The future of corporate publishing.

The trend for online taking the lead on coporate reporting seems to be major and unreversable.

Since the beginning of this reporting season we see a massive increase of interest for our capabilities to lead the corporate reporting process – both print and online. Being in this business for more than 10 years, this smells like the most massive mind shift in corporate reporting I have seen so far. Will this be a major trend unfolding, whats the reason for it and what is the impact for our business, were my immediate thoughts.

After some weeks passing with lots of talks and presentations I do have answers for the first two of my three questions:

  • Yes the trend for online taking the lead on coporate reporting seems to be major and unreversable
  • The obvious reason is cutting costs: Both in producing less or no print documents and a much leaner process management by reducing overhead. Some companies bring environmental aspects and some want to demonstrate that online is their preferred way of communication.

Valid arguments and a logic next step down the road of a growing-up internet. But those arguments are nothing new to me! Exactly the same arguments have been around ever since I concentrated on online reporting in 2002. Why is this shift happening just in the middle of one of the biggest econonmic crisis since decades? Probably the answer lies in the crisis itself: it fueled openness for change and the look into new ways of dealing.

Need for change maybe the initial impedus? The increasing capability of online corporate publishing systems plays a vital role, too. But above all I would name “the human education factor”: people got used to New Media. Dealing with ignorance of executives still printing their E-Mails becomes considerably less. Its always humans taking decisions not organizations or machines. The changing attitude towards Web is to some extend simply driven by growing up with and getting used to it!

Now, what about the third question assuming this shift is major and unreversable: What will be the impact for online reporting business? What will the future workflow of an coporate report look like?

I guess its too early to give an answer yet. But I do have some thoughts to share:

  • Multi-user data warehouses managing the content generation process are by nature more effective if shared online.
  • When data is stored in an online tool, the HTML version is easy to generate from that source.
  • Vendors selling their workflow tool gain power over their clients: Users educated for a specific software tool have a strong bias against change.

The last assumption will lead to a decline of quality and at the same time to a free lunch profit for vendors that gained this strong position at their clients. I already observe this at some mediocre online annual reports, where I got as a reply: “You are right, but we currently not look into this as we generate HTML from our publishing system”.

The end user doesn’t care about the process. The quality of the online report will be solely judged by the output. Thus companies should look into standardazing gateways of these application to gain back independence of choice!

To sum up I think it is important to look into new ways of dealing data of corporate reports, as there is a need and value to cut down overhead redundancies! But we will look more into standardization to be able to cope with different workflow systems. Ceterum censio we will further focus on our strengths to keep up usability and value for the user!

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