CEO Andy Prozes Steers The Course of LexisNexis Technological Advances

CEO Andy Prozes Steers The Course of LexisNexis Technological Advances

I had occasion to watch the DVD of True Crime the other day, a 1999 movie starring Clint Eastwood (and others in a terrific cast too lengthy to list here, but that includes Isaiah Washington before his Grey’s Anatomy days and a fantastically understated Denis Leary). Because the movie is only 10 years old, a little more than the span of my tenure at LexisNexis, I was somewhat taken aback by the primitive technology that Eastwood’s character, a newspaper reporter, uses in his job. Sitting down at his desk, the reporter clicks a few keys on his computer keyboard, and up flashes a splash screen for LexisNexis Research Software (2.7 for Macintosh). To be accurate, the screen read “LEXIS-NEXIS” and it carried a green “Knowledge Burst” logo instead of the new and improved hyphenless, mixed-case trademark and red 3-D Knowledge Burst we are familiar with today. After a few seconds, the sounds of a telephone dialing can be heard, along with the familiar but increasingly nostalgic sound of a dial-up modem establishing a connection.  

 
Of course, 10 years in terms of technology is an eon. A vast majority (if not all) of the sources that LexisNexis provides can be accessed via an ordinary internet connection at lexis.com instead of using proprietary software. Most of us have long since upgraded to broadband connections. And as old as the reporter’s setup seems, being able to run LexisNexis proprietary software on a desktop computer represented a technological advance from having to purchase or lease a LexisNexis-manufactured single-purpose research terminal. And at the other end of the chronological continuum, LexisNexis today is expanding its business model from “online research library” to creating a presence on the open Web, manifestations of which include the LexisNexis Communities, LexisHub, lexisONE, and Martindale-Hubbell Connected.
 
Shortly after the release of True Crime, Andy Prozes took the helm at LexisNexis as its latest CEO, steering the company through this last decade of technological progress. In fact, a recent strategy+business article by Russ Mitchell, How LexisNexis Is Winning on the Web, notes that before Prozes became CEO in 2000, LexisNexis had become somewhat mired in inertia, perhaps attributable in part to its existence as one of the oldest computer-based information providers in the world. The original LEXIS went online in 1973, having grown out of a contract with the US Air Force in 1966. The article takes note of Prozes’ success in turning the company from a “fusty old-school laggard” into a “21st century data service powerhouse.” Undoubtedly due in no small part to the technological progress that Prozes has overseen, LexisNexis experienced a 10 percent sales growth rate from 2001 to 2006, rising to 22 percent in 2007 and 36 percent in 2008.
 
In the article, Prozes describes the importance of talking to customers to determine their needs. Prozes notes that information is not a product in and of itself, nor is the technology that is used to provide the information. Rather, the information content and the technology must complement each other to create a complete workflow solution. One of the notable technological developments that has emerged recently is the social network. Prozes notes, however, that despite the popularity of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, law firms and legal professionals have special needs that those sites cannot provide; thus the inspiration for Martindale-Hubbell Connected, the LexisNexis Communities, and other LexisNexis open Web initiatives. As Prozes describes, Martindale-Hubbell Connected, currently in beta, is being transformed into a set of tools that help attorneys take advantage of those resources available on the Web and to create social networks that consist solely of attorneys and other legal professionals. On the LexisNexis Communities, attorneys can read about the important issues in their particular practice areas and the viewpoints of other attorneys, as well as provide their own viewpoints. Together, these tools help legal professionals remain at the cutting edge of their profession, just as LexisNexis works to stay at the cutting edge of legal information technology.
 
(By the way, for you technology history buffs, the Windows 3.1 version of Lexis-Nexis Research Software 2.8 is available for $1.00 from retrosoftware.com. You’ll need a 3.5 inch floppy drive, though – remember those? Get it fast before the Smithsonian beats you to it.)