Despite Tunstall’s stream of eye-glazing ‘look-at-us-the-market-leader’ press releases one has to admire the genius of its directors for maintaining the company in that position.
Being a market leader has both advantages and dangers. Strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the coin. Generally, some of the sources of failure for market leaders include…
- Upsetting customers by taking their loyalty for granted
- Sales people indulging in dirty tricks to get between sales leads and competitors
- Undermining reputation by over-promising and under-delivering
- Not being quick enough to keep up with developments in the market or in technology, allowing upstart competitors to change the paradigm under their noses
- Failing to keep a grip on setting the market’s agenda
Whatever other shortcomings Tunstall has, it is not guilty of the last on the list. In fact that’s where its genius has been.
Take, as an example, the way that it adopted and promoted the word ‘telehealthcare’ – even claiming it as its own coining, which it was not. Telecare services in large swathes of the UK were soon adopting that term. I’ve ranted about it at length previously, so will not repeat the points here, other than to remind readers that a company has a huge advantage if it ‘owns’ the terminology that its market uses.
Now Tunstall is doing it again. This time it is with the term ‘strategic partnership’. It is genius. Why is that so? Let me illustrate with something that is going on in Hampshire.
The situation is that Hampshire (a large county in southern England) has, on its own admission, made a dismal job of promoting telecare to older people in the past ten years. I quote from a paper presented to the council last week: (paras 2.5 & 2.6 – download link later.)
“Take-up of telecare in Hampshire is currently low, with only approximately 260 service users despite a number of drives in recent years to improve take-up. Current provision is delivered through four contracted providers for preventive telecare, and spot purchasing arrangements with five providers are used for critical and substantial cases. About one third of the critical and substantial service users reside within one district of the county reflecting the uneven distribution across the county…Other Local Authorities measure deployment in the thousands.”
To their credit, the council’s officers wish to do something to improve the situation.
They make a business case for switching £10.7m spend from the domiciliary care budget over the next 5 years into telecare provision. They wish to rationalise the provision described above and, laudably, to ensure that it is possible to provide telecare free-of-charge to people assessed as having the greatest care needs.
According to the paper…
“Consultation was undertaken in early 2012 with a range of partners into the development of telecare in Hampshire and as part of the process a workshop was held with senior Adult Services managers to discuss delivery options and the preferred outcome was to appoint a contractor.” (2.8)
Fair enough, the ‘appoint a contractor’ option scored highest in the option appraisal, which you can also download later. For the moment, pay attention to what happens next.
Out of the blue, in the following paragraph, and with no sense of the timescale involved, we find that an extra option has been added and low and behold it scores even better than the contractor option. What is it?
“…The conclusion of the business case is that the department proceeds to tender for a Strategic Partner.”
The paper then goes on to explain the difference between a contractor (= implements what the council tells it to do to achieve the council’s desired outcomes) and a strategic partner (= tells the council what to do to achieve the council’s desired outcomes and does it).
In other words, the council has a history of finding telecare too difficult to manage and at the last minute has discovered a way to hand the problem off to someone else.
If the decision was approved last week (I have no information on that and, given Hampshire’s history of dilly-dallying on telecare, it may not have been) there will now be an EU tendering process for the strategic partner.
Does anyone know of any telecare companies that have set themselves up to be ‘strategic partners’ for councils? Yes, of course. There’s…um…ah, yes, Tunstall, which has appointed Jon Lowe, its ex-UK managing director, as Strategic Partnership Director. Tunstall also announced in November 2011 an arrangement with the Mears company to deliver such ‘strategic partnerships’.
Unless someone challenges the tendering process it will take until May 2013 to complete. However, for a company to have a strong shot at £10.7m is a sweet reward for clever market positioning and a little patience. Genius. Just genius!