With the London Book Fair taking Place at the Olympia London on April 5th to 7th, knk UK Managing Director, John Lawson, discusses the importance of remote working, and why the ERP market’s need for robust, secure, and flexible systems is vital.

What do you expect from the London Book Fair, which is finally taking place in person again?

I am expecting the Fair to be very upbeat. I get the distinct impression that people are keen to reconnect with old contacts, generate new business, and to make the most of the opportunity to forge new relationships which as we know is challenging to do online. The publishing industry by its very nature is about communication and that’s obviously been more difficult in the last couple of years.

What is the current focus of the UK market in terms of ERP from your point of view?

Given what we’ve all been through with the pandemic, the move towards mobile working/working from home has become more pronounced – and is here to stay.  And the ERP market is subject to that as much as any other area of business. The need for robust, secure, and flexible systems is paramount, with emphasis on improving workflows and connectivity between legacy or disparate systems. With knkPublishing based on Microsoft Dynamics 365, our ERP solution offers all of this and more, and of course is specifically geared towards the publishing and media industries.

And what kind of lessons have we learned in customer projects in this regard?

In recent projects we have learnt that it is vital to understand the goals of each stakeholder in the business and understand precisely what they want from a new ERP system.  Smarter more efficient working is always a common theme however no two businesses operate the same, so we try to analyze the requirements in sufficient detail – and always before the project starts. The system can then be configured to deliver these objectives as early as possible. Building relationships with publishers and understanding the challenges they face is key to this – and that’s why the London Book Fair is so important to us as suppliers to the industry.

To what extent can ERP functionalities that are particularly relevant for the UK market be mapped with knkPublishing?

knkPublishing already caters for most of the needs of the UK Publishing market. It handles books, magazines, periodicals, music, and any content at a level below the product. The uniqueness of the book industry in terms of single items, gratis items, stock sets, non-stock sets, standing orders, returns, ship to/bill to addresses, stock on consignment, jacket covers, price and availability feeds, Batch payments, ONIX, EDI etc. etc. is all available. Our unique development approach allows, for example a UK Publisher to have different customizations for their local market to that of a US-based Publisher, and both would remain on a standard upgrade path to receive new industry developments and features. In addition to this, the superior integration capabilities of knkPublishing allows connectivity to hundreds of available services and solutions appropriate to each local market – a good example here being TAX software.

And in what way can IT systems be considered individually, or do you need an overarching IT strategy?

While it is possible to focus on specific areas of an organization and develop the relevant IT systems (and the modular nature of knkPublishing makes such an approach entirely feasible), having an overarching IT strategy tends to lead to better results over time.  Even if that strategy isn’t fully fleshed out, having a basic appreciation of where a company wants to be in 5- or 10-years’ time, and what IT systems will be needed to deliver that, generally proves to be the most efficient and successful way of working. The essence of an effective ERP solution is to bring different processes, from across an organization, together into one fluid system so having a long-term, all-encompassing strategy enables you to build continuity and resilience into your business.

What trends can be derived for 2022 and the coming years from your discussions with the industry?

The increased reliance on flexible working patterns heightens the need for secure access to online systems, and with that it is essential to have intuitive screens and workflows to minimize the need for technical support. Tight integration to collaboration and organizational tools such as Microsoft Teams is very topical, and seamless integration with other MS Office products, and online reporting solutions has proven a huge benefit to remote workers. Even more focus on companies being efficient, working smarter, and saving costs is where we see the trend going. And from a product development perspective, the desire for companies to make their content available in more diverse ways – e.g., the ability to sell different combinations of content packages – this requires systems that can accommodate multiple types of content (work, edition, chapter, article etc.).

What developments do you foresee in the UK market with the regard to sustainability in the book market?

I anticipate companies wanting improved ability to ensure and prove they are considering sustainability in all aspects of their operations.  The International Green Book Supply Chain Alliance (BIC, BookNet Canada & BISG) are working on accreditation which could be linked to/complement ISO 14001.

(Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash)