Workflow and data-analysis tools are changing legal publishing – and others

Publishing for the professional services used to be a sedate affair: a magazine would come into print once a week, perhaps once a fortnight, and at regular intervals it would be accompanied by a special pullout or an information booklet. It was all very calm and straightforward.

Digital publishing changed everything. News and comment is now instant, and data sets are available at the touch of a button, but of all the changes brought about by technology, this speeding-up of the information transfer is neither the most radical or the most useful.

Providing news and data sets quickly is all very well, but what modern businesses really need is smart information derived from data-driven analysis, and to have that integrated with workflow tools.

Printed and digital information products for the legal, tax, and accountancy sectors have always centred on providing legislation, case studies, and best practice guides. Now, however, these products have evolved to incorporate workflow and professional learning elements.

A senior manager at a legal publisher recently talked us through the shift:

“Our business has always provided lawyers, accountants and tax professionals with information on the law. What it does much more of now is provide tools, populated by the same type of content, which enable the user to handle their workload faster and more effectively.”

If, for example, you are a lawyer, it’s now possible to review legislation, draft documents and manage your cases all on a single digital platform.

One firm that’s been particularly successful at developing this type of legal publishing tool is Practical Law. Thomson Reuters thought the firm was so good, it acquired Practical Law in early 2013.

But the development of new data-driven business tools isn’t just the preserve of publishers for professional services, other parts of the market are catching up too.

WGSN is best known for providing analysis and insight to fashion creatives, but by talking to existing users, and those who wanted to use its services, the company realised it could also meet the needs of fashion buyers.

Buyers told WGSN they regularly placed multi-million pound bets on stock for future seasons without having too much information on how these products were likely to fare in the market place.

From these conversations, WGSN developed INstock to provide buyers with a snapshot of key e-commerce product catalogues from retailers across thousands of brands in the UK and North America.

In an instant, buyers can now get an overview of the retail market and quickly understand what type and colour garments are being bought, and at what price point.

Whilst news, information and analysis remains important in B2B publishing, users increasingly want tools like INstock to help inform their decision-making and to make their working lives that little bit easier.

And if that’s what they want, publishers better get good at providing it.