Digital Transformation ofBritannica Encyclopaedia History of Britannica Encyclopaedia The Britannica Encyclopaediastarted in 1768 in Edinburgh, Scotland. In that year it printed its first partof its 1st edition on Dec 10 in three volumes.1The 1st edition was issued in parts from 1768 to 1771. It used to operate in United Kingdom from1768 to 1901. After 1901 it shifted to United States of America because of theacquisition by an American firm.2It had been owned by various individuals in the past.Till now, there have been 15editions.
The history of Britannica can be divided into 5 eras.· 1768-1826:In this era 6 editions were published. It was a Scottish enterprise. It movedfrom being a three volume set to a 20 volume set. The number of contributingeditors also changed from one to numerous scholars.· 1827-1901:In this era it was controlled by a firm from Edinburgh known as “A & CBlack”. In it 7th to 9th editions were published.
Ageneral index of all the articles was introduced. Scholars from all around theworld were getting attracted towards Britannica as its reputation increased.· 1901-1973:Britannica was taken over by American businessmen in this era.
The editionsfrom 11th to 14th were published in it. Salesmen werehired to sell the encyclopaedia by going to every household. The articles weresimplified for increasing sales. · 1974-1994:The 15th edition was started in this era. Britannica sought toinclude entire human knowledge in it. The 15th was re-introducedwith index which was removed in the previous version. The digitisation processstarted.· 1994-Present:The print version has been stopped in this era.
Instead, all theirresources are now available online. The last print edition was in 2010. Britannica in the Digital Era The last era that we discussed,which is the era from 1994 to present, is when Britannica had to adopt itselfto the changing business environment. Though, the process of digitisation wasstarted in 1981 when Britannica developed a digital version of BritannicaEncyclopaedia for a research company called LexisNexis.3 In the 1990 the rise of personalcomputers caused a disruption in the education market. The sales of the printversion had dropped from 100,000 units 1990 to 51,000 in 1994 and then to just3000 in 1996.
Within just six years the decrease in sales was 97%.4 Britannica had been aware of the possiblethreats which could be caused by the rise of technologies. In the earlynineties, Britannica started delivering various products on CD-ROMs along withdictionary on a single disc. In 1995, a two disc CD was released which hadphotographs and multimedia such as videos, audios and animations were added in1997. Is it actually a case of Digital Transformation? Yes, we can say that it is a truecase of digital transformation.
The following arguments have been presented toprove so:· According to the article by Mary K. Pratt in Computerworld,digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process and itinvolves fixing various parts of the business by continuing to remove legacytechnologies and explore new ways expand the business.5If we look atBritannica, this is what exactly it has done. It has transformed itselfgradually by taking various steps through a planned action.
This process hasbeen going on from the 80s and it is still an on-going process. It started withCD-ROM, then launching the website to building new Customer RelationshipManagement systems by aligning with other companies such as Salesforce.· The business relationships of a digital firm aremanaged with the help of technology. With the rise in technology, Britannicachanged the way how they managed their core business relationships. In Dec 2015they partnered with world’s No. 1 CRM company Salesforce to evolve theirbusiness model to cater the needs of digital customers.
Salesforce helped themin increasing employee collaboration and improving customer engagement.6Britannica also tries to connect with their customers in new ways with the helpof services like Community Cloud, App cloud, Service cloud and Pardot.· Another point given by Mary K. Pratt is thatfirms shouldn’t just use technology for increasing efficiency but also forexploring and using new opportunities for growing their business. In aninterview given to Harvard Business Review in 2013, Britannica’s PresidentJorge Cauz said that after 1998 Britannica started seeing a lot ofopportunities with people using more and more internet.7According to him it was a better channel as they could have direct contact withthe customer. Using this channel Britannica provided supplemental materialswhich provided a different learning experience. Foreseeing the opportunitiesahead, Britannica started investing heavily in this area.
