2018 – shaping the future

2018
shaping the future

New products, closer relationships,
and meeting users’ shifting expectations…

To mark the end of an exciting year at Publish Interactive, our directors explain how the year just gone will shape 2019, and beyond.

Emma

Emma Forber
Director of Client Services

‘What marks out 2018 is deepening customer relationships’

Over the past 12 months, we’ve signed some great new customers, renewed contracts, upgraded technology for others, and launched a string of interactive research portals. By any measure, it’s been a busy year, but what has marked out 2018 was the ever-deepening relationships we have forged with our customers.

The quality of our relationships is paramount, but during 2018 we’ve sought to deepen them further by establishing customer connections at each level of the business and across multiple departments. We now have an active customer panel to feed back into the development of our solution and our teams in operations, development, commercial, marketing, and product owners have strong relationships into our client businesses that will help us respond even more directly to their needs throughout 2019 – and beyond.

Tom

Tom Gibbs
Director of Operations

‘Much work was under the hood, developing vital infrastructure on which customers rely’

Our policy of continuous development means we rarely sit still. Since January, we’ve introduced a new content product and features to do all sorts of things – including making it easier to brand content and adding several elements to enhance workflow efficiency.

Of course, this is just the work you see; much of our endeavour has been under the hood, developing the technical infrastructure that ensures our platform will continue to grow and integrate smartly with the various technologies relied upon by our partners.

To achieve this, we’ve launched a host of new APIs throughout the year to help customers use our software in the most effective and efficient way possible; but perhaps our most critical work has been our forward architecture planning. Through this process, we’ll ensure that future iterations of our software can increasingly operate through the cloud and deliver the speed and stability our partners will need.

Mitali

Mitali Mookerjee
Managing Director

‘Developing a deeper understanding of end users’ needs will be a key focus in 2019’

Research consumers (our customers’ customers) need critical business insights supplied in a way that complements, rather than disrupts, their working lives. They need digital research services to slot efficiently and seamlessly into their workflows.

At Publish Interactive, we’ve always taken a lead on developing the technology research publishers need to meet the high expectations of their end users – and 2019 will be no different.

In the next year, we’ll focus on understanding even more about the behaviour and usage of end users, developing on the customer panels established in 2018. We’ll be enhancing our multi-format content capabilities – for example, making better use of landscape views and slide formats for PPT support – that enable publishers to deliver research to their customers in the most accessible and re-usable way possible.

Daniel

Daniel Lord
Founder

‘Our job is to empower analysts to reveal insights in compelling ways’

The explosion in data is well documented and, if anything, the past year has seen an acceleration. In an age of abundant information, analysts who can pinpoint telling and true insights are more vital than ever; but it’s a reality of research that as the nature of data changes, so does the end-user requirement.

Not a generation ago, static report formats delivered static insights: this sector is growing, this one is not. Those answers are of little use now; businesses need insight that reveals something previously unknown that they can customise or run through appropriate filters to make it applicable for them.

The challenge for analysts now is twofold: find new insights and demonstrate them in the best way possible. For an experienced and insightful analyst, the first point is within their reach; but it’s the second where they’ll need help – that’s where we come in.

It’s our job to help analysts reveal new insights in compelling ways. In 2019, We’ll help analysts reinvent themselves by making the most of the opportunities data provides. And while the future of research will certainly be enriched by artificial intelligence, key differentiators will continue to come from human endeavour and the ability of authors to express themselves in formats that enrich their insights and enable the audience to make immediate use of them.

GDPR: Use of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Other User Data

In our previous blog post we told you we would provide an update on the use of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) by iReports. In the table below, we clarify what PII data is collected, how it is collected, and when and where is it used across the service.

We’ll be following up in a few weeks with our next update on “Third-Party Suppliers” but in the meantime, as always, if you have any questions or would like clarification of any kind we’d be delighted to hear from you.

GDPR: our plans as we approach the compliance date

If you run a business that retains personal data of any sort, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is probably something about which you’re becoming increasingly familiar.

This set of regulations comes into force on May 25th, 2018 and by that time all businesses covered by the new regulations will need to be compliant – so, to keep you up to speed on how these rules will affect our business, we’re going to publish a series of GDPR updates over the next couple of months.

What is GDPR?

