I recently had the chance to catch up with Saurabh Kumar, director of eBusiness at Blue Shield of California and a member of our Forrester eBusiness & Channel Strategy Leadership Board, to understand what impact the transition to agile commerce is having on Blue Shield, its business strategy, and its organizational structure.

Blue Shield of California, an independent member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health plan with 3.3 million members and 4,800 employees and is one of the largest health provider networks in California.

Forrester: Saurabh, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from a channel-centric focus to a customer-centric focus that centers on touchpoints as the new paradigm and one that spans the Web, mobile devices, social networks, advertising, marketing, traditional channels, and other emerging touchpoints. How are you looking at this, and what do you think it means for your business?

Mr. Kumar: With Blue Shield’s focus on customer quality and affordability, we have had to increasingly take a multichannel/multi-touchpoint view of the customer. This has translated into several changes in both what we work on and how we work on it. For example, we have institutionalized several workstreams where a cross-functional team from customer service, marketing, sales, and eBusiness are all working together to optimize the customer’s multichannel experience. Also, creating and leveraging data and insights that cut across channels is increasingly important; and to that end, we are looking at ways of getting more effective in that space.

Forrester: As customer behavior and expectations continue to evolve and a channel-centric approach makes less and less sense, how do you think your organization will need to change in order to respond? Do you see a new organizational model having to take shape? 

Mr. Kumar: The challenge for organizations will be to leverage the skills of specialized, functional teams while maintaining the focus on the customer’s experience. I think there are several models that will emerge — ranging from weak cohesion (coordination based) to strong cohesion (direct reporting based). At one end of the spectrum, teams will create the focus by coming together in ad hoc groups such as experience-focused projects, committees, etc. At the other end of the spectrum, a CXO may directly own the experience across all channels and may have the appropriate experience, product, and analytics team report into them. Most organizations will experiment with a range of models in this spectrum and settle on something that suits the culture and reflects the emphasis on user experience. Regardless of the model, channel owners across the enterprise will have to come together and start to coordinate better for the sake of the customer.

Forrester: With the pace of change so high, how do you prioritize what’s important, where to invest, and how to focus your organization’s resources?

Mr. Kumar: The simplest way to do so is to leverage our mission, values, and strategy. For example, affordability is BSC’s mission and is hence a primary lens by which all work and initiatives get prioritized while a focus on quality customer experience is a key component of the business strategy and hence gets the requisite attention. The focus on mission allows us to anchor our work in something that is long lasting, while corporate strategy and business-unit level strategy allow us to focus on what is relevant and important with the changing context.

Forrester: Thanks so much, Saurabh. Great insights.

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with executives about the ways they are responding to agile commerce. I really appreciate Saurabh's participation and look forward to bringing more of these to you. If you are interested in participating in this series or have ideas for eBusiness & Channel Strategy leaders you would like to see us include, please email me at brianwalker@forrester.com.


For more on Agile Commerce, read our blog post or our report, or participate in our community discussions.