansive responsibility of providing for employee well-being. But unless they understand how holistic well-being is fast becoming a requirement for job seekers, they won’t be able to gain a hiring advantage.  

Health is now the ultimate headline. People have had the chance to re-evaluate what’s important and possible in their lives. They’re fed up with outdated norms like the 9-5 schedule. They’re more open about burnout, chronic stress and fatigue. Employees are less willing to sacrifice their physical, mental and social health for their job.  

In the UAE, the government has set the way forward with a shorter working week–at 4.5 days–to help employees achieve a healthier work/life balance. Such steps allow organizations to re-energize employees, so they can become more productive and innovative. And it also helps retain talent long term. Enterprises are beginning to understand that it is their people that make companies what they are–and it’s essential to take better care of those workers. 

Employee experience design is a rapidly growing discipline. It’s how organizations can maximize their advantage in the war for talent and take advantage of seismic shifts in working patterns. When employee experience becomes a central pillar in a company’s people strategy, aligning with brands, business strategy and customer experience is easier.  


FINAL THOUGHTS

The Middle East has distinct competitive advantages, positioning it for growth in the foreseeable future. Relatively insulated from current global challenges and replete with an influx of talent, businesses here can–and should–be optimistic. They’re looking for new ways to increase revenues and find uncommon growth, outperforming other regions. 

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Financial Services Trends We’ll Be Watching in 2023 

There are many reasons why 2023 can – and very much should – be the year of relentless relevance in financial services.

It’s that time of year again, when we stick our necks out to envision what’s coming for financial services in 2023. You don’t have to be clairvoyant to know that there will be more disruption and plenty of innovation. The tightening economic landscape means that banks, insurers and wealth and asset managers will need to prioritize investments that deliver results in the near term, even as they look to establish strong foundations for long-term transformation and ongoing innovation.  

1. Resilience Through Relevance Becomes the Priority  

Yes, customers are likely to be more careful with their spending in 2023. But, no, customer experience will not become less important. Financial services firms should “buy the dip” by continuing to fund innovation programs.  

Market experience and research from Harvard Business Review tell us that firms that retain their focus on and continue to invest in innovation (especially in those areas of relatively low opportunity cost) during times of economic uncertainty significantly outperform their peers in sales and profit growth. And many well-known brands and market leaders have fully reinvented themselves during downturns, by focusing relentlessly on resilience and retaining their relevance.  

For large financial services firms, they must overcome the common tendency to solve their own internal business problems rather than solving authentic customer problems, as broad and evolving as those can be. Showing empathy and aligning with customer values can help brands stay relevant and differentiate during tough times. That means defining the corporate purpose in terms that are meaningful to customers, a topic we cover in more detail here. Such clarity is especially important in embedded finance and other areas of disruption, where established brands must define their role.  

2. Mega-Growth Comes from Sub-Categories  

When it comes to reaching new segments, many financial services companies are finding success with tailored offers that can create separation from the primary brand and the competition. As Prophet Vice Chairman David Aaker has written in his book, “Instead of promoting the superiority of a brand, create a subcategory with new or markedly superior customer experiences or brand relationships to create barriers to competitors.”  

Sub-categories are promising because they allow incumbent brands to go into new places. And there are many potential opportunities:  

  • Banks offering credit and other services tailored to small business categories
  • Insurers launching digital policies for millennials and Gen Z 
  • Wealth managers focusing on simpler income protection products and decumulation strategies  

There has been considerable market action along these lines in recent years: Some sub-category explorations and extensions have been successful in gaining traction, while others have delivered sub-optimal results, while also producing ample learnings that can be applied to future endeavors.  

We’ll give David Aaker the last word here: “Subcategory-driven growth has exploded in the digital era because of technological advances and the fast, inexpensive market access made possible by e-commerce and digital communication.” That trend will surely continue in 2023 and beyond.  

3. Brands Will Define Their Roles in the Embedded Finance Value Chain  

Critical mass may still be a few years off, but the days of nearly all finance being delivered as-a-service are getting close. Embedded finance is on the same trajectory that made “digital marketing” just “marketing” and “mobile phones” just “phones”. 

According to recent research, the U.S. embedded finance industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.5% from 2022 through 2029, reaching $212 billion by 2029. Plaid expects a 10x jump in embedded finance revenue from 2020 to 2025. We expect the growth of embedded finance to be nearly recession-proof.  

At the center of this growth is the shift from standalone products to solutions delivered at the point of need. After all, customers don’t want a credit card or an insurance policy, but rather an integrated payments experience that streamlines purchasing and provides protections for important purchases. We believe that a primary way to differentiate in the embedded finance space is to start with the customer and design products and experiences around their needs and relevant to their financial journey. 

The next 12 months will see plenty of milestones. Investment advice is everywhere and easily hopping over industry boundaries. Consider how DriveWealth is offering advice for health savings accounts (HSAs).  

The tipping point for mass adoption of embedded finance is clearly getting closer and we very well may reach it in 2023. Financial services organizations that start with deep insights into the needs of customers’ financial journeys and that engage successfully in ecosystems will be best positioned to win the innovation game in the embedded era.  

4. Holistic Wellness Matters as Much to Your Employees as Your Customers   

For many financial services institutions, customers are your employees. A weakening macroeconomic environment will only intensify the need for greater wellness – including physical, mental and financial wellness. There’s a risk that employers may cut programs because of cost pressures in a recessionary environment; that would be a mistake in our view. While wellness may seem a consumer hot topic du jour, financial firms should recognize that wellness equates to confidence and security, which is what consumers are looking for when they buy financial services products.      