For the uninitiated, GDPR is European Union regulation aimed at strengthening an individual’s rights over how their data is used. The new rules will unify data protection law across the European Union and apply to organisations that process and store personal data. They will also herald a regime of tougher fines for breaches and non-compliance.

Does GDPR apply to me?

It applies to any organisation that controls of processes Personally Identifiable Information (PII), including organisations based outside the EU that handle data belonging to EU residents.

How does GDPR impact Publish Interactive?

Publish Interactive directly handles very little PII data, so the impact is likely to be minimal. However, we take our responsibilities in this area very seriously so we’re publishing this bulletin as the first step towards becoming GDPR compliant and letting our clients know what our plan looks like.

What happens next?

As we progress towards the compliance date we’ll publish regular updates about our activities. Of course, we’ll also provide customers, should they wish, with the opportunity to ask questions, seek clarifications, and input into the process.

Here’s an outline of the topics – and some timings – of what we’ll soon be publishing updates about:

  1. Use of PII by iReports: by early February, we intend to define and document what data will be collected by iReports and how, when and where, it will be used within the software
  2. Third-Party Suppliers: by end of February, we intend to document and list any third-party suppliers who reference PII and link to their conformity statements
  3. Subject Access Requests: by late March, we’ll define and document our process for dealing with SARs – including the likely timeframe and methodology of obtaining requests for information
  4. Breach Notifications: we also intend to define and document the process for dealing with any breach notifications – ensuring time limitations are achievable and adhered to
  5. iReport Changes: we’ll also outline a plan for any changes that are needed to iReports (eg: PII opt-in on registration) and detail the dates when this work will need to be completed

Aside from our updates, should you have any questions or require any kind of clarification we’d be delighted to hear from you.

How we helped a local charity enjoy a festive meal

Engaging and participating with the local community is an essential part of being a responsible business. 

In addition to the hands-on support we have given to Music and Arts Production (MAP Charity) throughout 2017, we were also able made a generous donation so that all those working there could enjoy a festive meal together. Special thanks to our Founder, Daniel Lord, and Publish Interactive’s loyal customers for making this possible! 

Music and Arts Production is an education charity that helps disadvantaged young people in Leeds. The donation we were able to provide paid for staff and volunteers to enjoy a festive meal together and for students to enjoy a week of special lunches. 

“Thanks to Publish Interactive’s generosity, all the people that work so hard for the charity have been able to get together for the first time,” said Tom Smith, Project Director, MAP Charity.  

“We celebrated a successful 2017 helping young people in our community and looked forward to doing even more work of this kind in 2018.” 

Can 2018 herald less addictive technologies and boost productivity?

How much blame for poor workplace productivity can we ascribe to multiple technologies fighting each other for our attention? It’s an intriguing idea. 

Productivity growth across the world’s leading economies is weak while the most recent figures available show that output per hour worked in Britain lags way behind the average of other advanced economies in the G7 group of industrialised nations and is failing to grow. 

The reasons for stagnating productivity are myriad – they include the make-up of different economies, standards in education, training, and the skills (or lack of them) held by each workforce; but what about distraction in the workplace? Could this be a factor?  

In an excellent post on the Bank Underground blog, Dan Nixon explores how falling productivity could be seen in this light (in fact, he highlights how during this period of weak productivity growth, smartphone shipments have risen ten-fold). The argument goes that consumer technologies are designed to grab our attention and, consequently, cause constant distraction from our daily tasks. 

So, how might this crisis of attention affect the economy? 

Dan suggests distractions – whether that’s email, smartphone notifications, or even office noise – can lead to weaker productivity as: 

  1. People are directly drawn away from tasks 
  2. A persistently lower capacity for work becomes the norm as the minds of a workforce become habitually distracted 

“The more we have different sources of notifications in the workplace competing for our attention,” Dan writes, “the more we’ll constantly scan different channels in an attempt to stay on top of things. 

“The problem is that this mode of working – termed ‘continuous partial attention’ – serves to fragment our attention, reducing our focus on the task at hand.” 

Distracted moments can easily lead to the formation of bad habits, Dan notes. These habits can, in turn, be encouraged and shaped by technologies such as smartphone apps to the point where they ‘hijack the mind’ (Tristan Harris’s phrase, not mine…). 

