New Answers at 'The Answer Company': UMI Focuses on Academic and K-12 Markets; Downplays End-User Emphasis

By Hane, Paula J. | Information Today, September 1997 | Go to article overview
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New Answers at 'The Answer Company': UMI Focuses on Academic and K-12 Markets; Downplays End-User Emphasis


Hane, Paula J., Information Today


Get ready to make some revisions to your list of contacts for UMI. Names and titles will need to be updated following a number of changes, including the elimination of an entire division in the information company.

The corporate division consisting of about 80 employees was cut. About half of those 80 were reassigned to other divisions. Among those gone are D. J. (Dennis) Crane, senior vice president and general manager of the division, who joined UMI in February 1996 following the DataTimes acquisition, and Jim Tumolo, vice president. A new K-12 division will be headed by Ben Mondloch.

The official reason given for the cut is to refocus on the academic, public, and government libraries markets, with a push into the growing K-12 education market. Company sources vigorously deny they are abandoning the corporate market, but they said that they would no longer compete directly with the likes of Dow Jones and LEXIS-NEXIS in the information world. Existing corporate customers would be serviced by the academic, public, and government library division, still headed by Bonnie Lawlor. Additional outreach to corporate markets would be achieved on a "partnership basis" -- with as-yet-to-be-named partners repackaging the UMI content. Word has it that UMI's corporate sales were big but were costing too much in time and effort and were not panning out as the company had hoped.

Looking at the Numbers

According to UMI estimates, the market for academic/public/government libraries is expected to grow from $3.2 billion in 1996 to $4.3 billion by the year 2000, representing approximately a 35 percent increase. More dramatically, the K-12 education market is expected to grow from $400 million in 1996 to about $1.3 billion by the year 2000, showing an impressive 225 percent increase. In contrast, the corporate market has proven slippery to grab onto -- and too costly.

In overall impact, the company denied the cut of the corporate division to be a "substantial downsizing," as some outsiders have alleged. It affected only 40 out of about 1,250 total employees. However, 900 to 950 of the total are in operations, the largest division. This leaves 300 to 350 in the customer marketing and support divisions, with the consequent loss of staff between 11 and 13 percent.

A company spokesperson characterized the company as profitable with good revenue growth, financially solid, and an industry leader positioned to move forward. Questions about whether Bell & Howell had put UMI up for sale this spring were officially dismissed as mere rumor.

More Changes in Personnel

In addition, CEO Hank Riner left at the end of June to take a job with a financial services information firm in Chicago. Riner had supposedly expressed interest in leaving in February, but was asked to stay on to oversee the recent organizational changes. John Riedel, senior vice president of operations, was appointed interim president by UMI parent Bell & Howell.

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