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Commentary & Analysis

Look Out, Las Vegas! The Doctor Goes to ICE Land

by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: October 11, 2004

by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions, Inc. (Dr. Printing) October 11, 2004 -- What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas some of the time, but a lot of ideas and knowledge that came out of the ICE annual meeting held at the Aladdin Resort Hotel & Casino October 1-2 has now made its way back to the shops of Indigo users across the country.I just got back from the annual meeting of ICE (Indigo Customer Exchange), the HP Indigo User's Group. This two-day event packed a lot of punch for those entrenched in liquid ink digital printing. I've been attending ICE meetings since 1995, and this year's event was by far, the best-planned, best-attended and most appreciated, with nearly 200 people in attendance. Mike Vinocur of Footprint Communications (who manages ICE) and the Board of Directors of ICE put extra effort into every aspect of the meeting, and it showed. Although the meeting starts formally on Friday morning, there is a tradition of having a loose gathering of ICE Board members and HP Indigo executives on Thursday evening, usually involving a few frosty beverages and a look ahead at the next two days' happenings. It was pretty obvious at this meeting that the anticipation of a better-than-usual event had the group wound up. After an hour or so, the board broke up, with some heading to their rooms to rest up for the following day, while others could not resist the lure of easy winnings (and even easier losses) in the Casino. The meeting began in earnest with a continental breakfast, at 8:00 AM Friday, and the group's first opportunity to visit the tabletop exhibits from third-party vendors seeking to show their wares. The exhibit portion of the meeting had long been a smattering of a few vendors, but this year it was sold out, with 17 vendors on hand (and there would have been more, but space would not allow), perhaps indicative of the growth of digital printing in the marketplace. More on the exhibitors later. Val DiGiacinto Opens the Meeting Mike Vinocur of Footprint and Val DiGiacinto, President of ICE, opened the meeting with a welcome, and a look ahead at the event. Val then introduced Francis McMahon, who has been a big help to ICE in the past year, and Francis introduced Bill McGlynn of HP, who gave his trademark inspiring presentation on the state of affairs in the industry, with a look forward at Indigo technology at HP. Bill has been at HP for over 20 years, and has been a key part of the HP-Indigo equation from the beginning. Long a supporter of users and ICE specifically, his thoughts are always a welcome part of the ICE meeting. Bill's session was immediately followed by Todd Cromwell, the Vice President of IPG PSP Solutions for North America. Also a longtime HP employee, Todd has recently stepped into this new role to help grow the 'print for pay' product section of HP, including HP-Indigo. Todd reinforced the support and appreciation of the group, and gave some further insight as to his vision of product growth. After a break to visit the tabletop exhibits (and top off our tanks with coffee) Pinni Perlmutter, long associated with product development at Indigo and now HP Indigo gave the group an update on product development, including the new WS4050 press and availability information regarding the HP5000 Press, now in Beta mode. Pinni has been a longtime supporter of ICE and was happy to be there to formally and informally exchange information and ideas. Home Runs from The Dream Team After lunch, it was time for Success Stories, a place for ICE Members to talk about their 'Home Runs.' This group, consisting of (from left to right) Kevin Despain of Rastar Digital Media; Val DiGiacinto of the Ace Group, Inc.; Tom Ginter of Cereus Graphics; Rodney Key of R and R Images, Inc.; and Toby Gadd of Montage Graphics. Each of these business owners brought anecdotal, statistical and visual evidence of their successes creating and selling ongoing VDP programs and contract orders, where revenue continues to the organization on an ongoing basis by providing continual value to the client company. Yours truly had the pleasure of moderating this session, which was a little bit like herding cats. Fortunately, little herding was required, as the exchange and interaction between panel and audience was significant, relevant and appropriate. The Dream Team. (left to right) Kevin Despain of Rastar Digital Media; Val DiGiacinto of the Ace Group, Inc.; Tom Ginter of Cereus Graphics; Rodney Key of R and R Images, Inc.; and Toby Gadd of Montage Graphics Dave Huewe, Advantage Printing, Spokane, Washington speaks his mind Meet the Vendors After a break, it was time to 'Meet the Vendors.' Our third party vendors and event sponsors had tabletop exhibits in the main meeting room, and staffers of each company were around and available to answer questions and show their wares. From 4:15 until 5:30 on Friday, time was set aside to give them focused time to