This shows thatBritannica seized the opportunities that digitisation created for it.· Gerald C. Kane, in his article “DigitalMaturity, Not Digital Transformation” emphasised the importance of othernon-technical issues in Digital transformation such as strategy, talentmanagement, organisational structures and leadership.8At the later part of the interview at HBR, Jorge Cauz explained how bringingthe right kind of talent into the company was vital for them. New talent which wasrelevant in the next phase was brought in.
The employees in Britannica werewilling to digitally transform the company. Jorge Cuaz showed good leadershipskills to elevate the company’s status in the changing environment.· A company may just start transforming itselfdigitally following the trend of digital transformation· In the early 1990s Britannica couldn’t foresee ashift in the market and the disruptions caused by CD ROMs and were heavilyaffected by it as the sales dwindled. · According to Michael Ross, Britannica’s seniorvice president and general educational manager, profits are growing by approximately15 per cent after 2012. The company is ableto maintain a 95 percent customer renewal rate.9 Conclusion In the 1980s Microsoft approached Britannica forcollaboration for a CD -ROM encyclopedia but the senior managers in Britannicawere confident in their control over the market. They did not consider the factthat this innovation would benefit the organization in many ways. Firstly itwould reduce cost of production, secondly it would have been easy to carry andwould have been accessible to a vast portion of the society because of thereduced price because of the reduction in cost which would have benefited themin accessing inaccessible parts of the market and could have lead the expansionof Britannica as a brand and could have helped it to cement itself as themarket leader but instead they were comfortable and overlooked the future andignored the dynamism of the market.
Microsoft responded by introducing Encarta which resulted inthe plummet in the shares of Britannica. It pressurized Britannica to enter into this new realm of information technology to sustain its position in theminds of the costumer. They although have entered the market of electronicencyclopedia, their entry was late and they shut their doors to the opportunityprovided by Microsoft for digitally transforming the organization way beforeanyone could have done. Their failure in the early adoption of the innovationmade them pay a huge price. The outlook of the senior management team ofBritannica should have considered the changing scenario and digital transformationof the market.So, in an effort to compete in the digital age Britannicahas stopped printing its leather-bound encyclopedia from 2012 and evolveditself into a leader in the online education market by collaborating withsalesforce.
Salesforce is a cloud computing company which is the costumersuccess platform and the world’s number one in customer relationship management.By incorporating cloud computing in its arsenal with the help of salesforce ithas once again got an edge in the digital encyclopedia market and undid theymistakes of the past by going one step further. With this Britannicaencyclopedia is available to its customers with the click of a mouse button. Wecan say that Britannica has transformed digitally from where it was before. Itsjourney towards digital transformation is ongoing and continuing. Its journeywas not a short one but was a long one with ups and downs.
The transforming scenarioof the digital world and the dynamic nature of the uncertainties arefurthermore complicating the competitive landscape. Advancement in technologyand innovations should be selected, incorporated or used with care afteranalyzing the relevance and by making tradeoffs between the advantages anddisadvantages of the innovation but all of these should be done quickly beforeother competitors could take advantage. The expansion and growth of Britannicacould be considered as an example of digital transformation but the journey ofdigital transformation is not quite over.1 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Encyclopaedia-Britannica-English-language-reference-work2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica3 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Encyclopaedia-Britannica-English-language-reference-work/Fifteenth-edition#ref3013504 https://www.pardot.com/case-studies/encyclopaedia-britannica/5 https://www.computerworld.com/article/3198504/digital-transformation/5-myths-about-digital-transformation.html6 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/encyclopaedia-britannica-accelerates-its-digital-transformation-with-salesforce-300187911.html7 https://hbr.org/2013/02/encyclopaedia-britannicas-tran8 https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/digital-maturity-not-digital-transformation/9 https://www.itbusiness.ca/news/how-encyclopaedia-britannica-has-remained-relevant-in-a-digital-world/63254