We expect to see more financial services firms expand their content, education and advisory offerings (via both in-person and Robo channels) for the simple reason that more people need such services. That’s true at every level of the market; from high-net-worth families that want multi-generational wealth distribution strategies to younger consumers just starting their careers and seeking higher degrees of financial literacy and basic tools for budgeting, savings and investing. To realize the benefits, banks, insurers and others will need to master their activation strategies.  

Financial services firms keying on wellness would do well to understand the complex linkages between mental health and financial wellness. For instance, financial stress is the number-one driver of poor mental health among employees, according to research from MetLife. Because dynamic relationships between different types of wellness play out for both customers and employees, the group insurance and employee benefits space is seeing more innovation, much of it focused on driving well-being. For example, the Morgan Stanley at Work program offers holistic features for both financial security and empowerment.  

5. Human Capital and Strong Cultures Deliver Even More Competitive Advantage    

Post-COVID, more companies have rediscovered the power of their people (okay, maybe not Twitter). It’s more than companies having to compete for scarce talent. Rather, those firms that embrace cultures of learning, creativity and flexibility typically realize better results in terms of customer-centric innovation. And it’s not a matter of choosing to invest in tech or people, but rather getting the right people in place to boost returns on your tech investments.  For all of these reasons, 2023 will not be the time to cut back on learning, development and upskilling/reskilling programs. These initiatives help strengthen cultures and create a more resilient workforce, just what financial services firms will need to thrive in the near term.  

Whether and to what extent inflation or a recession impact the job market remains to be seen. But it’s possible that wage increases may rise faster than price increases. And financial services firms have an opportunity to hire more tech-savvy talent after widespread Silicon Valley layoffs; this is another opportunity to “buy the dip.”  

But even if there is more talent available, banks and others must ensure their cultures are attractive to the right type of talent. Typically, that means emphasizing collaboration and taking a human-centric approach. Our research into the Collaborative Advantage shows that higher levels of teamwork enrich individuals, building new skills that increase engagement and job satisfaction – what financial services firms need to complete in a dynamic market landscape today. 

6. Balancing ESG Expectations With Reality  

While the bright spotlight on environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters will not dim significantly in the coming year, attention will shift toward closer brand scrutiny, both in terms of greenwashing and the authenticity of their ESG claims. More companies – including the “big 6” banks that have aligned to the Paris Agreement – will be evaluated in terms of how well they are “walking the walk” relative to their commitments. That scrutiny will come not just from regulators but the full range of stakeholders, including employees, investors, and clients and customers, who will not react well to big gaps between brand perceptions and actual ESG performance.  

Tensions and contradictions will be called out. For instance, many of the firms marketing green products and aiming for inclusion in ESG funds and indexes also continue to underwrite fossil fuel infrastructure. No wonder some banks are considering leaving industry alliances.  

Financial services firms should be thoughtful in understanding their ESG efforts from a broader range of perspectives. Certainly, there will be more focus on the “S” or social dimension “People well-being” is one potential lens for evaluating commitments and monitoring progress. For instance, the employee experience can be viewed in terms of its social impacts, as can loan portfolios’ inclusion of minority-owned businesses.  

Financial services firms should not shy away from articulating their value relative to ESG, but they must be careful about mere virtue signaling. They should also look to get beyond compliance focus, though of course, lawyers are going to restrict what can be said about green offerings. Further, firms will need to become experts in ESG data and reporting, not least because more detailed disclosures are coming soon.   


FINAL THOUGHTS

Anchoring on what matters most to your stakeholders, especially your customers, will provide a tangible edge in a tough market in 2023. From sub-category extensions and embedded finance to employee wellness and ESG, there are many reasons why 2023 can be – and very much should be – the year of relentless relevance in financial services.   

Contact our financial services team today. We’d love to talk about what transformation can look like at your organization in 2023. 

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Five Healthcare Trends To Watch in 2023

Healthcare leaders can drive change in 2023 by thinking boldly and targeting investments in the following trending healthcare spaces.

Looking ahead to 2023 in healthcare, the big macroeconomic clouds on the horizon make for a less than cheery outlook. The combination of an economic downturn and higher costs will be a dominant theme for the entire healthcare industry and a huge challenge for organizations across hospitals, health systems and device makers, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences companies, as well as players in technology. 

Still, taking the glass-half-full view, we see many opportunities for leaders across the business to drive operational discipline and innovation by focusing on investments that matter most in driving better outcomes for all stakeholders. As we point out in our transformation playbook, changemakers that push beyond the many common barriers to innovation can achieve a great deal. Yes, the economic pressures will be greater. But 2023 will see plenty more disruption – and thus plenty of growth opportunities – as our annual list of healthcare trends below makes clear.  

1. Holistic Wellness Solutions Continue to Influence the Market  

Successful one-off wellness apps and small niche solutions are adopted by large employers and payers to enhance benefits programs and give people more options to live healthier lives. As consumers adopt wearable data trackers in support of that goal, they will increasingly choose to work with healthcare organizations that are committed to holistic wellness.  

 It’s not about the gadgetry, but rather driving good outcomes, particularly relative to social determinants of health (SDoH) and patients’ lived experiences. The start-ups and tech firms with the most attractive and powerful solutions will achieve rapid scale by going the B2B2C route. We think the biggest winners will emerge in in-home diagnostics, preventative health opportunities (e.g., perimenopausal women and metabolism and nutrition) and mental health, which will be of interest to large employers, as well as individuals. Apps and widgets that empower individuals with their own data, plus timely prompts and attractive incentives, will crack the code on growth.  

2. Venture Capital Focuses on the Best and Brightest  

While we expect to see a few big winners among tech players, most firms will face a tighter funding landscape and more intense due diligence. Venture capital, which has been flowing freely and voluminously for years, will become less available as investors scrutinize business models more closely and back only the best and brightest.  

