Knowledge driven solutions – the growth sector of business media?

354644527_356eea99742In my last post I had a look at Reed Elsevier’s results presentation and suggested that the real growth area of business media was in building tools and workflow solutions for customers. It is an area that a lot of B2B media companies highlight as part of their strategy and an area that I was working to develop with Incisive Media before I left the company.

Whilst you will hear plenty of senior publishing figures talk about ’embedding their products in their customer’s workflow’ & ensuring that they are providing resilient ‘must-have’ information; in my experience very few of the people working in business media have much of an idea of what this involves. 

I do not claim to be an expert on the subject but my interest was really piqued at an e-Publishing innovation forum which my division organised in May 2008.

One of our presenters, Josh Bottomley, MD of LexisNexis, explained how his company had evolved from providing information in print; to print and online; to print, online and knowledge driven solutions. Josh showed several examples of how these products were developed and the commercial results in terms of subscription fees which could be charged and renewal rates that were achieved when you get these products right.

One example I remember him using was for the process of residential conveyancing. He showed a flowchart of what was involved for a solicitor undertaking this task on behalf of a client. The flowchart mapped all of the forms that needed completing, in what order and with the relevant points where they had to go outside the firm for relevant bits of information – land registry searches etc. A lot of these tasks were relatively menial but time consuming and each was being carried out in a fairly regimented fashion over and over again. By spending time with solicitors to map this process LexisNexis could start to look at ways in which they could automate and speed up the tasks.

Josh explained that the process was very much an iterative one. Researchers sat with clients to watch and document all the tasks they undertook. These were then presented back to the research participants in a flowchart to check that nothing had been missed. The agreed flowchart was then used as the basis for creating a technology driven solution – ideally embedding some of the proprietary data that LexisNexis already held – that could be presented back to the client on a subscription basis.

The aim was to create a product that sat on the desktop of their community. A product where it was easy to demonstrate the ROI of their spend. A product that their community couldn’t do without – real ‘must-have’ information.

Josh was at pains to point out that just producing a fantastic product didn’t guarantee its implementation. A large part of LexisNexis’ job was to push the concept of behavioural change within the end-user organisations. However, when they worked, these knowledge driven solutions were incredibly successful.

It was interesting that Sir Crispin Davis highlighted this area as a real focus of investment at Reed Elsevier in his results presentation – specifically mentioning a research performance visualiser for academic institutions and a tool for the health service that allowed easy ranking and trend information for the performance of their staff.

I believe knowledge driven solutions may well be a phrase you hear a lot more about once business media companies are able to come up for air. As news distribution, recruitment and advertising models struggle to grow – even in buoyant markets – the search is on for an area of reinvention.

Subscription based workflow products could be the solution.



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6 responses to “Knowledge driven solutions – the growth sector of business media?

  1. Interesting format and effective method, applying work flows to business process and then tying it back to existing systems and data.

    As I was leaving the IT industry to move to digital media I worked on an ITIL project creating a Configuration Management Database for a leading energy provider.

    While a lot of ITIL principles were effectively good management practice, the CMDB fully implemented would have offered an unchallenged insight to business process and almost certainly vast increases in effectiveness and efficiency.

    The issue with a number these work flow implementations, is not whether they offer good ROI, but biting the bullet and getting on with the vast amount of work that might be required to implement.

    Equally, while the project I mentioned above was an internal project with an internal sponsor, providing a similar idea to a client to illustrate ROI might require passing on some of the costs to the client.

    Convincing the client of the cost benefits of this unrivalled insight might be your issue rather than the effectiveness of the product.

    Good post Rory.

  2. Rory Brown

    Thanks Ed.

    I have no doubt that this is a hard and long-winded process to develop and implement but it strikes me that the variable costs of the products are pretty low once you have them established.

    Worth the upfront investment..


  3. subrataalpha

    Extremely insightful. A fair number of companies pay mere lip-service when speaking of workflow solutions that has embedded content. The biggest letdown for them is not enough investment initially. Put-it-out-and-refine-later is their modus operandi, which fails when a significant error that may require architectural overhaul needs fixing later on.

    I would like to know your views about building workflow diagrams for (a) professions that are slightly secretive in nature – like say Trading, and (b) professions that involve multi-threaded decision making and non-predictable tasks like say a portfolio manager making investment decisions.

    Once again – a very nice blog and an especially well thought post.


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  5. Rory Brown

    Thanks for your comment Subrata.

    I believe that workflow tools work much better for professional services type tasks where the processes are relatively standard from one firm to the next. The examples you give would probably require a high degree of customisation which suggests that they are better built internally rather than by a 3rd party.



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