How Reed Exhibitions is surfing the consumer IT wave

Interview: CIO Dominic Shine on how to make friends with gadgets and influence social media...

...relationship manager," he told "IT is an emotional topic for business executives, whether it's frustrations around delivery, fear of change, its impact from failure of IT systems on business performance, it's a very highly charged arena. You have to work with your peers and colleagues. You have to keep making sure they understand what you're doing. You have to explain to them when things go wrong - you have to focus on that a lot."

Nonetheless, the programme is already yielding benefits, according to Shine.

"On the ebusiness side, what we're seeing is an improvement in customer satisfaction with websites, with online experience. And also we're seeing modest but definite growth in revenues from online products. For example, online directories of companies and their products that complement what happens at our physical face-to-face trade shows and conferences, that then deliver advertising solutions to those exhibiting companies, deliver them leads online and, from a visitor perspective, improve their level of satisfaction in terms of their ability to prepare for an event and find the solutions they're looking for when they go to the event."

The programmes are also giving the business a better view of its customers and a more cohesive IT strategy across its six business regions.

"Increasingly we are sharing processes and sharing customers across our regional businesses so getting a total global view of our customers and our products and events is another big benefit we get from unifying the approach, rather than from having tens of different solutions for the same business problem," Shine added.

All the programmes are ongoing but Shine said the company has made "a lot of progress" with the first three. The fourth programme - its ERP, sales and general ledger platform transition - kicks off later this year.

While each programme has its own set of core delivery goals, Shine is keen to instil a philosophy of ongoing change around them: "We haven't just done platform development and then just stopped and rolled it out. There has been the implementation of an ongoing approach to platform development - particularly if you look at our online offering, we have a parallel track of ongoing innovation and development of the platform, together with gradual rollout across the businesses.

"If you look at our ebusiness platform, we now have close to 300 websites live on that platform in 15 countries. We still have a number of our business units that need to come on to that platform. That will happen over the next 12 months, and [then] we have an exciting ongoing plan to further develop that platform, particularly focusing on improving the digital products we can offer to customers - doing a lot around mobile platform delivery, around online lead generation and integration with social media, for example."

Going social

The rise of social networking is one much-hyped technology wave RX has had no qualms about surfing. Of the roughly 500 trade shows and conferences the company puts on, "the vast majority" will have...