 We suspect the firms that attract funding will be those that focus on narrowly defined patient cohorts already engaged in self-monitoring behaviors and where innovation can move the needle on cost control or value delivery. Those that can collect real-world data from outside the four corners of traditional clinical environments, and integrate seamlessly into core systems, will be specially well positioned to attract funding and potential partners. Chronic disease management, patient engagement and population health solutions will also be priorities because there is clear clinical and financial upside in all these areas.  

3. The Workforce Shortage Worsens as a Full-Blown Crisis  

With continuing burnout among healthcare workers, large provider organizations face issues with care quality and deteriorating patient experiences. The supply-demand fundamentals are inescapable: There are simply not enough doctors, nurses and paraprofessionals – not to mention data scientists, business analysts and experience designers – to fill all the vacancies. 

However, there are multiple potential solutions to resolving talent shortfalls. Workforce optimization and workflow efficiency are necessary, so too automation and more advanced technology in everything from reading x-rays to identifying payment fraud. More support for patient self-monitoring, continued expansion of telehealth and in-home care will also help alleviate chronic talent shortages. There’s also a large cohort of tech-savvy talent looking for jobs with a higher mission after layoffs from Silicon Valley giants.  

4. Value-Based Care Models Become Innovation Labs  

The inevitable momentum toward value-based continues. More than 40% of U.S. healthcare reimbursement now has some value-based component, a proportion that will only rise in 2023 and beyond. Though pockets of resistance remain, more provider organizations will advance and mature their Value-Based Care capabilities. And they’ll do so on several fronts. More sustained preventative outreach efforts to underserved, high-risk and high-cost populations for routine screenings will continue producing strong results. Shared-incentive contracting will be more attractive for capital-intensive equipment, such as MRI machines and CT scanners.  

Sophisticated technology usage will be a hallmark of VBC winners. Consider how the burden on the workforce could be reduced with digital apps and AI-enabled patient engagements leveraging HIPAA-compliant natural language processing on existing voice platforms (e.g., Alexa). Such applications also free clinicians to operate at the top of their licenses. The next year will see many pilots of creative concepts in the space.  

The tightening economic backdrop, alongside rising consumer expectations, more powerful technology and the prevalence of chronic conditions, will fuel further adoption of VBC models. Large employers wanting to know what they are getting from higher rates will be yet another prompt for innovation.  

5. Consolidation Increases as Non-Traditional Players Press on  

Challenging macroeconomic conditions will drive more consolidation and spark aggressive plays from tech platforms and large retailers. In this sense, 2023 will look a lot like recent years. Retailers and other non-traditional players are cracking the code on healthcare, faster than healthcare players are cracking the code on consumerism.  Amazon, Walmart and other large players will continue experimenting on their own, buying up promising ventures and looking for partners that can further their huge ambitions.  

And their ambitions won’t shrink just because the economy does. If you already thought these companies were relentless competitors when the economy was good, then you can expect them to press their advantages even more forcefully in pursuit of ever greater market share as cost and capital pressures rise for others.  


FINAL THOUGHTS

The healthcare industry has seen plenty of change during the last few years. The next year will continue that trend. And as challenging as the economic conditions will be, healthcare leaders can drive change for the better by thinking boldly and targeting investments in the most promising areas of opportunity.  

Contact our healthcare team today. We’d love to talk about the transformation opportunities at your organization. 

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5 Common Mistakes in Managing Healthcare Data Products

How healthcare organizations can avoid and navigate data pitfalls while building data products.

As we embark on another chapter of technology adoption, moving from the Internet of Things (IoT) to web3 and the metaverse, and as a greater degree of interoperability takes hold, data in all things healthcare is no longer a differentiator but a table stake.  As we cover in our research, “Transforming Healthcare: The Changemaker Playbook,” the ongoing healthcare data revolution opens the opportunity to deliver better clinical decisions, faster and more appropriate care delivery and ultimately more equity and context to patient treatment. Everyone by now knows that by using data and managing it the right way, organizations will see costs go down and both clinical and business processes get smarter and more efficient. However, where does data specific to your needs come from?  Who’s generating it, curating it and selling it?   

There is a massive gap emerging in organizations as it relates to managing and extracting value from their data, namely the productization of it. Yes, there are seasoned players in the healthcare data space such as Optum, Merative and IQVIA that have a high degree of maturity as it relates to data-as-a-product.  But there are also new entrants, such as growing physician groups, amassing unique and compelling data sets, as well as device and equipment manufacturers, whose smart products are also accumulating data.   

We are finding that these fringe players in healthcare data are extremely eclectic as it relates to their product management capabilities with data. These organizations are oftentimes shining examples in product development with their core products (e.g. specialty practices, vital signs monitors, claims clearing houses, etc.), but when it comes to data-as-a-product, they are often overlooking a variety of fundamentals. These mistakes are having a dramatic impact on their ability to create value with data. Generally, we are seeing three categories of data products that exist in healthcare:  

3 Categories of Healthcare Data Products

  1. DaaS: Data as a Service – When you take raw or transformed data that can be sold or licensed to additional parties
  2. Data Resulting From a Feature – By utilizing features of an existing product or service to generate data that may be productized
  3. Algorithmic and Logic Based – Where you take data, apply logic and algorithms to it to give outputs or aid in decision making 

The following highlights a set of frequent mistakes to avoid when entering the healthcare data space.  
   

1. Prioritizing “More” Data Instead of Necessary Data 

Date range or depth are often things companies will tote as a major selling point. As you peel this back, we found that customers look for the quality and completeness of the essential data that they need to solve problems they’re working on.  

