House Of Butter More Efficient Than The NSA … !!
One of our spies in the cab still lives in a Lexis company town and recently a quiet meal alone turned into a mine of information…. here’s the report from close to the front line from our very own George Smiley
It is surprising how one picks up information on the industry. I was running errands all day. There was a restaurant next door to my last stop so I decided to catch dinner there. The restaurant was packed but I avoided the wait by eating at a table in the bar.
Right after I ordered my drink, a group of six sat down at the next table. It turned out to be a reunion of LexisNexis employees with a couple of their recently laid-off brethren.
After they started conversing, I realized that this restaurant was quite close to the LexisNexis office. I listened intently, but discretely as I ate, to get an idea of what their concerns are.
The discussion topics suggested the group was a mix of sales and technology people. The opinions expressed are those of the original bar group. During this entire conversation, there was no disagreement at the table. I report the views expressed as literally as I can but I have added some commentary in brackets. I am leaving out their commentary on specific individuals and on Lexis Advance.
The group’s great concern was more layoffs. They were convinced the senior LexisNexis management is aware of the magnitude of the Lexis Advance disaster and they are “treading water to delay the inevitable train wreck for a long as possible.”
The group claimed that LexisNexis has gutted the director level and second level VPs. For the next round of layoffs, either LexisNexis either has to move up the food chain and start holding those responsible accountable or move downward. Moving downward means firing more people to save the same amount of money. “You have to fire 3 worker bees to match firing one VP.” No one at the table thought the next round of firings would move upward. This means continuous, expanding cutbacks.
One person said that Customer Discovery and Innovation (CDI aka customer testing) would be on the chopping block. She claimed that CDI predicted before it was released that Lexis Advance would have a Net Promoter Score (NPS) 80 points higher than it is. “They are not providing useful information so they can be cut.” [We’ll see, but this may be wishful thinking. When I was at LexisNexis, I thought CDI was the single most overrated organization in the company and that their testing was useless. Has the management figured this out yet?]
The group described the current mission in the Global Technology Organization (GTO) is to “cut costs at any cost.” That means, “cutting people at any cost.” [I have heard similar reports from many sources.]
One person pointed out the noticeable decline in quality for case summaries on Lexis. She attributed that to the work being done in the Philippines by people who do not understand what they are reading in order to cut costs. [I, too, have noticed this problem with new case summaries. This is the first time I have heard the claim that they were now being done in the Philippines.]
The sales types in the group said that the LexisNexis is being sustained now by existing multiyear contracts with big law firms made a while ago. However, those contracts are not being renewed. The long-term prospects are bleak. [This was all new to me.]
Most of their technology discussion was about search engines and Lexis for Microsoft Office (LMO). Their conversation was consistent with what I had heard before but provided details from a different perspective.
LMO is now dead. Development has been wiped out. The technology folks raised four problems with LMO. The first was that the business folks insisted in piling features on to what should have been a simple tool. This made LMO bloated and slow. The second was the third party technology they used for citation checking was not mature and was very slow.
The remaining two LMO issues were related to Lexis Advance. They claimed that the shared services on the Lexis Advance platform are a mess, making it difficult to implement LMO. They singled out searching as being a much bigger problem on Lexis Advance platform then on the Lexis.com. The final issue they raised was migration to Lexis Advance. When LMO was first built, it ran on Lexis.com. They claimed that there were several thousand LMO users running on Lexis.com. When LMO switched to Lexis Advance, that dropped to fewer than twenty users. They also claimed the Lexis Advance product team wanted to kill LMO from the start.
The major technology issue they discussed was search engines. This is an area that is over my head but I will try to do the best I can to repeat what was said. Lexis Advance uses an off-the-shelf search engine: Mark Logic. This choice has been a technological disaster. They claimed that Mark Logic is simply not suited for legal searching. I did not understand most of the technical reasons they gave. One point that I did understand is that Mark Logic does not support merging search results from multiple sources.
One example is that it is unable to do a combined search of customer and Lexis data. One person described a proposed scheme to overcome this by loading the Mark Logic search engine into the cloud. Customers would load their data in the same cloud. This went nowhere because large law firms would not agree to host their data outside the firm.
The search engine problem has been compounded because the Lexis Advance shared services have been built around Mark Logic rather than building Mark Logic into the shared services. This was the issue I described previously in the LMO context. They also said the design of the shared services is causing a huge problem migrating the International Business Units (IBUs) to Lexis Advance.
The major IBU migration problem they discussed is business systems. Business systems at LexisNexis are just a disaster. They claimed LexisNexis just announced a two-year delay for IBU migration because the Lexis Advance business systems will not be ready. As with her predecessors, the latest head of business systems has been fired. Her reports now report directly to the CTO. Everyone at the table thought the remaining IBUs will realize what a catastrophe Lexis Advance is and will end up not migrating at all. [The business systems disaster at LexisNexis is well known. Nothing on this topic was new to me.]
One person claimed, “LexisNexis has spent $700,000,000 on Lexis Advance and has nothing to show for it.” [I have heard various figures for the cost of Lexis Advance. While all are within the same order of magnitude, this was the highest I had heard so far.]
Putting the pieces together is sounded like LexisNexis plans to live with declining revenue and will try to increase profits through spending cuts. The table consensus was that Reed-Elsevier eventually would sell off the remnants of LexisNexis to a book publisher at a fire sale price. They did not expect such a sale within the next couple of years because Reed-Elsevier is oblivious to the problems at LexisNexis.