One of the methods used in this hijack is technology designed to feed addictive behaviour. The techniques will be familiar to almost everyone: the newsfeeds that auto-refresh and scroll endlessly, sites that cue then play another video after one has just been watched, the ‘read’ messages and notifications that indicate a chat partner is composing a fresh missive for you… 

All of this serves to discourage the user from ceasing their activity and, for those that do escape, notifications can be designed to interrupt whatever else they are doing and drag them back in. 

As the founder of a business that develops software aimed at helping make people more productive at work, I find technology designed specifically to keep people in this addictive loop unsettling. 

Our product allows users to quickly find information that answers their questions, then easily re-use the content. The idea of retaining them simply for retention’s sake seems almost perverse. 

Consumers need to better understand how they are affected by technology design. At the same time, vendors should be discouraged from developing features that encourage addictive behaviour. Features like these are deleterious to productivity and, in my view, can ultimately encourage unhappiness. 

As we head toward 2018, it’s my profound hope that a greater awareness of how technology can be addiction-feeding will eventually help to drive up standards in design and implementation. 

If this thread can be weaved into the development of future technologies; if habit-forming behaviours can be recognised by individuals and discouraged through responsible design; then perhaps we can start to redress some aspects of productivity stagnation and, at the same time, also start to live happier and more rewarding lives. 

That’s certainly food for thought for 2018… 

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Why we chose Microsoft Teams

Publish Interactive has been using Microsoft Teams to aid its collaboration and communication internally and with key business partners for almost a year now – but why did we start using it?

In a previous post, we detailed the requirements that led us to search for a new communications and collaboration tool. Here, we’re just going to focus on our deliberations; basically, why we finally decided that Teams was the tool for us over other ways of trying to meet our needs.

Group chat or a workspace system?

The choice boiled down to whether we were able to extract sufficient value from a chat or group workspace tool that was already on the market.

We had been using Slack in the business (on a trial basis) to see how everyone responded. So, we asked ourselves a few questions about it:

1. Was it easy to communicate (message/voice)?
Internally, we found it was; but perhaps it would be difficult to scale this to use with customers.

2. Was it easy to find stuff?
In terms of finding chat, fine; but ‘stuff’ includes so much more. We thought it would quickly just became one more place to search (in addition to email, shared folders etc).

3. Any sense of information overload?
Not really.

4. What difference did it make to you?
It was fun and collaborative, but perhaps it didn’t help us as with our efficiency.

We loved the ability to gather communications and notifications, we liked the slick interface, but it didn’t solve the wider issue of getting all our information into a single place. Slack might have partially replaced email communication, but we didn’t feel that in its current form it couldn’t  do anything about the issue of having files and other information scattered through loads of different systems.

So, when we applied our list of requirements to Slack (you can read about these requirements on our previous post) we found it only really satisfied two:

  • A single, searchable communication system so that information isn’t lost
  • Minimal effort to adopt

As a result, it didn’t seem a great fit. It was a fantastic tool, but it only solved a part of the problem. In fact, when we started to apply our requirements generally to chat and workspace systems, the chat tools it did n’t measure up as well.

It was this kind of thinking that helped us conclude that a workspace solution would fit our requirements best and – lucky for us – Microsoft was rolling one out…

And just in time too, because until Teams arrived there really wasn’t anything else like it available. There were some more niche providers that compete in some ways (like Basecamp), but nothing as generic and wide-reaching as Teams.

Microsoft really was one of the first to launch a general (by that we mean with the possibility of being widely used) workspace solution that integrated deeply with loads of other everyday systems, technologies and pieces of software. Particularly with Office365, which we use.

What is everyone else doing?

We felt it was important to ask ourselves what systems other organisations (so, that really means businesses we might partner with) and potential new recruits might be familiar with.

It would make it much easier, day to day, if we could start using a system that was simple for others to interact with or had commonalities with technologies that existed outside the group area.

For this, we looked at research from SpiceWorks, which found that Skype for Business ranked mostly highly for current usage for business collaboration and ranked highest for deployment plans for business collaboration.

https://community.spiceworks.com/research/business-chat-apps

So, we thought, a Microsoft technology would be good because it would integrate with Skype (which is MS owned) and everyone else in the world was likely to know how to use it.