Focusing on who wants or needs this data, and why, is a critical question to answer when defining the data product. Adding lots of nice-to-have data sets to your product may not create customer value. Sophisticated customers who take the time to examine your data will often try to poke holes or find gaps that will impact their decision to purchase and adopt your product.   

2. Lack of Data Accessibility  

Whether your product is a database, web platform, App or API, thinking through the end-to-end customer journey is often a gap. Data is usually part of a broader workflow that combines multiple systems, tech stacks, integrations and processes.  

As you build your product, it’s crucial to envision the data’s entire journey. Make sure your customers can pull and access the data! Rarely does a customer only use a single data source, so being able to integrate and distribute with their other solutions is essential. Often data may need to be mapped to your customers’ existing data models. A helpful tip is understanding your customer’s personas, and their level of understanding and skills, as they will be the day-to-day people interacting with the data.   

3. Loose Data Governance Practices 

As your product’s data is generated or compiled, it is critical to creating a formal taxonomy (hierarchical grouping which gives structure and standardizes terminology). This allows you to keep track of the attribution (source, rights, ownership) of where the data comes from.  some of the things included in data taxonomy are clear definitions of what data means, whether those terms are generally accepted in your industry and knowledge of how to explain the data. Another critical element to data governance is understanding your meta-data. For example, it is essential to document things like time stamping, user, source, security, segmentation and IP rights. Data in healthcare can be sensitive with regulations and policies affiliated with it so understanding what is classified as HIPAA when data can remain identified or needs to be de-identified needs to be considered.  

There will be a number of team members working around your data (engineers, data scientists, database managers, statisticians, researchers, product managers, etc.), so creating a taxonomy and decision for access rights ensures the integrity of your data is preserved. Continuously auditing change logs and benchmarking data is essential and good hygiene. Furthermore, you need to ensure that this data is protected and that your business model for monetization is secure with accessibility. Whether it be in your technology or contract terms, protect your data’s IP. From the business and legal side of governance, your MSA, EULA and contract language (whatever is applicable to your product) need to clearly spell out ownership, give the right to anonymize, create derivate or redistribute data. Knowing where you are or what you can’t do must be relayed back to the product and technology development process.   

4. Data Analytics and Tools as an Afterthought 

Along with #2, we have found that customers want to generate more insights out of their data. This is often why clients ask for periodic data dumps or direct lines of access to the data. It is an important product decision to determine if and how much you want to invest in analytics and tools that enable your customers to generate more insights on their data.  

The more you understand their needs and what they are doing with the data outside of your product, the more you should consider what would make your product stickier if you built those capabilities in. These can be simple things like filtering, searching, scheduled reports or extracts or dashboards. We often see customers still taking data and using excel or tableau to generate basic insights that can be offered inside your product.   

5. Overly Technical Products Can Deter Adoption 

Knowing your user, their technical abilities and their thresholds should be accounted for in your product development process. User retention will suffer if it takes too long to develop skills and understanding to use your product. This will manifest itself with low user activity, as well as unsatisfied business stakeholders who made an investment in selecting and implementing your product. If you are building products that are technical in nature, be sure to engage that user type/ persona early-on and understand how big that sellable market is. Don’t expect a large population of non-technical people to easily embrace your product. You will get early and stronger usage with intuitive products, short-term implementation cycles and onboarding processes, FAQ/help documents and quality customer support offerings.   


FINAL THOUGHTS

As data, product and strategy experts, we have built and worked with numerous healthcare organizations that are challenged with building products that thrive in this rapidly evolving environment. Many companies that are in the early stages of building data product(s) are working through the prioritization of a backlog through current experiences – face a set of common obstacles.  

As a growth and transformation firm, we focus on partnering with our clients to enable the building of the highest quality products possible. Our specialization in healthcare, data and product management practices is a great resource to support you on your data product journey. We cover this subject more in our new report, but please reach out if you’d like to learn more. 

REPORT

Transforming Healthcare: The Changemaker Playbook

Tackling the top four areas ripe for innovation and transformation in healthcare, this report inspires action and impact with big-picture strategic ideas and tactical tips for driving change.

Change is hard, especially in healthcare. But in the sometimes lagging, but always vital industry, transformative change enables real people with real needs to live better lives. Not to mention, change strengthens bottom lines, improves investor returns and supports a more productive and sustainable society. That’s a powerful and synergistic business case to inspire all people that work in healthcare to take on the challenge of driving innovation.  

At face value, becoming a “changemaker,” can be daunting. It requires bravery and a clear sense of direction. This new report, from Prophet’s Healthcare team, was written to empower and guide healthcare’s future changemakers so they can ignite change in the industry and realize their transformation goals.  

Based on interviews with 29 senior leaders in healthcare, extensive market research and decades of experience helping healthcare organizations transform, “Transforming Healthcare: The Changemaker’s Playbook,” provides insights and recommendations to drive necessary change in healthcare.  

Download the report for: 

  • Deep dives into four areas ripe for innovation and transformation in healthcare:
    • The rise of connected and empowered consumers
    • The expansion of care outside the hospital
    • The ascendancy of Value-Based Care
    • The decentralization and democratization of data
  • Highly relevant commentary and insights from industry leaders across the ecosystem 
  • Digestible and achievable “next steps” for leaders seeking to become changemakers

Download
Transforming Healthcare: The Changemaker Playbook

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REPORT

Winning the Innovation Game in Banking

How incumbent banks can build resiliency by transforming their innovation engines to drive growth. 

Banks that go on offense and remain committed to innovation will have the competitive edge as the economy returns to growth cycles.

