Digital Business Strategy

 

Introduction

There is the increased integration of information and communication technologies in the lives of people in the world. The use of the internet has matured with increased mobile hardware, software, and digital content. As a result, businesses are aligning their strategies to this changing pattern that is a new lifestyle. The new strategy takes cognizance of the use of websites, opt-in emails, interactive kiosks, online advertisements, interactive TV, and mobile telephony as a part of the digital strategy. Digital strategy develops the online platform of a company and promotes it to reach the target market effectively. The entire process changes a business to e-commerce, where company products and services are digitized or put in electronic to be consumed by customers. As a result, companies get to understand their customers and, in turn, customize the products to meet the specific need. The relevance of a digital strategy is found in the assessments of monitoring the electronic platforms used by a firm (Chaffey & Smith 2013, p. 14).

The research uses Humana Inc., a health care provider, to review the application of a digital strategy in the firm. It explains the formulation, ownership, and implementation of the digital strategy by the health firm and puts into perspective the benefits of effective application of a digital strategy.

Demystifying Digital Strategy

According to Bharadwaj et al. (2013), digital strategy is the application of digital technologies to reshape traditional business strategies, such that in the end, the organization can manage modular, cross-functional, and global processes within time, distance, and function boundaries (p. 472). Currently, the technologies are transforming the relationship between firms and customers through social media and social marketing. Hemann and Burbary (2013) extend the description of a digital strategy (p. 265). The concept includes ‘research, planning, definition and creation’ of mechanisms of reaching a market through digital channels. The application of the digital channels should be profitable, based on the associated investment. Therefore, within the digital strategy framework, there should be a mission, strategy, interaction module between customers and the firm, and measures to evaluate a digital strategy. A digital strategy is a systematic process that identifies timely and accurate information, provides it to the target audience, and evaluates its application to the business processes.

An Overview of Humana

Humana is a healthcare company. The company raises awareness and provides health insurance to people in the United States. It is located in Louisville, Kentucky. Humana serves as the brand for insurance products sold to customers through subsidiaries and affiliates, as well as the name of the parent company. The company offers various services to a range of customers that include families, senior people, military personnel, healthcare providers, and personnel. The company is certified by the largest certifier of healthcare companies in the United States and for the provision of quality processes and systems to customers. The insurance plans of the company cover medical, dental, vision, pharmacy, life, and supplement products. As of 30th June 2013, the company was valued at about $13 billion by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. The company has about 12 million customers and 415, 200 employees (Humana 2014, p. 3).

Research Problem and Objectives

The application of a digital strategy depends on the framework chosen by a company. According to Chaffey and Smith (2013), the application of online technologies in a company must be customized to meet the needs and market of an organization (p. 3). Therefore, it is not definite that the application of a digital strategy results in ultimate success for a business. The planning, research, execution, and monitoring contribute to the success. A digital strategy requires resources and time to succeed (Bharadwaj 2013, p. 472). Thus, it is necessary to formulate and implement a workable strategy that is profitable on the investment in digital and overall business strategy.

The Objectives of the Study are:

  • To identify the application of digital strategy in Humana
  • To describe the implementation of the digital strategy in Humana
  • To discuss the benefits of effective application of digital strategy in Humana

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Research Design

The design adopts the descriptive research design that is applied to expound on the digital strategy, as applied by Humana Inc. The design was chosen because it is appropriate for speedy but accurate data collection, and it is also cost-effective. The design founds descriptive research that is used to expound on various particulars of the research objectives. Descriptive research answers the fundamental questions about a phenomenon and was most applicable in explaining the alternate approaches of digital application at Humana (Kumar 2010, p. 15).

Research Methods

The study explicitly used secondary sources in its research techniques. It involved reviewing existing literature on digital business strategy, and the application of digital platforms at Humana. The review establishes the application and benefits of digital strategies in Humana and helps the researcher conclude the relevance of the application of a digital business strategy in a company. The method is relevant since the availability of the information on the internet justifies the relevance of the studies. The most suitable of studying a digital business strategy is by investigating the extent to which an organization uses the internet and related information therein. To make the study relevant, the study was limited to current and reliable sources on the topic (Kumar 2010, p. 52).

