Commentary & Analysis
Free Special: A three-layer strategy: Bob Bierwagen, Senior VP Product Management, Printcafe
By Gail Nickel-Kailing
Published: October 3, 2002
Recently, Printcafe Software (NASDAQ: PCAF) charged Bob Bierwagen, Senior VP Product Management with responsibility for management of its complete product portfolio. In his new role Bierwagen will coordinate product planning across all products. WhatTheyThink captured a few minutes of his time to talk about his new responsibilities and Printcafe’s long-term plans.
WTT: Now that you’re about six weeks into your new job, would you give us a few details about what you are doing?
Bob Bierwagen: The move to a management structure by functional areas has allowed our product groups to focus more on customer needs across the company, rather than limit the view to individual business units. When we merged all the companies together, the products continued to follow independent development paths. Now we’re adding functionality and value by integrating our products and introducing new cross-platform add-on modules.
My responsibility is chiefly to guide product direction and processes: to define product lifecycles, develop and manage the product roadmap, and bring balance to our product development initiatives. In short, my job is to understand and anticipate our customers’ needs and to fulfill them with the best products in the industry.
WTT: How would you describe Printcafe’s long-term product strategy?
Bob Bierwagen: We have a three-part strategy. The first part is our core MIS systems. We will continue to improve and enhance them, and to ensure they serve the right marketplaces with the right solutions. The second strategy is to make our products work together and with the print production process. We’re enabling computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM). This is our key focus at Graph Expo this year. We believe a totally automated, end-to-end solution not only reduces operational costs for printers, but also provides the means to collect and analyze a wide range of information across the company. Using this information, the print operation can become much more efficient internally and in its sales process. The third part of our strategy is our e-business layer combining people, processes and technology into client-facing applications, such as our PrinterSite Internal, sales force optimization tool. Essentially, with input from our customers and support from our partners such as Creo, MAN Roland and Komori, we’re delivering on the Smart Factory vision.
We see this whole evolution as a maturing of both the concept and technology of the Internet into business management tools.
WTT: How do the needs of large printing companies differ from the smaller companies? For example, let’s contrast a large company like Integria, one of Montreal’s largest printing companies, and a smaller company like Atlantic & Hastings.
Bob Bierwagen: Actually there is not a lot of variance in their overall needs. The real difference is a matter of scale. Indeed, while all printers are unique, their needs are similar. They generally want the same modules, such as accounting, job management tracking, shop floor data collection, scheduling, estimating and quoting, and possibly post-press services.
Differences in scale mean that there are differences in number and sizes of clients, numbers of employees, complexity of jobs and operations, and other similar issues. Primarily, a small company needs a management-centric solution because the management team is generally small or simply the owner. Each member has many more responsibilities, and the team needs to bring together information to run the day-to-day business. A large company will be more "team-centric" where information is required by functional groups to manage their responsibilities. Operational issues take on more importance in larger shops and the reporting focus becomes more strategic.
For these reasons, Printcafe has different applications for companies of different sizes. PrintSmith, for example, is targeted to what has been traditionally known as the Quick Print market. PSI is for smaller companies, Logic for mid-sized to large print operations, and Hagen for multi-plant, multi-divisional scenarios with needs for multiple-language interfaces, and even multiple currencies.
WTT: What’s your perception of the current shift from "e-commerce" to "e-business" in the graphic arts industry?
Bob Bierwagen: You know, each time new technology has been introduced into the printing industry, there has been the same kind of reaction. The introduction of lithography, of CTP, and now the use of the Internet – all caused the "industry immune system" to react. There was a delay in implementation by the majority of the industry.
The "e-printing and production" move gave us too many companies with too many solutions that seemed to be so much the same on the surface. No wonder printers were confused! There was also a strong focus on "e-commerce" where as now we are really seeing the technology used for "e-business." The key difference is that e-commerce is simply a way to sell over the Internet. E-business refers to processes enabled through Internet-based communication. Our customers are realizing that Internet-based solutions deliver real value that comes from the integration between the Internet and the back-office solutions.
It was a misnomer that Printcafe was exclusively an "e-commerce" company, and we’ve worked hard to get the message focused. We are using the Internet to support our customer-facing applications and other business processes.
WTT: Just one final question. Now that you’re getting settled in, what do you enjoy most about your new job?
Bob Bierwagen: The real pleasure in my new position is being able to work with some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry, people who were previously in competitive companies. It is very satisfying to be working together to create the best possible products for our customers.
Thanks Bob, and best of luck in your new position.