Based on ongoing market research and interviews with industry experts and executives, “Winning the Innovation Game in Banking,” provides insights for senior banking leaders seeking to re-energize their organization’s innovation engines. Specifically, this report:

  • Provides pragmatic actions for avoiding costly mistakes and translating innovation investments into market impact and improvements on the top line
  • Defines leading practices and proven frameworks that accelerate efforts to operationalize and scale innovation programs
  • Identifies the most promising market territories for innovation aligned to the growth agendas of incumbent banks

Download the report today. 

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Winning the Innovation Game in Banking

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Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!

VIDEO

Prophet Healthcare: Champions for Change

Find out how we help partners across the healthcare ecosystem transform care experiences, create new enterprises and build empathy-driven sustainable ways of working.

4 min

Summary

At Prophet, we believe the organizations that thrive in healthcare are those that dare to change the game – striving to improve human health, create better experiences, and make the best of care an enduring and sustainable reality for all.

Find out how we help partners across the healthcare ecosystem transform care experiences, create new enterprises and build empathy-driven sustainable ways of working. See our healthcare services.


VIDEO

A Human-Centered Approach to Digital Transformation

The point of digital transformation is not to become more digital; it is to become a better company.

2 min

Summary

Chan Suh, chief digital officer at Prophet, says that technology-led digital transformations often fall short of the intended impact. Instead, it should be steered by a purpose-led mission. At Prophet, we pull together our range of capabilities and expertise to help our clients transform from within. Learn more about Prophet’s approach to digital transformation in this blog.

Digital Transformation at Prophet

Prophet is a convergence accelerator and purpose-led transformation consultancy that will help you reimagine your firm, integrate and scale digital investments and drive real, defensible growth. We believe that to accelerate convergence we take your existing assets – such as data, brand, culture, business models – reimagine them for today’s customers and employees and look for new ways to integrate capabilities and talent with a reimagined sense of purpose. Then, we drive towards scale.

Get in touch today if you’d like to learn how to bring digital convergence moves to grow your organization.


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How Does an Economic Downturn Impact Your Transformation?

When recession fears increase, companies usually pull back. However, the smart ones know that navigating turbulence builds resilience and exposes growth opportunities. 

News that global markets are either in or inching toward a recession is creating uncertainty, causing many companies to consider pausing or reducing transformation initiatives. However, history has shown that challenging economic times can often lead to the urgency that stimulates profound innovation.  

For decades, recessions have accelerated change and given birth to giants. Some examples include Hewlett Packard and Hilton in the 1950s; Microsoft in the ‘70s; and new economy brands like Uber, WhatsApp, Venmo, Instagram, Airbnb, Slack and Dropbox all roared into life during the Great Recession, which began in 2008.  

New platforms and operating models–from the sharing economy to subscription models to crypto–rise in times of uncertainty. And legacy companies may have a competitive advantage if they have the right components in place. These unpredictable markets offer unexpected opportunities for established companies. Consumers develop new needs and behaviors causing competitors to change tactics and reveal new white space opportunities.  

We’re not saying it’s easy to shift course to address these changes, but those ready to step up to the challenge often find exceptional growth, even when competitors struggle. 

Incumbents can significantly capitalize on this advantage if they start to act more nimbly, leveraging their strengths and leaning into risk. In many cases, consumer trust in their brand proves invaluable, giving legacy companies permission to capitalize on new consumer behavior with new business models.  

Organizations that have already started transformation efforts have a clear advantage. Many that were proactive during the pandemic have positioned themselves in a way that increases their chances in achieving new growth. This is especially true as they emerge from the downturn. But these organizations will need to address the scope and renewed urgency of change within this market by meeting it head-on and accelerating their transformation. Recessions alone are transformational – altering the economy, consumers and the competitive landscape. Just as the pandemic required adapting to new ways of shopping, working and doing business, this new terrain will undoubtedly bring its own paradigm shifts. 

While accelerating is crucial, the environment transformation leaders currently face is rife with risk. Leaders need to unlock ways to confidently readjust their transformation strategy and approach. 

The challenge to not only transform, but to do so at an accelerated pace in a down economy, requires a new approach. Mike Leiser, Prophet’s chief transformation officer, recommends leaders take a uniquely human view through the lens of our Human-Centered Transformation Model™. This model requires a shift in thinking that will help organizations unlock and accelerate transformation.  

“Businesses don’t change,” he tells us. “People change, and people change businesses.” 

This is particularly true for legacy companies. They often have the capacity to fund transformation but need to overcome significant obstacles, including older operating models and antiquated talent incentives. We suggest starting with some hard questions about each interrelated dimension.

Organizational DNA Focus on Core Transformation Strategies and Driving Near-Term Value 

Consumer needs and behaviors are dramatically different than those pre-pandemic, and it’s unclear how today’s inflation and rising interest rates will affect them over the next down cycle. These fundamental shifts will require leaders to evaluate their transformation priorities and roadmaps. However, with all areas of corporate spending increasingly under the microscope, transformation leaders will be called to show immediate impact and results. Very few companies will have the luxury of thinking in long-term “moon shots”, prevalent in stronger economies.  

To get a better sense of potential changes, Prophet reached out to several experienced transformation leaders who have weathered the storm of a past recession. One such veteran is Stephen Crowley, former SVP of ATM technology & operations at Bank of America, who found himself in the eye of the financial crisis in 2008. 

Crowley explained that, at the time, ATM and check depositing was still a modest business. But when it transformed toward digitizing 25% of all checking deposits, the effort became a massive, yet pivotal play to differentiate itself from other banks. The company radically accelerated its timeline, moving up goals and pouring support into an entirely new way of operating ATMs and check processing centers. 

