The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is set to start full roll out on July 1 of 2016, and extend through to July 2019. This shift from block funding, to a consumer-centric portable funding model means providers will be operating in a more competitive environment. Providers will need to work differently (and some say harder), to bring in their clients and their funding. Many are focused on how to remain sustainable, effects to cash flow, and retaining and attracting clients. While these concerns are pressing, and need to be addressed, those in the disability sector will need to provide equal attention to a slightly more elusive concept: innovation.
The word is hardly a new one in the industry. At the conference held in late 2015 by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) – NDIS: New World Conference, Bruce Bonyhady, Chairman of the NDIA said he was excited because the NDIS is a platform for innovation. Providers are now coming to grip with the inevitability of this threat, and opportunity.
Take for example the disability start-up HireUp. HireUp is an online platform rooted in real life user needs and the experience of founders supporting a sibling with disability. The platform connects people with a disability with support workers. The fact that the individual (or carer) requiring support is dealing directly with care workers means that overheads are cut to the bone, with the organisation claiming that the base rate they have achieved is $6.18 cheaper than the NDIS efficiency pricing model1. This is a stand-out result for price efficiency to any standard.
Innovation, though, is not confined to digital start-ups. We should be thinking about innovation in terms of our delivery model, the way we interact with staff, the way we view the sector and the way in which we reach and work with our clients and their families.
Here are four things your board and executives should be talking about:
- Innovation with Mergers and Acquisitions – our clients tell us consistently that they are facing pressure to merge, or face the risk of not remaining competitive. Mergers and alliances can provide access to economies of scale and scope not previously accessible to one organisation. Additionally, mergers do not have to mean loss of a brand or long-standing goodwill. Innovative models can lead to two organisations retaining their own brand but with access to joint resources and skills, with extended geographical reach and ultimately a greater social impact.
- Innovation and Technology – Organisations that are early adopters of new technology are likely to do well and some may become market leaders. Boards and executives may need to make difficult decisions directing capital from possibly retained earnings or invest time and effort in seeking grant funding towards new technologies. Your board will need to discuss, understand and agree what it sees as delivering value with acceptable levels of risks in relation to this type of investment.
- Watch your competitors – it’s not always the first mover that gets the advantage. Apple is a good example. They were not the first to develop them, but their products eventually came to be synonymous with the phrase “mp3 player”. They did the same thing with smartphones – remember the BlackBerry? You might, but your kids won’t. Keep an eye on what your lead competitors are doing. A practical way to do this is to track their online and social presence, as well as their job placement ads. You’ll learn about the types of roles your competitors are creating, but also about key elements of their strategy.
- Innovative Culture – this is probably one of the most important elements of innovation. If you work in an environment that encourages people to keep ‘spinning the wheels’, you are unlikely to see change. Create a culture of innovation by intellectually engaging your staff around challenges facing your organisation. They are likely to have the most intimate understanding of your clients’ needs. Involve them when you are looking towards the future. A common way of doing this is creating cross functional innovation groups meeting regularly with agendas set around “green field” innovative ideas.
While there is no one panacea to meeting the challenges of the NDIS, providing a focus on innovation in your organisation can be a differentiator to help set you apart from competitors in the new world.
1Damon Kitney, 2016, January 8. Online disability platform Hireup gets NAB, Myers backing. The Australian. Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au
Written by Chris Nash in conjunction with Rob McKie