This research also highlighted something very interesting: at the time Teams was only in beta, but Spiceworks’ survey of 450 IT professionals globally found that 11% of businesses were already thinking of deploying the tool.

In addition, the analysis estimated:

“Microsoft Teams will be the second most commonly used messaging platform in the workplace by the end of 2018, surpassing Slack and Google Hangouts, and coming in behind only Skype for Business.

“This bodes well for Microsoft, who owns Skype, and could speak to the fact that Microsoft Teams is free to use for companies that subscribe to Office 365.” – SpiceWorks

Those figures come from earlier in the year and now over 125,000 organisations are reported to be using Teams in one form or another.

In fact, in September, it was reported that Microsoft had taken the decision to go all in with Teams as its core communications platform for businesses, in effect replacing Skype for Business as its core offering here.

https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/25/microsoft-is-going-all-in-on-teams-and-plans-to-phase-out-skype-for-business/

Teams, then?

Well, yes. It was a technology that met our needs better than any other tool, it was likely to become popular and was going to allow simple integration with the outside world. How could we say no?

Additionally, and importantly, at a time when security, compliance and GDPR are such hot topics, there’s comfort in moving more into a Microsoft world where it’s a given that sufficient safeguards will be provided as standard.

With Teams ticking so many boxes, and with no clear superior alternative, we really couldn’t go with any other approach.

Communication and collaboration: why we needed Microsoft Teams

To help improve our communication and collaboration, reduce unnecessary burdens in the working day, and to generally make everyone’s lives a bit easier, we have started to use Microsoft Teams. 

The first thing to say is that as specialist provider of serviced software, we understand how paying to use a dedicated, outsourced tool built by experts would provide us with functionality beyond any we could build for the same price. 

The second thing to say is: boy, it’s handy! 

In this article, we’re going to run through the principal reasons why we started using Teams. We’ll do this by examining some of the organisational challenges we faced as a business. 

It’s a bit much to put everything in a single post, so today we’ll just look at why we’ve done this, and, in a later post, we’ll go into a bit more detail on how we concluded that Teams (instead of another platform) was the technology for us. 

Productivity impetus 

While we were able to work, with team members at multiple locations outside the office, and we had tools to meet most of our needs, we weren’t maximising our productivity. 

Information was stored on multiple systems and communications were taking place across several different platforms. Using up to eight different technologies to fulfil these tasks presented a series of key challenges: 

  • Locating and sharing information with relevant people 
  • Different information siloed in different systems, with different people granted access to each 
  • Ability to communicate quickly and efficiently was limited 
  • Interruptions – work being disturbed for unproductive reasons (like locating info) 

Chief among our challenges was email. How often are you cc’d in an extensive email chain that is of only marginal interest? Equally, how often have you realised that a vital piece of information is lodged in a deep chain and you’re forced to scroll the whole thing to locate it? Well, it was the same for us. 

When you get many tens or even hundreds of emails each day, managing them soon becomes a productivity sink. It’s hard to stay on top of, most aren’t relevant, it’s difficult to block stuff and it’s hard to search. That’s good neither for business nor general stress levels. 

But perhaps our biggest beef with email is that everything appears to have the same importance, where the reality is that some communications and pieces of information require close, constant attention, whereas others require only a lighter association. Our move to Teams has enabled us to make this distinction by creating teams and channels that are our core work areas and others that we can keep a general eye on and dip into when needed. 

We have got a bit ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to why we needed Teams in the first place.  

Our requirements 

We needed a tool that could empower us. We needed a tool that could bring communications, tasks, documents and more into a single location where access was universal. 

We needed a single, searchable communication system that would: 

  • Minimise impact on flow (reduce task-switching) 
  • Create faster responses through a wider audience 
  • Prevent information overload (know what is important and what isn’t) 
  • Make it easy to handover tasks and files 
  • Make it easy for managers to stay up-to-date 

In addition, we needed a unified task list that promoted transparency across teams, so we could: 

  • Pass tasks without losing information 
  • Assess progress easily 
  • Identify gaps and bottlenecks 
  • Stop things being forgotten 

What’s more, we needed the ability to quickly and easily see progress on projects, so we could: 

  • Have better awareness – to see the opportunities to help each other 
  • Identify bottlenecks 
  • Keep management (and customers) up-to-date 

We also needed to be able to work effectively with consultants and customers, reduce our daily complexity and solve all these challenges with a tool that took minimal effort to adopt. 