He shared his key lessons in connection with successfully doubling down on the vision:   

  1. If you want to focus on the business case around transformation in this economy, concentrate on customer experience–people can defect quickly in a downturn. For Crowley, that required standing in front of a thousand ATMs to watch customers make deposits.   
  1. Think about what kind of paradigm shift is happening and what’s transformational about the process itself. From a timing perspective, Bank of America was positioned to succeed where others had previously failed because smartphone technology had caught up to facilitate the transformation. 

Questions to Help Clarify Transformation Strategy:  

  • How are customer and employee behaviors shifting? Spending habits? Lifestyle changes? Priorities?  
  • Are competitors creating new growth opportunities that fall under our North Star? Are there opportunities to divest non-core businesses? 
  • Is there a compelling business case, measurement and governance model for the transformation strategy as costs are being cut? Will this transformation help drive growth during a recession? And beyond?  
  • Given market changes, are the transformation vision and roadmap still relevant? Can it be executed faster? 

Organizational Mind and Body: Manage the Skillsets and Muscles Required for Change 

Within this environment of unknowns, it’s critical to understand how organizations will continue to drive momentum on transformational initiatives. That’s where the mind–the skillsets–and body–the operating model to support transformation–come in. In doing so, it’s essential for leaders to go beyond just thinking about processes for transformation.  

Leaders must understand their organization’s aptitude for change, which requires addressing past successes, underlying culture and the values that are going to introduce agility – particularly as leaders seek to accelerate transformation in this down market. 

Many organizations are already on this path, thanks to the pandemic. In a matter of months, they provided their workforces with new flexibility and upskilled them with digital collaboration tools, maintaining and even increasing productivity. Many organizations also expanded digital and online capacities to strengthen customer relationships and reconfigure supply chains. They did this by leaning into change and building organizational muscle. These organizations now know–as do their employees–that they can get through the storm and thrive. It gives them the confidence to do more in this environment, although the demands for organizational change will continue to evolve. 

In an uncertain, cost-sensitive market, leaders need to encourage unexpected, rapid solutions. Therefore cross-organizational collaboration is essential fuel for accelerated transformation, allowing leaders and teams to break down silos to creatively build new solutions for value – giving them the ability to do (exponentially) more with less.  

While this is still a challenge for most companies, our recent research finds that the more organizations promote this cross-functional work, the more successful they are. Employees see themselves as more productive and value the personal and professional growth that collaboration brings. 

Secondly, the organizational mind needs to be primed to succeed amid risk, especially in a recession. “When you reward employees for healthy risk-taking, there’s a willingness to try new things,” says Matthew Perry, former vice president of foodservice sales at Kellogg Company. This pro-risk perspective allowed Perry to establish notable food product innovations during the Great Recession – many of which developed from rapid ideation and experimentation. 

Perry believes succeeding in a down market requires empowering the workforce with new skillsets and growth opportunities. There are some clear actionable “mind” focused areas organizations can address to ensure employees are able to weather a down market environment:   

  1. Reward employees with healthy risk-taking and willingness to try new ways of solving problems. This will be a stretch for some who might not be suited to this environment, but, with the right support, many will be more willing to try. 
  2. Empower your workforce with new skillsets and personal growth opportunities that directly relate to the transformation at hand, making their role more relevant and connected to it. Additionally, make it clear that these skills encourage personal growth no matter what the ultimate outcome is. This is especially meaningful in tough times. 
  3. Encourage employees to lean into collaborative and cross-disciplinary teamwork. This speaks to the “body” and allows teams to action and accelerate transformation. When the environment demands that all leaders do more with less, encouraging employees to lean into collaborative, cross-disciplinary teamwork is a win-win. 

Questions to Build the Organizational Mind and Body: 

  • Do structures support transformation in an uncertain and fast-changing environment?  
  • What skills do we need to get where we need to be? 
  • Are teams and employees empowered to collaborate quickly to produce unexpected solutions in the face of market challenges? 
  • Where can more agility, integration and experimentation be encouraged? How are hybrid work policies helping or hindering collaboration? 
  • How are employees rewarded for actively stretching skillsets? For taking risks? 

Organizational Soul: Design Communication for Intentional Motivation, Connection and Comprehension 

Employees are every organization’s greatest resource. Teams who embrace and thrive during tumultuous times are key to transformational momentum. That’s why tracking and managing morale around transformation efforts is essential–the entire workforce is paying attention to what leaders say and what they do.

The past several years of change have often left employees too cynical to believe in transformational efforts. Couple this with informal information, and rumor mills go into overdrive, often based on real fears. “Will there be layoffs? Am I safe here?” It creates a significant barrier to realizing transformational goals. 

Communication is the best tool to emotionally manage change and build morale. We’ve found it’s essential to provide clear, consistent communication about the strategy, and it’s also important to honestly and transparently report how the transformation is going. Most of all, leaders must acknowledge all the people impacted by the change. Employees should feel connected and a part of it all. Taken together, this builds a culture of resiliency. 

Prophet’s recent research reveals a common trend: Accelerating transformation requires a motivated workforce with democratized decision-making. Leaders need to lean on mid-level and junior-level employees more heavily, meaning morale needs to be nurtured more carefully. 

Deepak Agarwal chief information officer at the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, shares that leading the digital transformation of a 27 thousand employee school district wouldn’t have been possible without an emphasis on strong communication. From 2008 to 2012, thousands of employees needed to adopt an entirely new set of operational and educational tools. He believes that the COVID-19 era has created a greater need for communication.  

“Leaders need to ask how they can make employees’ work and lives better as they support and adopt transformation initiatives,” he says. 

Agarwal sees three interrelated ways he successfully motivates colleagues and teams: 

  1. Leaders must provide strong communication systems and clear messaging about what changes are happening and when. Doing so will help employees engage during transformation. 
  2. Create better knowledge management systems to educate employees and train them. 
  3. Give employees better feedback tools so leaders can monitor how employees are feeling about the change.  

This approach allows employees to feel valued, valuable and motivated to drive transformation forward.   

Questions to Inspire Morale: 

  • How well are transformation messages getting through? How thoroughly do all employees understand progress reports? 
  • What is the process for making shifts in messaging when required? 
  • What can leaders do differently to strengthen the purposeful connection between employees and the transformation? 

Learn how to turn up your business in a downturn economy with Prophet’s Transformation Training.

Over the course of a one-day session, our team of Transformation professionals will evaluate your organization’s readiness for innovation and uncover near-term opportunities to accelerate your growth.

Please contact Kristen Groh, senior transformation partner, to host a Transformation Training with your team today!



FINAL THOUGHTS

As leaders look ahead to the next year, they will need to acknowledge that the latitude for risk is narrowing. Although nothing is certain, applying a Human-Centered Transformation Model™ allows leaders, particularly incumbents, to be more precise about their transformation. Transformations do pose risks, but there’s also a cost to failing to transform. Changing markets and customers require organizations that change, too. And those that transform effectively will achieve new growth and win against the competition. 

VIDEO

Branding in the Digital Age

Branding in the digital age requires rethinking and innovating experiences.

2 min

Summary

Chan Suh, chief digital officer at Prophet, shares how the firm’s heritage in branding has positioned our teams to tackle digital transformation challenges in today’s dynamic market. We blend science and art; technology and human understanding. Learn more about Prophet’s holistic and human-centered approach to transformation. For more on digital convergence, check out this blog.

Digital Transformation at Prophet

Prophet is a convergence accelerator and purpose-led transformation consultancy that will help you reimagine your firm, integrate and scale digital investments, and drive real, defensible growth. We believe that to accelerate convergence we take your existing assets – such as data, brand, culture, business models – reimagine them for today’s customers and employees and look for new ways to integrate capabilities and talent with a reimagined sense of purpose. Then, we drive towards scale.

Get in touch today if you’d like to learn how to bring digital convergence moves to grow your organization.


WEBCAST

Under the Covers of Brand and Demand: A Love Story

Learn how marketing leaders can break down silos and turn their departments into growth machines. 

58 min

Summary

Marketers are under intense pressure to make every dollar count, prove return and drive impact. That pressure can create competition between brand marketing and demand generation efforts for prioritization and funding, undercutting growth and harming performance.     

This led us to wonder: How can companies rewrite that rivalry and turn it into a love story where everyone wins?    

Prophet’s Marketing and Sales Practice leaders join executives from T. Rowe Price, Trane Commercial Americas, and Salesforce to discuss the results of our latest global research report, Brand and Demand Marketing: A Love Story.   

We asked 500+ global marketing and advertising leaders how they are breaking down silos and balancing brand and demand marketing within their organizations. Watch the webinar to learn how to build agile marketing organizations that are customer-centric, aligned to business objectives and how to balance brand and demand marketing. 

Key Takeaways

Marketers are under intense pressure to make every dollar count, prove return and drive impact. That pressure can create competition between brand marketing and demand generation efforts for prioritization and funding, undercutting growth and harming performance.  

Through our research we learned the most effective marketers follow four common principles: 

  • Anchor Marketing Investment in Business Objectives 
  • Experiment to Win 
  • Build a Modern Marketing Organization 
  • Put the Customer at the Center 

Hosts and Panelists

  • David Novak, Senior Partner, Prophet   
  • Mat Zucker, Senior Partner, Prophet
  • Theresa McLaughlin, Head of Global Marketing & Digital Solutions, T. Rowe Price  
  • Portia Mount, VP of Marketing at Trane Commercial Americas  
  • Paul Stoddart, Chief Marketing Officer Customer Success, Salesforce  

Contact us to learn how Prophet can help you overcome common challenges while integrating brand and demand marketing capabilities.   

BLOG

How Financial Services Brands Can Position Themselves for the Next Growth Cycle 

When charting your next growth move, here are three ways smart financial services brands are already preparing for what comes next.  

So far, this economic cycle is so loaded with 1970s throwbacks like soaring gasoline prices, inflation, and interest rates that we half expect to see a resurgence of the Burt Reynolds mustache and tie-dye ponchos. Whether we are at the beginning of the next Great Recession or just a minor downturn, history tells us that when brands scale back investments in growth, they typically end up with regrets. This is because when the next growth cycle begins, they tend to trail the field as competitors capture significant opportunities.  

For financial services companies, the current times seem particularly dire. CMOs in this industry are increasingly less optimistic, with 44% of those in banking, insurance and finance saying they are less upbeat about the U.S. economy compared to 39% of all CMOs. No one is happy about saying goodbye to the sizzling stock market, red-hot housing sales or consumer spending swagger. 

Scary? Maybe. Time to invest in growth? History resoundingly says yes.  

Research shows that companies who double down on defensive plays tend to limp out of recessions. But those that fare best invest in new markets, products and services. A “Harvard Business Review” analysis of companies in the Great Recession of 2008 to 2010 found that 17% of the 4,700 public companies studied fared quite poorly, either becoming bankrupt, private or acquired.  

Though the majority muddled through, 9% emerged from the downturn as elite success stories, outperforming competitors by at least 10% in sales and profits growth. Why? In simple terms, they stayed focused and invested in areas of relatively lower opportunity costs.

“You cannot overtake 15 cars in sunny weather… but you can when it’s raining.”

– Ayrton Senna, Formula One Champion 

This is a lesson in how firms build resiliency in uncertain times. They evolve and make intelligent choices, ultimately emerging stronger than competitors.  