do just that. The users were happy to have the opportunity to see some of the specialized products and services that can be used to make their life easier, their 'jobs' better, and their customers happier. Represented at the Exhibit were: Adobe, American Thermoplastic, Cohesion, Creo, Duplo, Folex, GSM Software, GPA, K2 Systems Group, MeadWestvaco, Mohawk Paper Mills, Pageflex, Presstek, Printable Technologies, Smart Papers, Tekra, and XMPie. This then led into an cocktail reception with food, drinks, and many focused conversations. These 'unofficial' conversations between any combination of users, vendors, and HP provide great value to attendees. Many users say the 'hallway' encounters and conversations alone are worth the price of admission and time spent. The balance of Friday night was spent with all ICE members returning to their rooms early, catching up on their email and voice mail, and then to bed to be ready for Saturday's sessions. Did I hear a guffaw? A chuckle? Perhaps a scoff or two? You doubt the veracity of this information? Remember: What Happens in Las Vegas STAYS in Las Vegas! Sales, Marketing, Production & Brainstorming Day two began with a truly well-done session on marketing by Cindy Peterson of HP. In a three-hour period, Cindy excited, educated and energized the crowd. Definitely a hit, and another part of the program that by itself was worth the price of admission. Cindy Peterson, HP Marketing Guru Simultaneous to the Sales and Market track was a Production track. Jill Powers, the daily savior of ICEmail users everywhere, joined forces with Boris Bel and Dan Leibou of HP brought users up to speed on the latest and greatest developments, FCO's, beta testing and other technical hoopla, as well as discussing and answering a plethora of questions regarding issues with equipment, workflows and consumables. After a break, Mike Vinocur led an interactive roundtable discussion, brainstorming ideas and questions regarding the technologies, reliability, issues, etc., in order to prepare an organized feedback session for HP management to take back with them and address. Val and Mike - Capturing the Ideas The ICE Awards At lunch, the group was treated to a lovely filet, along with the First Annual ICE Awards. Started this year by energetic Toby Gadd of Montage, there were several categories that ICE members could enter ahead of time, as the objective judging was done by respected industry analysts and journalists Frank Romano, Noel Ward and Cary Sherburne. Toby and Mike Vinocur joined up to congratulate the winners and present them with their plaques. And the winners are: Category One: 'Only On An Indigo' This resulted in a three way tie for first place! Century Solutions LithoCraft The Ace Group Category Two: Variable Data Extraordinaire First Place: R and R Images Second Place: Custom Data Imaging Third Place: Proven Direct Category Three: Most Creative Substrate Usage IMEC Category Four: Indigo And Friends Two way tie awarded to: Century Solutions PowerZoom Special thanks go to Toby Gadd for driving the bus and making this happen. Much more participation is expected next year, including special prizes for the winners. Sales Training After lunch, Lisa Contini of Synergy Sales Training wowed the audience with her finely honed sales training skills. Lisa's program on Solution Selling works nicely with the whole approach to selling digital and variable data printing, and she managed to compress about a day's worth of material into about an hour and a half. Those interested in hearing more and/or attending one of Lisa's classes should go to www.synsales.com for more information. The day ended with a closed door session of ICE members only, allowing for airing of grievances, open discussion and prioritization of issues, and planning for future activities. The Board of Directors of ICE then met one final time to close out what can only be described as an amazing weekend for ICE members. What the attendees had to say: (Uncensored Comments by Attendees) "I'd like to add to the praise for the annual meeting last week. Lots of info, lots of good ideas. The representation and support shown by HP and presentations/remarks by the panel of users was encouraging and represents what I think is a great opportunity to grow our business." "The Indigo Customer Exchange 2004 annual Meeting was awesome. For those of us who spend time running these presses, it was a nice break from the action. I had four whole days in a row without one single drop of imaging oil or ElectroInk on my person. There is just something about Las Vegas that changes the context of things. For example Corona Wire in Vegas probably has more to do with drinking a cold Mexican beer somewhere around the Sports Book area of the casino. I swear there was a slot machine called a Scorotron. A reverse roller was a bad roll of the dice. Blanket changes were done by the hotel housekeeping staff. For us newbies, ICE, is a radical change in thinking. Printers just don't share. I have sat through pre-trade show briefings where the theme was a combination of Loose-Lips-Sink-Ships and the Mafia Oath of Omerta. Indigo