Challenges and use cases

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VRM meets DRM

Perhaps VRM should stand for Vendor Rights Management as well as Vendor Relationship Management.

Perhaps rights management and relationship management should be the same thing.

Perhaps companies doing DRM wouldn't have to bear the full responsibility for managing the rights involved in relationships. Things could be done by mutual agreement by both sides.

We need to make "rights management" something that is mutual in operation, and mutually beneficial. How should we approach that?

Setting terms of service

In Credit card fees can suck you in — Consumers pay high price for increasingly complex policies, in USA Today, Kathy Chu reports,

Remember when most of us paid only an annual fee on credit cards? Today, late fees and over-the-limit fees are replacing that annual fee. Add in a dizzying array of extra charges: for phone payments, "expedited" online payments, credit card use overseas and balance transfers from other cards.

At a time when Americans wield more plastic than ever — 692 million credit cards, with $711 billion of debt — fees and policies have grown so complex that even regulators struggle to grasp them.

In the holiday shopping frenzy, consumers are especially vulnerable to card fees, because more of them are likely to pay late or exceed their credit limit, according to industry consultants Nilson Report and Moebs Services.

Lots of card issuers offer low initial interest rates these days. But once they've pulled you in, they often replace "fixed" rates with floating rates — which can rise — and impose penalty rates of up to 30% even on those with good credit.

"It's like economic Darwinism," says Chi Chi Wu of the National Consumer Law Center, an advocacy group. "The business model has changed from one rate and annual fee to all these different tiers and fees designed to make money."

This is a perfect example of what CRM does without the benefit of VRM.

We need something on the customers' side that directly tells vendors — and the whole credit card marketplace — "Either give me the terms I want (e.g. 30 day grace period, X% or lower fixed interest rate, $X cap on annual fees) or I'll take my business elsewhere."

Educators vs. Cold Callers

Russ, a network manager at a UK high school, writes,

We have the technology already, it’s called blogs. I am currently setting up a blog so suppliers at work can subscribe to an RSS feed and it provides them with information on what I want.

But not everyone uses RSS so the fact that most blogs have the function to view posts as web pages, plus the ability to email out new posts to people means you have that angle covered. The more I read on this concept the more it addresses some of the major problems we as customers have and suppliers have with customers.

Medical Information

Today, medical information is locked in cabinets and largely isolated behind doctor's and institutional barriers. Much of this arrangement is about protecting our rights to privacy. Kudos for that. However, the primary need in the realm of medical information, is quality health and health services... the secrecy is a solution to a constraint, not a requirement of the underlying need.

This unfortunate silo nature of the existing medical data system results in a loss of transparency and choice when individuals want to work with different providers. This lack of access and control leaves patients with restricted vendor management options.

At the Internet Identity Workshop (iiw2006b), Doc brought this to light in the context of Johnson & Johnson's interest in providing enhanced drug packaging services, such as custom daily packets for people with complicated drug regimens. Unfortunately, J&J can't offer this service because of a systemic inability to access customer information effectively--even when the customer wants them too.

In a December 2007 speach, Google's Vice President Adam Bosworth echoed this need:

Google can find all the most relevant answers to any query you submit across the entire web in less than a one-third of a second and yet, in general, your physician cannot get the lab results from your last specialist without paper and fax. (...)

Your physician cannot always reliably and optimally treat you without a comprehensive knowledge of what has been wrong with you in the past, how you were treated, and how you responded to the treatment. The lack of easily accessible, comprehensive medical records results in people being in more pain for longer than they should be. (...)

We should not accept this. We should not accept that the institutional barriers of the system cause tens of thousands to die unnecessarily and hundreds of thousands at the very least to suffer without cause while we pay an enormous bill.

So what can be done? We should start at the beginning. Let’s put the patients in charge of their health and medical information. Let’s build a system which puts the people who are sick in control. For every single medical and health-related event, let’s make sure that patients can effortlessly retrieve and share their information in its totality and then use it to ensure that they get the best quality of care possible. It is their health.

Thanks to Philipp Lenssen of Blogoscoped for the quote.

There is an active development effort around "Personal Health Records," with "Dossia" as one significant umbrella project. Google provides a significant amount of information on Dossia and PHRs.