So what should you do now? We believe those financial services brands that lean into these three areas are more likely to tap into uncommon growth once the economic engines reverse course. 

Below is a summary of each of the three areas. In future articles, we will dive deeper into each to provide actionable recommendations to set your organization up for uncommon growth.  

Align Everything You Do to Your Customer’s Values

“Three classes of factors affect what an organization can and cannot do: its resources, its processes and its values.”

― Clayton M. Christensen, “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail”

The importance of a company’s purpose has changed dramatically in the last several years. It is no longer enough to establish purpose-driven brand messaging. Companies need to align everything they do to their customer’s values. The growing demands for progress on racial justice, climate concern and social issues no longer come just from consumers. Investors, employees and other stakeholders expect purpose-led thinking too. 

But how do you make your purpose part of your organization’s DNA? Part of the operating model that is core to how stakeholders hear, see and feel the business? Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™ serves as a framework for effectively aligning the way your purpose and values are integrated throughout your organization.  

Customers and stakeholders want to see corporate purpose defined in a more meaningful sense. They expect products, services and experiences that align with what matters most. It has become a core component of a brand’s reputation and relevance.  

Example Winning Strategy:  Define your purpose-driven operating model

Financial services brands that are leaning into driving purpose throughout the organization are positioning for the future. Some firms are beginning to build purpose-driven operating models, incorporating purpose into project charters and establishing “Purpose Teams” into the project management structure.  

ESG commitments continue to be a focus of a brand’s purpose, promise and principles. Aspiration, an online financial services company and Certified B Corp, is a favorite example. Its “Leave your bank, save the planet” positioning allows customers to decide how much they will pay for services. It has even built a mobile tool to help customers assess their overall impact on climate change based on where they shop and how they invest. 

While ESG was once about compliance and risk mitigation, we believe it is now a requirement for unlocking uncommon growth. And the companies having the greatest success with their ESG strategies are the ones who have created authentic changes in the culture of their full stakeholder ecosystem.  

Financial services firms can maximize their impact by choosing ESG-driven growth strategies that are specific, ownable, applicable and measurable. 

Invest in Humans Over Technology  

Today, companies have more technology at their disposal than they could ever use in a coherent customer journey. It takes a combination of sensibilities and methods to create value. Humans–not digital tools– are better at building these interactions.  

Humans–the roster of employees and all stakeholders–matter more than equipment. That being said, in no way should we diminish the importance of the continued digital transformation across the industry. At its recent Investor Day, for example, JP Morgan revealed it would spend a staggering $14.1 billion on technology this year. However, the firms that will win in the future are those that can also build an organizational focus on the humans using the technology.  

Example Winning Strategy: Build a compelling employee value proposition – develop an EVP that:

1. Articulates what makes your company an awesome place to work and to grow a career

2. Improves how your company wins in today’s talent marketplace

3. Develops an enhanced foundation to support future talent needs and can evolve in line with future business and brand strategy

Leading companies are using technology to focus on pattern recognition, then inviting humans to understand it and put the relevant insights in context. Technology is great. Human capital is greater. 

These companies are also actively working to decentralize, freeing human capital by shaking up organizational structures. Decentralized companies emerge from recessions with higher levels of innovation and more resilience, adapting better to changing conditions. 

Prophet’s research has shown that this human-centered approach leads to greater levels of innovation, especially in the financial services industry. The key to it all? Finding ways to heighten avenues of cross-organizational collaboration

Define Your Brand’s Role in Embedded Finance Era 

Customers need financial services, but they do not need the current legacy construct of delivering those services. Whether you use Affirm to buy a mattress, the Starbucks app to buy a latte or a Lyft for your transportation needs, embedded finance is all around us and presents an opportunity for financial services brands to extend into other industries, such as healthcare and retail. According to recent research, the U.S. embedded finance industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.5% from 2022 through 2029, reaching $212 billion by 2029.  

Long viewed as a transactional element of the customer journey, we are now seeing an expansion of use cases. Take DriveWealth as an example. It is working with healthcare companies to offer comprehensive investment advice as part of healthcare savings accounts. And with the emergence of companies such as Column, billed as the “only nationally chartered bank built to enable developers and builders to create new financial products,” we are poised to see an exponential increase in use cases that cut across all industries.  

What does each of these companies have in common? They have defined the next market battleground using a combination of platform and design thinking, focusing on the value of activating ecosystems. So, it is easy to understand why incumbent banks, insurers and investment managers feel threatened. However, they should not.  

As the industry moves from linear finance to embedded finance, understanding your organization’s role in the new value chain created by this disruption is the first step.  

Will you play the platform-creator role? How should you think about the allocation jobs-to-be-done? How will you control the experience customers have with your brand? 

The faster financial services leaders realize the value of delivering an omnipresent financial services experience in people’s daily lives, the faster that value can be achieved for both the customer and the enterprise. The concept of Time to Value (TTV) will play a critical role in the embedded finance era. 

By positioning an organization’s brand and core capabilities around its aspirational role in the evolving value chain, companies can embrace the embedded finance era.  

If you are a senior financial services leader and have not yet embraced the implications of the pivot from linear finance to the embedded finance era, you are putting your organization at risk of lagging behind in the next growth curve.  


FINAL THOUGHTS

Just as “buying the dip” can produce above average returns in your stock portfolio, financial services brands can prepare themselves for turbulent markets by committing to an offensive strategy through this current economic downturn. Finding new and uncommon ways to build embedded finance era strategies, aligning more closely with customers’ values and investing in human-centered transformation – even as investments in technology continue – will help accelerate growth as we move into the next economic cycle. 

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