Investing in Blockbuster in a Netflix World

Traditional models of employment, management, leadership and service delivery are often expensive, time-consuming, not participant-driven and counter-productive to creating the outcomes that the NDIA wants for clients. At DSC we’ve seen many different approaches to service design, various ways of cost cutting and methods of utilising technology to achieve organisational goals.

Some of these approaches are fantastic – innovative, flexible, and forward-thinking. Other approaches we’ve seen haven’t been so fantastic – they’ve seemed out of touch, using old data & tools to make new decisions, and focused on shaving cents rather than creating efficiencies. Last week I heard a local politician use the phrase “investing in Blockbuster in a Netflix world” to describe committing money to outdated forms of public infrastructure. This was the best description I’ve heard for those not-so-fantastic approaches to NDIS readiness and transformation.

Many people reading this would have driven past an ageing, expansive Blockbuster storefront, often on their way home to stream the latest film or TV series on Netflix in the comfort of their own living room. With Netflix there are no late fees, no time limits, no scratched disks, no “sorry we’re out of that one. Come back in a few days, it should be back then”. In the process of writing this article, I checked the Blockbuster store locator on their website, which told me my nearest store was 20km away…but I drive past a Blockbuster 3km from my house on my way to work every day! So even when I actively go looking them, they can’t tell me the correct information!

There are many organisations in the disability sector ‘investing in Blockbuster in a Netflix world’ in the quest to prepare for the seismic change the NDIS will bring across the country. But not all change is good change. Signs that an organisation is ‘investing in Blockbuster in a Netflix world’ include:

Letting accountants or finance managers decide where you cut costs.Every time you make a change to your organisation, service or workforce, there are intended and unintended consequences. Giving accountants free reign on your books to identify things that are costing you a lot will almost certainly trickle down to a significant change in your service, and a change for clients. Yes it’s probably cheaper to outsource your Emergency On-Call service to a call centre in Melbourne, but what happens when a client calls needing to speak to someone with local or specific service knowledge? This approach is death by a thousand cuts.

Investing in big new assets or signing long contracts. Often we think that financial security lies in valuable physical assets or big contracts that assure us of volume. Everything about the NDIS changes on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis – the guidelines, the pricing, the IR environment, what clients want, what the NDIA will fund, who else is in town…who knows how productive your asset could be in 12months time? Or how much useful work that contract is sending you? What if the clients currently using it get a better offer? Can it easily be turned around, or repurposed? The challenge of cash management is hitting the disability support sector hard. Any commitment that runs past the date when your reserves run out is a risk, not necessarily an asset.

Committing time and money to traditional marketing activities that are difficult to track and measure. If you want to sign off tens of thousands of dollars for a primetime TV ad campaign, or a set of newspaper pages, go for it. But have you looked at the price the NDIA is paying? Where, how and when will you make that money back? Does your market research show that it will result in a significant increase in your revenue? How does it fit with the lessons learned from the trial sites on what is really important to clients? How will you track the reach and impact? Does it alienate your current clients? How does it contribute to your brand? Just as traditional service models are being rethought and redesigned, so are traditional methods of reaching clients.

Doing the same thing you’ve done for the last few months / years / decades / centuries just because you’ve done it for so long. This is absolutely lethal in an NDIS World. At DSC we’ve seen organisations left behind before they even knew they were being left behind. Committing to a continual cycle of Learn – Engage – Adapt in transforming what you do and how you operate is the best way to protect against this. If there is one thing the NDIS is doing that is impossible to underestimate, it’s prompting change: change in what clients are looking for, change in how they are communicating, change in how success looks, change in how staff are spending their time. Having an approach of “this is the way we’ve always done it” will lead to a very difficult and unpleasant few years. The most successful providers currently working with NDIS are reviewing their aims, culture and approach on an almost weekly basis.

Not taking in what’s going on around you. In 2000, Blockbuster was offered the chance to buy Netflix for $US50 million. They turned it down. Now Netflix is worth $US32 billion, and Blockbuster is on the ropes. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the NDIA is opening up the market so much we’re seeing fresh and new service models and organisations springing up every month. Some will take off, some won’t, but there are lessons to be learned from all of them.

In 2000, Netflix was still just a dvd delivery service. It’s no wonder that Blockbuster didn’t see the writing on the wall. Blockbuster’s true mistake was not so much in passing up the option to buy Netflix as it was in its underestimating of the value that this new option would have in their customers’ lives and in failing to learn, engage and adapt to this new change.

The NDIS is bringing unprecedented change to our sector. The challenge for providers is to boldly enter this new world with an open mind to new approaches to service design, delivery and back of house support. Existing providers bring a huge amount of expertise and experience into an NDIS world and that is not to be underestimated. But as we like to say at DSC, what got you here won’t get you there.