So, Teams then? 

Teams, as part of the Office365 ecosystem, allowed us to do all of this and it would also enhance rather than hinder our efforts around data security and compliance. In fact, we couldn’t really find another tool that so adequately fitted out requirements. As we were already an Office365 customer, once the decision was made to go with Teams it was just a case of switching it on. 

Teams lets us to keep everything in a single place, it has global search (so locating stuff is easier – it also integrates with Microsoft Delve and Sharepoint enterprise searches) and multiple other handy integrations; but beyond everything else, it has made life simpler and more productive for everyone in the business by enabling differentiation – that ability to prioritise tasks and communications in a way that’s more effective than before.

Find out more about MS Teams https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software

PRESS RELEASE: Publish Interactive helps Roskill launch a powerful, new interactive content portal

Publish Interactive, a leading developer of serviced software for the Market Intelligence community, has enabled Roskill Information Services, a provider of international metals and minerals research information, to launch a new, fully interactive research content platform.

Using Publish Interactive’s iReports solution, Roskill launched its new research content portal at the start of November to coincide with London Metals Exchange (LME) Week.

The new iReports-powered site enables Roskill to publish new reports in an interactive format that makes it quicker and easier for its customers to search, access, and reuse its information.

Roskill has converted 15 reports published in the last year into an interactive format and over the course of the next six months will make available a further ten-years-worth of reports as interactive content.

Roskill’s new content portal will enable its customers to:

  • Quickly and easily find information through high-quality search
  • Easily export figures into Powerpoint
  • Access the data behind tables as Excel documents
  • Translate written content into several different languages
  • Work seamlessly across its content portal and marketing website thanks to a single sign-in

“We’re delighted to have helped Roskill launch its new interactive content portal and, in doing so, extend the record number of customer launches we have overseen in the last 12 months,” said Emma Forber, Director of Client Services with Publish Interactive.

“We’re really excited about our work with Roskill. We hope the engaging features and customer usage information that iReports can provide will play a significant part in the next phase of its digital development.”

“As a business, we had initially looked to improve our content delivery by developing an in-house platform, but when we saw the range of features iReports could provide, the in-house option worked out to be more costly and less comprehensive,” said Alison Saxby, Director of Roskill Information Services.

“Now we have launched, we couldn’t be happier with iReports. It has enabled us to offer our customers an interactive experience for the first time, we can gather vital feedback on how customers use our products, and we can notify customers of updates to existing report content and easily launch new products into the market.”

About Publish Interactive

Publish Interactive is a leading developer of serviced software for the Market Intelligence community. The company, which is based in Leeds in the UK, has been supplying its iReports publishing software product to research and information businesses since for more than 12 years.

Contact Publish Interactive at sales@publishinteractive.com or on +44 (0)113 457 0123 or visit online at https://www.publishinteractive.com.

About Roskill Information Services

Roskill Information Services is a leader in the provision of international metals and minerals research information. It started life as one of the UK’s first management consultancies in 1930. Roskill began publishing reports in 1970 and it now publishes more than 40 market reports and other information services.

Contact Roskill at info@roskill.com or on +44 20 8417 0087 or visit online at https://www.roskill.com.

Contact:
Emma Forber
Director of Client Services
Publish Interactive
Phone: +44 (0)113 457 0123
Email: sales@publishinteractive.com

Publish Interactive Managing Director appointed trustee of local charity

The managing director of Publish Interactive, Mitali Mookerjee, has been appointed as a trustee of a local charity that aims to turn around the lives of young people who are at risk of falling out of mainstream education.

Music and Arts Production (MAP) is a charity that helps young people who are at risk of exclusion from school by taking them out of a traditional learning environment for multiple sessions each week to teach them creative arts.

MAP has a dedicated space in an old foundry building in central Leeds where young people are taught music production, print making, painting, and other creative endeavours towards a BTEC qualification.

The uniqueness of the MAP project lies in its marriage of education and the creative economy. Although there are teachers on site, much of the coaching is carried out by professional creatives. In exchange for space in the building, and access to equipment, they give up time to show these young people how to turn a creative urge into an artwork – and perhaps even a career.

