Since I last wrote a piece here I am older by three conferences and an exhibition . And no wiser for having spoken twice on cyber-security , a subject that baffles me every time I stand up to talk about it . The simple truth is that the world is changing in the networks at a pace that bewilders , yet the visions we have of wher we are going hang before us like a tantalising but currently unattainable vision . Thus , if you ask me about the future of education , i can spin you a glowing tale of individuals learning individually , at their own pace , yet guided by the learning journey layer out by their teachers , who have now become their mentors . The journey is self-diagnostic and self-assessing , examinations have become redundant and we know what everyone knows and where their primary skills lie . Or in academic or industrial research , projects are driven by results , research teams recruited on that basis , and their reputation is scored in terms of the value their peers set on their accomplishments . The results of research are logged and cited in ways that make them accessible to fellow researchers in aligned fields – by loading and pointing to evidential data , or noting results and referencing them on specialized or community sites , or by conventional research reporting . Peer review is continual , as research remains valid until it is invalidated and may rise and fall in popularity more than once . And so on through business domains , medicine and healthcare , agriculture and the whole range of human activity…


But at this point , when I talk about the growing commonality of vision , the role of workflow analysis , RPA , what happens next with machine learning , the eventual promise of AI , a hand shoots up and i find myself answering questions from the ex-CFO / now CEO about next years budget , and when will the existing IT investment pay back , and can this all be outsourced and surely we don’t need to do any more than buy the future when it arrives ? And of course these questions are all very pertinent . We all need to assure revenues and margins next year if we are to see any part of this future . And next years revenues will come from products and services which will look more like last years than they do like the things we shall be doing in 2025 , even if we had an idea of what those might be . It is one thing knowing something about the horizons , quite another to design a map to get there . So at every point we seek every way we can to buttress future-proofing , and at the moment I am seeing a spate of that in acquisitions . Just as last year putting the word “ Analytics “ at the end of your name ( Clarivate , Trevino ) added a billion to the exit valuation , so  this year thr dotai suffix has proved to be a real M&A draw .

But those big Analytics sales were made , and will be onsold to people who want to expand their data and services holdings . The .ai sales are transplants from the seedbed , and far earlier stages of transplantation are involved . Having worked for some years as an advisor to Quayle Munro ( now , as an element of Houlihan Lokey , part of one of the largest global M&A outfits)  I realise that smaller and smaller sales may not be considered a good thing , but I cannot resist the idea that seeking some future tech developments into your incubator environment is going to have some really beneficial long term effects . It already has at Digital Science . As Clarivate lerans from what Kopernio knows it will help . As the magic of rubs off on T&F , it will help there .


But , again , we are begging a hundred questions . Can you really future proof by buying innovation ? Well , only to a limited effect , but by having innovators inside you can learn a lot , nt least from their different perspective on your existing customers . Dont you need to keep them from being crushed by the managerial bureaucracy of the rest of the business ? Yes , but why not try to fee up the arthritic bits rather than treating the flexible bits? What if you have bought the wrong future tech ? Even the act of misbuying will give you useful pointers the next time round , but if you have bought the right people they will be able to change direction . What if software people and text publishing people do not get on ? They will need to be managed – this is your test – since if we fail the future will be conditioned entirely by software giants licensing data from residual fixed income publishers .


Are there any conditioning steps I should be taking to ease into this future ? Yes , forget ease and go faster . Look first at your own workflow . To what extent is workflow automated ? Do you have optimum ways of processing text ? Are people or machines taking the big burdens on proof reading , or desk editing or manuscript preparation? Is your marketing as digital as it could be ? Are you talking the language of services , and designing solutions for your users , or are you giving your users reference sources and expecting them to find the answers ? Indeed , do you talk the language of solutions , or the ritual language of format – book , journal ,page, article , Are we part of the world our users are entering , or are we stuck in the world they are exiting ?  The exhibition I attended this month was the London Book Fair . I love it in all its inward-looking entrancement with itself , and its love affair with the title Publisher , the profession for which no qualification other than skill at explaining away unsuccess has ever been required . I can only take one day since I rapidly become depressed . But still there were very sparky moments – an impromptu discussion with the Chennai  computer typesetter TNQ ( about their ProofControl 3.0 service told me that these guys are on the ball . But moments like this were rare . More often i felt i was watching the future –  of the industry in 1945!

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