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When we talk about taking the changes in technology and implementing them within an organisation, one name jumps to mind – RELX Group. The transformation of the FTSE 100 (and FTSE 15) RELX Group from a media company to leading global information and analytics company, with a market capitalization of about $44bn, is indeed inspirational and somewhat surprising.
With a heritage in publishing, RELX Group has now successfully transformed its revenue streams. Over the past decade, print sales have been managed down from 50% to just 10% and the vast majority of revenues are now derived from digital. The company spends $1.3bn on technology annually and employs 7,000 technologists across the company’s four global divisions. Notably, MSCI re-categorized RELX as a business services company rather than a media group last year.
I recently had the pleasure of holding an interview with Kumsal Bayazit, Chairwoman, RELX Technology Forum at RELX Group. Ms Bayazit has been at the group for more than 14 years now and played a major role in devising the pathway that dictated the company’s transformation during the last decade.
Every transformation within an organization requires firm belief and perseverance. Without any one of these factors, the transformation will either be left void or will propel the organization backwards. Thus, the successful transformation for RELX was no different. When asked about her thoughts regarding the vision behind the transformation, Bayazit responded that,
“We created the transformation through our strategy, which focuses on providing our customers with electronic decision tools to help them make better decisions, get better results, and help them be more productive.”
She then explained that RELX’s rich heritage in terms of having comprehensive data sets played the important role of a lubricant in the transformation process. And over the last two decades, it had complemented its rich assets by building an equally deep capability in analytics and technology.
Focusing on the transformation, Bayazit had a lot to say about what initiated the transformation for RELX Group.
“It started with a couple of things. First, we could see with the impact of technology that the jobs of our customers were changing, whether those were lawyers, authors, scientists or risk professionals. As the Internet evolved, digital evolved, technology evolved, the way they wanted to interact with information and content – changed. And because we have a deep relationship with our customers, we could see their needs were changing and then the logical question was: How do we better serve them?”
She outlined the need to move faster, in a better way and more cost effectively. Recognizing the changing trends of the market, RELX Group started sub-segmenting customer groups. For example, RELX’s LexisNexis legal business kept deepening the customer segmentation to identify specific categories from litigators to malpractice litigators to medical malpractice litigators and so on. Once segmented, the LexisNexis teams focused on the precise needs of the specific group and discovered the way customers were interacting with content along with data was changing.
The changing customer interaction with data prompted RELX to review its strategy and formulate a plan for customers on a micro level. Thus, RELX could now understand what the different segments wanted from them and how they could adapt to the changing needs and present the customer segments with just what they wanted.
The strategy for RELX is to try and adapt. Bayazit said:
“It is not an easy journey. You have to test and try and adjust, test and try and adjust. That is how we built our strategy and we continue to refine it. If something does not work, we go back and change it.”
The Four Pillars
The four primary capabilities that RELX Group focuses on are:
- Deep understanding of customers
- Leading content and data sets
- Sophisticated analytics
- Powerful technology
Plenty of companies will be able to do any one of these four things at one time, but RELX Group prides itself on the fact that it can manage and handle all four of these pillars at the same time. Deep understanding of customers has always been in the DNA of the group. This is the way it has operated and plans to operate in the future.
According to Bayazit, RELX Group is currently well organized when it comes to customer segmentation. Sub-sets of customers are catered to by an individual group of commercial product and technology teams that understand the dynamics of the specific group and offer them new innovations accordingly. The teams also reflect the passions of the professions they work for.
So, let’s say if RELX Group’s Elsevier business has a team that is working with science professionals, the team members would have plenty of passion and expertise in those areas. The product groups at RELX Group also live and breathe the changing trends and requirements across each of these sub-segments.
They are in continuous coordination with the technology group, so all the needs are communicated appropriately and promptly, further helping the company remain organized and streamlined for the future. Bayazit summed up the structure and how it combines to assist the completion of the four pillars.
“To sum up, we have a product team and their job is to understand customer segment needs and then translate them into an offering that meets their needs. These people are more on the business side, so they are commercially oriented, but they are relatively tech savvy as well. And that is important because you really want your technologists and business people to be able to communicate smoothly.Then we have the technology team that has all the engineering folks, coders, architects, and data scientists. Architects will look into all the evolving technologies like machine learning and understand what the capabilities of these technologies are. Then they choose which of those emerging technologies would be most effective if deployed to tie in with the needs and offering that the product team has worked on.”
The Role of Data and Analytics
The role of data and analytics is highlighted in RELX Group’s second pillar of capabilities. The content and data sets, on which their transformational strategy rests, is based on data acquired over many years. These data sets are incredibly comprehensive and unique. RELX Group has petabytes of data under its control, according to Bayazit. The company will build data, acquire it, license it, aggregate it, and then build contributed databases where their customers can contribute.
Kumsal Bayazit recognizes the plethora of data the company controls, referencing some of the figures that illustrate the data and analytical power of RELX Group.
“These raw data sets are then put together and refined to help businesses with their decision making. Just to give you a sense of data – RELX Group’s LexisNexis Risk Solutions business has 6 petabytes of data including 65 billion items of information collected from over 10,000 sources and 30 million business entities.In the insurance sector, we have over 2 billion miles of driving behavior data. LexisNexis legal business has 3 petabytes of data available. Elsevier has the most expansive citation and abstract database with over 65 million records. Science Direct, which is one of our primary data and content distribution platforms accessible to scientists, has over 14 million content pieces alone. So, that in itself is a rich data set for us to mine.”
The interview was a learning curve for me, as I could listen to one of the most unbelievable transformation stories of this decade. You can learn more about the transformation at RELX by visiting their site www.relx.com.
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