NexJ Wins CRM Watchlist 2012 Award

NexJ, one of the founding members of Open Health Tools (OHT) and an active proponent of open collaboration in the healthcare industry, has just received the prestigious CRM Watchlist 2012 Award. The award is given to CRM companies that have "Awesome possibilities." Paul Greenberg, widely recognized as one of the world's leading experts in CRM, wrote a detailed article in ZDNet describing the reasons behind the nomination. He has kindly given Open Health News permission to reprint the article in its entirety (see below).

We should note that while NexJ's solutions are best known in the financial and insurance industries, Greenberg considers NexJ's Health Information Exchange as their most promising solution. For those who would like to see NexJ's suite of products there will be a great opportunity next week during the HIMSS12 conference as their products will be featured during the Interoperability Showcare. In addition NexJ will be participating at the OHT meeting following the HIMSS conference. Roger A. Maduro, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief.

CRM Watchlist 2012 Winners - Defying Convention
by Paul Greenberg, ZDNet, 2/14/2012

Nexj was the discovery of the year for me in this competition (did I claim that for someone else earlier?). I knew them already. They were attendees at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management CRM Centre of Excellence Social CRM training. But I didn’t know how incredibly good this company actually is. And they are that good.

Nexj has an astonishing number of credentials to back up their position as an impact player  - though primarily confined to Canada - for now. They were named the sixth fastest growing tech company in North America by Deloitte on their Technology Fast 500 (though I’m not sure you’re “named” that - you just “are” that). They were seen by Forrester as strong when it comes to CRM for the insurance and financial industries. They were named among the Top 20 innovative companies in Canada by the Canadian Innovation Exchange and, of course, I would be remiss to say, they were one of the walk-on winners for the CRM Watchlist 2012.

Interestingly, they are also the first software company in Canada to go public in five years (in 2011) pulling down a very respectable $44 million at their launch. (I couldn’t find out which Canadian company went public in 2006, unless Tim Horton’s is now a software company. That’s a joke only a Canadian might find funny - and I even doubt that).

What makes them so good is that, the only image I can use is, they are tight. There isn’t a loose end in the company that I can find. That doesn’t mean they can’t get better or there aren’t things they should do. Far be it from me to not have suggestions. But they are well rounded, capable and focused on just a few areas, though have a curious anomaly in their strategy.

The Nexj focus is on the enterprise and it is specifically build around process-driven innovation in three verticals as of now - wealth management, insurance and heath services.  Interestingly, they have achieved their greatest recognition in wealth management and insurance with them being named #1 CRM provider for enterprise sized wealth management firms by Aite Group in April 2011. But I think their most interesting innovations are in health care and they would be remiss to not emphasize what they have there (see suggestions below).

Their product suite is driven by what they call Model Driven Engineering, which is a data virtualization architecture that allows multiple and disparate systems to communicate with each other. They build their products on this highly scalable platform so that they are able coordinate that single view of the customer that we’ve spoken of so many times over the years.

While these reviews aren’t meant to be product reviews, (Watchlist reviews are focused around the company’s potential impact) I do want to make two points about their products.

  1. From all that I can tell, what Nexj does perhaps as well or better than anyone else I’ve seen is take systems of record to their ultimate limits - without getting beyond that into systems of engagement. Which is both great and bad.  It seems that they’ve truly mastered the single view of the customer despite the location of the data.  But that said, customer engagement is not their strong suit. Nor am I saying it should be. We’ll talk about that soon.
  2. While their name has been made in financial services especially wealth management, I think they have some of the most innovative health services products I’ve seen to date. For example they have multiple solutions and products, each important in its own right: Health Information Exchange, a solution that allows disparate systems to connect and exchange health records creating what they call a “comprehensive longitudinal electronic health record”. They use an open architecture and open standards to allow the varied systems to communicate. I remember back in 1993 when IBM tried to do internet based access to patient records using Lotus Notes. Failed miserably. This is SO much better. Another health solution is Connected Wellness - a cloud based system that allows collaboration between institutions, doctors and patients. That means access to health records, and the use of their other products Health Coach a mobile application that provides personalized health care plans and captures and stores critical health information from glucose levels to medications and allows medical professionals to remotely monitor the patients. Finally Connected Wellness can be used in conjunction with Nexj’s Disease Screening which manages large scale disease screening for specific population groups.  All of their products can be accessed via Blackberries, iPhones, iPads, and Android Devices.   Incredible.