Learning from people who derive a living from the creative arts can be highly inspirational for the young people that come to MAP; that’s why we were delighted, in July this year, when Mitali was appointed to her new role as a trustee.

It’s probably time for a bit of background:

In the last few years, Publish Interactive has supported several charitable projects and it felt the time was right to once again see where it could help. To that end, Daniel (founder of Publish Interactive) and Mitali had been looking for a local charity to support.

After a serendipitous meeting with MAP founder Tom Smith, and a run of productive conversations, Daniel and Mitali thought it would be great to share some of the expertise bound up in Publish Interactive to help the charity cement its position.

Mitali’s new role as a trustee will see her take approaches used at Publish Interactive and apply them at MAP to help it secure its immediate and long-term viability.

That means getting involved in everything from sourcing and securing funding, to locating other forms of support, to helping MAP apply principles used by technology businesses to manage and measure the success to assess the impact of its own projects.

In fact, MAP is already using the Trello technology to help it track, assign, and sign off project tasks.

For any charity, it’s important to be able to assess impact – and MAP is no different. As a trustee, Mitali will also help quantify the positive effect MAP is having on the lives of young people and the local community, offer strategic advice on the organisation of internal teams, and help it explore whether the MAP model is replicable elsewhere.

Everyone at Publish Interactive is extremely excited about our involvement and we can’t wait to see where we can help take this decent and effective organisation.

If you’d like to support MAP with a donation, then follow this link to its website https://www.mapcharity.org/ and scroll to the bottom of the homepage.

How and why we’re decentralising the workplace next summer

At Publish Interactive we think of ourselves as a pioneering business. We develop industry-leading publishing software, but we’re also keen to push boundaries in terms of workplace culture. 

In short, we produce the best software we can but, as part of that process, we also want to make our employees happier and more productive people. 

So, how do we do that? 

One specific approach we’ve adopted is to move from a ‘traditional’ organisation towards something that seems less like the approach of a 19th century factory.  

Trust is central to how we organise. We don’t dictate to staff how and where they should work, or how they should organise, we simply ask that they meet their commitments and perform in a way the rest of the team might expect. 

This approach can sound slight, but in fact it’s very powerful. In fact, it’s empowering. We have liberated our teams and at the same time given them the responsibility to regulate themselves. We don’t need a hierarchical approach as our people set and manage their own projects. 

Now, this sounds very idealistic, but it works in the real world because we have self-motivated and conscientious people working on staff. Also – and this is no small thing – technology has enabled us to take this approach. 

After years of running various meeting, messenger, and VOIP applications, we have finally moved the company onto Microsoft Teams. The move has improved the way we manage our projects and made it significantly easier for us to adopt the kind of workplace culture to which we aspire. 

Work away in the summer 

As of next year, we want to experiment with a programme where employees can decamp for one or two weeks in the summer, should their circumstances allow. We want to encourage people to go anywhere (we imagine it would be a similar time zone) but still work in the usual way. The ultimate aim is to enable flexible working throughout the school holidays; so one to two weeks is just a first step. 

There are conditions: people will have to be involved in our Monday standup meeting, they will have to have a dedicated workspace with a desk, and they must continue to meet their usual deadlines and commitments. It would be work, just somewhere where people could be near to friends, family, or their leisure interests, and therefore enjoy a better balance with work (and also without the need to spend time commuting). 

We would also like to encourage groups of employees (should they wish) to go together and set up pop-up hubs for the duration. If several people were to go to the same place, that could enable pooling to pay for a nanny or other local benefits. 

The final point is that we wouldn’t want to limit these hubs to just being for Publish Interactive people. It would be our great pleasure to welcome people from other businesses into the mix. These could be friends, family members, or significant others of any kind. 

Small firm, big change 

Even though we’re a small business, we’re trying to challenge some of the drudgery that all-to-often (unnecessarily so, in our opinion) comes hand-in-glove with a job. 

Technology presents many opportunities for business, but the one that is most often overlooked or poorly implemented is the opportunity to decentralise the working world and to make everyone’s lives just that little bit more content. 

That’s all we’re trying to do here… make our people feel happier, better rested, and hopefully more productive as a result.