Customer Exchange is different." "The meeting was great! Much information was given, hopefully taken by HP, and exchanged among members during the networking parts. The exhibitors were interesting and relevant. The speakers were excellent – Cindy (Peterson) and Lisa (Contini) are awesome and I'm really looking forward to Atlanta (Lisa Contini Sales Training session), too." "I sincerely hope that HP listens to us and acts on some of the really important issues. Click charges are a continuing source of frustration, as are the issues with the series one presses. (By the way, we bought presses, not boxes, and I think we should start calling them that. Maybe copiers (all the other machines) come in boxes, but not presses. And, since my leg was really bothering me from a bad fall just before I left, I didn't gamble more than a couple of dollars, thus saving even more money." "Thanks to everyone that helped coordinate and to those that attended the annual meeting in Vegas. Like last year, it was good to see you again and I learned allot. What happened in Vegas will not stay in Vegas. I am bringing some of the ideas back for my business. Look forward to seeing you all again in 2005." "To those of you who were at the meeting, I'd encourage you all to take a minute or two and let others know how you benefited by being at the event. To the rest of you, I didn't meet anyone who didn't leave the meeting with really positive feeling. Certainly we still have issues to resolve, but I think we made some really positive strides and got to make some connections with a much broader group of HP veterans, opening their eyes to the potential of a users group. If you are not yet deeply involved in variable data printing, and you missed the ICE meeting, be sure to get the recordings. In fact, even if you WERE at the meeting, get the audio." "A frequent thread of discussion - both during the formal programs and in the hallways afterwards, was variable data printing. And among the shops not currently involved with variable, the biggest question seemed to be "How do we get started?" Friday's panel discussion with Toby Gadd, Tom Ginter, Val DiGiacinto, Rodney Key and Kevin Despain provided some incredible insight on the process of building an organization capable of producing not just "personalized" printing, but true variable data solutions. Mike Chiricuzio did a wonderful job of moderating the panel, and contributed yet another valuable voice to the discussion. When the audio recording of this session becomes available, I would encourage anyone facing the challenge of creating a variable data infrastructure to get it, and listen to it. More than once! As someone who has spent the past three years immersed in the management of such projects, I have seldom seen a better opportunity to gain strategic insight into what it takes to create such a capability." "These panelists did NOT provide all the answers to the hundreds of small challenges that you will encounter if you choose to pursue this path. What they did provide was much more valuable - a broad overview of the talents, the resources, the mindset and the dedication that it takes to create a strong variable data print capability. And some clues on how to begin the process. Then, the presentation Saturday by Lisa Contini helped to round out the picture, with some good insight into the strategic differences between selling variable data solutions and just selling digital printing. Contrary to what some equipment vendors would lead you to believe, creating successful variable data print projects is not easy. But that's part of what makes it such a potentially lucrative opportunity." "I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the presentation you provided to ICE members at the meeting today. The insight and perspective that you bring to the table are right on the money, and well presented to say the least. There has been a definite lack of good training in this area, and the work that your doing, the professional presentation and well-prepared working materials go a long way towards filling the need... " "Once again Mike Vinocur stepped up to the plate and did an outstanding job (along with Val and the rest of the dedicated members) Thank you for your efforts, my staff and I walked away with so much more knowledge, ICE really is starting to show HP Indigo users that it is a must for all to attend. Thanks again for your dedication and loyalty to ICE and the success of its members." "Finally caught back up with all the work stuff and have a few minutes, so I wanted chime in on the recent ICE meeting. WOW! This is my 5th or 6th year attending the ICE meetings and I always come back with a great deal of usable information but I must say this was by far the best yet. The group has really matured into an organization I am proud to be a member of. We have already been hard at work putting all we learned to use. Thank you so much for adding to the value of our business. Great job Val, Mike and all the ICE board members!" For more information on ICE, go to the website at www.IndigoUsers.com

 

 

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