But the products aren’t the only thing that they have going for them either. If it was only the products, they wouldn’t have won this. They have a highly experienced management team, many of which were key executives at Janna Software, which was sold to Siebel in 2001 for $975 million, including their CEO William Tatham who founded Janna. Their senior execs not only are experienced at large enterprise companies beyond Janna, like Siebel, Oracle, and SAP, exactly what they need given their focus, but they are active participants in the forward thinking aspects of their industry. For example, Mr. Tatham is a member of the Board of Stewards for Open Health Tools - an organization that champions open source health software based on open standards and best practices.

They have a clearly expressed vision which they say is to “deliver people-centred CRM solutions that drive a comprehensive view of customer or patient information.” This is actually  more of a mission than a vision, but the point is clear. They are focused around a deep involvement with a system of record. They spend a lot of time in the modeling of and the analysis of the relationships and hierarchies that are embedded in the customer/patient records as an indication of how they are realizing their vision.

They also have multiple partnerships, though I think, there is some room for improvement here. They have the standard consulting partnerships with companies like Deloitte and Capgemini. They have some OEM relationships in the wealth management/financial services arena and some technology partnerships with Oracle, Microsoft (a wise one for health services especially) and IBM, but what makes their partnership model even more interesting is they have a specific set of Healthcare partners like provide service add-ons to their Connected Wellness solution - including at least two Canadian star universities - York Univiersity and McMaster University.  But their alliances with universities doesn’t stop at the technological. They have what they call “thought leadership partnerships” with multiple universities and even with hospitals and organizations like the Canadian Association for People-Centred Health and the Academic Research Collaborative.  They even partner with their customers and other companies for the implementation of their products (e.g. Wells Fargo, Saskatchewan Cancer Authority) The only technology company I’ve seen use a similar model is SAP. Which speaks volumes for Nexj, given SAP’s success with this kind of approach.

Like I said, tight.

But this incredibly well directed outfit continues to at least check off the boxes with a full time AR/IR program, a PR firm, an investor relations program, and an ongoing dialogue with the analysts and influencers that matter to their world - especially their verticals. So for example, they’ve been offered the opportunity to become bloggers for which is an online community of health care stakeholders who are involved in or interested in health IT.  Not something made easily available to vendors.

So what in the name of….whoever….can this well oiled operation who seems to have thought of most everything, do, but improve their products?

Well, there are a few things…

  1. They need to investigate going beyond the boundaries of systems of record, which they toy with (they claim to be able to expand to social networks via their API, but they don’t claim they’ve actually done it).  This might not be the place to do it, since the areas they specialize in are mostly highly regulated industries like wealth management and healthcare.  But they owe it to themselves to see about the possibilities because networks and communities of professionals and interested parties in their precise areas of expertise are growing like wildfire and need to be addressed.  This investigation would be one that takes them into thought leadership in the 2.0 world and into potentially systems of engagement. Again, I’m recommending putting on the plate as a possibility, not a done deal.
  2. They need to expand their integrations beyond just Oracle and Microsoft as far as the general practitioners go.  It’s been wise making them the first two general enterprise software integration choices, given their strong involvement in financial services and health services (especially Microsoft on the latter) but its time to consider companies like SAP among others.
  3. I’d be giving health care a lot higher profile in the market. They have exceptional capabilities there but since they made their bones in wealth management and insurance, health care doesn’t get the proportionate play they should be giving it.
  4. I’d be making a much greater pitch for at least mindshare in the U.S. to date and that means at least make the connections to the analysts, journalists and influencers that are U.S. based in a considerably more aggressive way.

That’s about all I’d suggest at the moment. None of it monumental, but all of it important. This is a company that has been around, doing well, getting accolades but confined mostly (not entirely, to be fair) to the top 1/3 of North America (out of countries, not landmass).  Time for them to have a coming out party which I think they are poised to do, which is why they won the CRM Watchlist 2012, as a walk-on, and yet, in 2011, I only knew them through their attendance at the Univ. of Toronto.  Don’t be shy, Nexj - make sure that people not only know how to pronounce your name, but sing it in 2012.