Assessment & Discussion

The chapter presents descriptive data and information on digital business strategy and its application in Humana based on the three objectives. Thus, the discussion is based on three sub-topics as outlined below:

  1. Application of digital strategy in Humana
  2. Implementation of digital strategy in Humana
  3. Benefits of Effective Application of Digital Strategy in Humana

Application of Digital Strategy in Humana

According to Humana (2014), the company utilizes various methods to reach its market (p. 16). The methods include television, direct mailing, radio, internet, and telemarketing. This is an application of all methods, whether offline or online. From December 2013, the company had 1,800 sales representatives and about 1,100 telemarketing representatives. However, the application of digital platforms is not limited to the sales department. According to Weber (2013), Humana adopted a corporate strategy, whereby each department was allowed to build its social media platform suitable for its functions (p. 9). In the process, all departments in Humana could share the experiences of the digital strategies through a 19 member committee. The discussion was supposed to be shared through an external blog and Twitter and indicate the participation of senior and junior employees. The company, in its final year report of 2013, directs stakeholders to access any information of interest through the corporate website www.humana.com (Humana 2014 p. 167).

With an online presence, the company conducts an internet and mail order pharmacy business that packages and distributes pharmaceuticals and other health products (Humana 2014, p. 33). Apart from the business function, the company provides information on corporate governance that includes details of lead employees, the code of ethics for all employees, and information on corporate social responsibility (Humana 2014, p. 140). According to Combe (2012), the integration of business development and information technology considers consumer behavior that is dependent on the availability of knowledge about a product (p. 120).

Implementation of the Digital Strategy in Humana

According to Robinson (2012), Humana Inc. had to transform its operations to fit the legal requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (p.1). In the process, the company hired Lewis Bertolucci as the digital marketing manager. The executives also had to increase the interest in the social media application. The digital strategy of the company is headed by the senior vice president in charge of corporate communications. There is also a digital communication manager who is responsible for reporting the status of social media strategies to senior executives of the firm.

According to Bharadwaj et al. (2013), the implementation of a digital strategy should consider the scope of doing business digitally, the speed with which decisions are made, and value created (p. 473). Robinson (2012) notes that Humana uses YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter in its digital strategies (p. 1). The sites are used to explain issues about the new affordable health care act. The company has posted about 85 videos on the topic on YouTube and can also be accessed through Web posts, Facebook, and Twitter. Facebook, in particular, provides many options for the company, such that it can post, imagines, and interact in two-way communication with customers in posts and chats. Twitter, on the other hand, is used to post company news and aggregate information on healthy living. Hemann and Burbary (2013) note that two-way communication between customers and a firm encourages continuous interactions that increase the level of satisfaction (p. 198).

Benefits of Effective Application of Digital Strategy in Humana

According to Bharadwaj et al. (2013, p. 473), the digital strategy differs from traditional information technologies because it manages cross-function by linking marketing, procurement, logistics, operations with IT-related processes in order placement and customer service. The digital business strategy increases connectivity within and without the firm. As noted above, Humana has already established telecenters, an online Pharmacy, and an active member of social media. Further, employees interact through the media and the top executives receive reports on the performance of social media from the digital communication managers. Further, the strategy is engaged in the digitization of commodities or the value chain. Robinson (2012, p. 1), notes that about 24,000 employees interact professionally through an internal social network called Buzz.

The application of digital media strategies develops a competitive advantage in an industry. For instance, if a customer calls a company, it is because he/ she feels the concerns he/ she has cannot be addressed in any other way. The digital tools and changes in the business strategy at Humana Inc. resulted in a business change from commercial insurers to a market share of about 50% in Medicare provision in various States. The company has about 4.5 million members on Medicare, unlike 500,000 members on the previous insurance program. To win customers, the company used Smart Summary documents to provide personalized information in form of graphics and words that is easy to understand. As a result, Humana developed a competitive edge (O’Donnell 2007, p. 6).

Conclusion

The digital business strategy proves to be an important mechanism of conquering markets. About Humana Inc., the application results in gaining a competitive edge in the market. The correct packaging of information influences consumer behavior. Further, digital business strategy shifts from traditional information technology platforms like emails to social media ones like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Equally, each department is involved in digital business strategy development. In the process, employees join the fray to interact internally on business relations, while a special team responds to the needs of customers. The importance of the digital business strategy is that it develops a two-way communication channel that allows prompt interaction with customers. The digital business strategy is unique to the processes of a firm and it maximizes productivity from customers. Thus, a digital business strategy develops an online platform to make a firm competitive and, as a result, realize returns on investments on the digital and overall business strategy.

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