When we coined the term "infocommerce" way back in 1999, it was meant to express our belief that information content needed to be linked with software and become increasingly integrated into the business processes of our customers. This would go far beyond assuring high renewal rates. It would drive customer demand for better and deeper data, for which publishers would be able to charge premium prices, with all this data now integral to the basic operation of client companies. We saw this as a very attractive vision of the future, but at the time it really was in the realm of theory.

Over the past few years, we've seen these precepts of infocommerce become part of mainstream thinking in the industry, with more and more publishers talking about delivering high value data as continuous data feeds, and finding ways to embed themselves into the workflow, systems and processes of their customers. But while more of us are "talking the talk," still only a handful of us are "walking the walk."

That's why it is so nice to hear a top executive at leading company demonstrating that they not only see the future, but are making serious strides to re-position their companies accordingly. Nancy McKinstry, chairman of Wolter Kluwer's executive board, told the audience at the recent DeSilva & Phillips conference that it was the goal of Wolters Kluwer to move beyond providing their customers with information to read in favor of finding ways to "embed our content in what our customers do." And in a dramatic illustration of their commitment to this goal, McKinstry noted that the company now devotes as much effort to creating software as it does to creating content and has already reached the point where "we have as many programmers as we do editors."

That's a dramatic statement for a publisher to make, but it reflects the reality that our business is changing profoundly. Reference data has traditionally been standalone and passive, and that constrained both its utility and its value. Need to find something in the old days? You'd stop what you were doing, look it up, and then go back to what you were doing, often cutting and pasting or re-entering the reference data you had found. That's not efficient or productive or easy, which means that a lot of directories and databases became place of last resort, destroying their value. Information that is used frequently and valued highly is information that is integrated into the daily work of the customer, if not driving the daily work of the customer.

We've all talked about the desirability of owning "must have" information. This new environment allows us to get to that goal more easily than ever before, but we've got to see the vision, and make the necessary investment to adapt our products now. Those who do will find themselves with even better businesses than they ever thought possible. Those who don't will end up as roadkill on the information highway.

We're pleased to announce our first Models of Excellence award for 2005 has been awarded to Primary Intelligence for its Account Profile product.

For a handy reference to Models of Excellence winners for 2005 and years past, please visit our awards page for the complete lists and full details.