Wolters Kluwer, a renowned firm based in Amsterdam, was founded in the early 1800s, and had always operated as a classic Dutch holding company. Over the last 200 years, Wolters Kluwer has evolved into a leading information provider for the professional market, with operations in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific. The company’s products include books, journals, CD-ROMs, databases, and customized Internet and intranet-based applications.
In October 2003, Nancy McKinstry was named chief executive officer after more than a decade of experience at Wolters Kluwer and its operating companies in North America. PwC’s Strategy& had worked with Wolters Kluwer in various ways since 2000, and McKinstry, a Strategy& alumna, turned to the firm for help in defining the company’s strategy and then implementing a three-year transformation plan.
The traditional holding-company structure of Wolters Kluwer had come to be marked by loose central control in Amsterdam and very strong, independent operations in each of the company’s many subsidiaries. One explicit objective of Strategy&’s work was to strengthen the company’s core with a modern corporate structure. Another was to develop a growth and transformation strategy for the company.
That transformation envisioned multiple programs. One key element was pruning Wolters Kluwer’s product portfolio, including analyzing the current offerings’ profitability and overlap. Next, a new go-to-market strategy — involving the reconfiguration of the sales force in terms of skills, size, and focus — was created. The Strategy& team was also called on to help McKinstry and Wolters Kluwer’s senior management develop a direction for its emerging software business, which included moving Wolters Kluwer beyond its traditional product base of information and into the marketing of complete solutions, such as a software tool that allows organizations to view and integrate compliance, documentation, and data across their businesses.
The complex and varied scope of the engagement encompassed strategy development, cost reduction, sales-force effectiveness, and, importantly, growth. The plan included a call for increasing the profitability of the company’s European units, and charted a direction for improved revenue growth. Once the vision was set out, Strategy& teamed with Wolters Kluwer staff in multiple countries, each with a unique culture and management structure, on program implementation.
Now, Wolters Kluwer is focused on a prioritized set of professional markets where it has leading positions: health, tax, accounting, corporate and financial services, and legal and regulatory.
With the transformation’s successful implementation, the company was strengthened and a foundation was established for accelerating profitable growth in 2007 and beyond.