The UK is the vanguard of open data.
Sirs Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt founded the Open Data Institute in London as a catalyst for “the evolution of open data culture to create economic, environmental, and social value”. On June 22nd, Companies House announced “that all public digital data held on the UK register of companies is now accessible free of charge, on its new public beta search service”.
Already the Agency has won international recognition for producing the first free companies’ accounts database in the world. Companies House, along with Land Registry, Met Office and Ordnance Survey, has formed the Public Data Group that in its Summer 2014 Statement on Open Data estimates “the value of Open Data released by PDG at over £900m annually”.
Data driven software
So how do companies fulfil the promise of creating economic, environmental, and social value from all this information?
Last year at the Forbes CIO Network website Brian Ascher, partner at venture capital firm Venrock, noted that part of the technical solution was now in place: “In the last few years we’ve had a ‘Big Data’ explosion, and a host of new open source technologies like Hadoop, MapReduce, and Cassandra packaged by a set of new companies that help businesses manage and manipulate their ever expanding mountains of data”.
However, Brian went on to observe that “for the most part, all of these business applications and more recent Big Data tools have left the burden of capturing real business insight, making decisions, and taking action on the business customers themselves”. Having identified a gap in our current technical capabilities, Brian then visualises a future: “A new breed of software company is emerging, however, that combines data science expertise with deep understanding of business problems. I call them Data Driven Solutions”.
Business process innovation
With the technology in place, the next step to creating value is in the hands of the insolvency sector, and their challenge is to innovate – to change ways in which it currently works by jettisoning older practices and adopting new processes.
One such process begging for innovation is asset search. Taking control of an insolvent company’s assets is a primary responsibility for insolvency practitioners. Before they win appointment, insolvency professionals must establish exactly what the company owns by reviewing all relevant information including that from Companies House and Land Registry.
Current approaches to asset search are clerical and laborious. In her June 2014 Review into Pre-pack Administration, Teresa Graham CBE notes that every year in the UK around 20,000 businesses go through an insolvency procedure. If we assume that:
– 5,000 cases are simple, when asset search consumes four hours of work
– 10,000 cases are moderately difficult, when asset search consumes twelve hours of work
– 5000 cases are complex, when asset search consumes fifty hours of work
then the industry spends 390,000 hours each year, which at an hourly charge out rate of £200 per hour (for a case manager’s time) is a cost of nearly £78 million.
Open data + innovation = value
And this is where Encompass fits in this value chain.
We build software for insolvency professionals that is driven by data sources including those from Companies House and Land Registry of the Public Data Group and many other sources already relied upon by insolvency firms. We embed deep domain knowledge of insolvency in our software to automate asset search.
Customer studies have found Encompass reduces time incurred on commercial search and review activities at the beginning of a case by as much as 70%, meaning across the industry Encompass can reduce costs by £54.6 million, funds that could either be recycled into the UK’s innovation economy or used to increase the recovery rates on fees paid to practitioners who rescue troubled companies.
So here is the new value chain: vast quantities of electronic information, much of it freely available as open data, plus data driven software, plus business process innovation. Together these three strands can reduce costs in the insolvency sector to the value many millions of pounds each year.
About Wayne Johnson
Wayne has won recognition as an entrepreneur and leader in the information industry. He has raised venture capital in the USA and won multi-million dollar grants from government. Putting capital to work, Wayne founded Software Associates in 1986 and served as CEO and chairman until the company was acquired in 2001. Software Associates grew to 60 staff with offices in the US and Hong Kong. With a focus on enterprise integration, Software Associates successfully built and deployed major applications including telecommunications billing, internet banking and corporate-wide customer care for the region’s major banks, insurers and telecommunications companies.
Prior to co-founding Encompass Corporation, Wayne spent six years engaged in numerous property development, structured finance and private equity assignments. As Vice President of E-healthcare Asia, he played a key role in the company’s acquisition strategy in the region.
About Encompass Corporation
Founded in 2011 by entrepreneurs Roger Carson and Wayne Johnson, and operating from the UK, Encompass Corporation is the creator of a unique and innovative family of visual products that enable better, faster commercial decisions. The company is driven by the belief that the best decisions are made when people understand the full picture.