Friday, December 09, 2011

The Legacy of Mark Hodder-Williams

Yesterday I learnt of the sad death of Mark Hodder-Williams, who was the original MD and driver of the publishing service First Edition in the 90’s. First Edition was a rival to Teleordering, the proprietary Whittaker service. First Edition was built on EAN standards and the GEIS EDI network and focused on addressing the inefficiency in communication within the publishing supply chain.

At the time I had left B&Q and just completed a massive EPOS roll out programme at UK supermarket Somerfield. My EDI track record was forged at the leading edge B&Q to be the first major retailer with 100% supplier participation. I was also the Chairman of the Tradenet User group, which then was the largest EDI User community in Europe and part of GEIS’s EDI Empire and also was on the council and management committee of the then ANA (Article Numbering Association), the body responsible for all cross industry EDI standards (Edifact, EAN, Tradacoms etc.). So it was natural that First Edition approached me to help get their service established.

For a variety of reasons I declined to join First Edition and was quickly snapped up by Denis Bennett (Vista) who along with Francis Bennett (Book Data) then jointly owned First Edition. My association with First Edition continued when I became a non executive director on behalf of Vista.

I have just reread the business plan that Mark and I worked on and it amazing to read the opportunities that were identified. The business plan itself helped me later invent and architect BookEasy which turned into PubEasy and the BA association’s Batch service. It was interesting that the business plan also gave me the insight to input into much of the acclaimed Publishing in the 21st Century series and engage with those industry thinkers Mark Bide and Mike Shatzkin. In particular it gave great input to the Supply Chain paper, my BA conference Dublin speech in the late 90s and discussions with highly influential Findlay Cauldwell who the drove the Dillons supply chain agenda which led to the KPMG review.

Mark had a great desire to change the way publishers and booksellers did business and together with Denis and Francis made a formidable trio of evangelists for doing things smarter. The battles with Teleordering were not to be underestimated but Mark saw the logic of adopting cross industry standards and extending the communication past the basic ordering. That this vision and conviction drove me to Pubeasy and Batch can’t be underestimated and the industry owes much more to Mark than it probably will ever realise.

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