Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Peering into the future of business information

I have had the pleasure over the past couple of years to participate on the sidelines of the formation of a new industry association, the Business Information Industry Association Asia/Pacific and Middle East, or BIIA. It is currently holding its annual Credit Management and Information Forum in Hong Kong.

Yesterday, the group's members met and were given an overview of developments in global business information trends by Chairman, David Worlock of Outsell. David is predicting a gradually slowing of growth in some sectors of the information industry including some falls, "for the first time" in some sectors of the digital media business. With the exception of search, most parts of the business are expected to grow as slowly as 3.5% in the next 2 - 3 years....glacial by the standards of the digital industry.

As I do, David believes that mobile is the big untapped opportunity in business information. How much more true is that in this part of the world even than in Europe and north America. Alongside that, information companies will have to learn to work with software providers as they strive to integrate their data into workflow.

As usual these days, Alibaba come up in conversation as a potential 'unexpected' competitor. It has just launched a seller credit service with China Construction Bank and, just days before that, the launch of a SaaS marketplace. Both of these are key components of the future business model Worlock is predicting and Alibaba's reach into the 10s of millions of Chinese SMEs makes it a powerful player that the large, traditional business information providers, tied as they are into the western corporate model, may find hard to match in China.

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