XMPie Launches Users' Group: An Interview with Stefan Agustsson, President
By Cary Sherburne
Published: October 12, 2006
Recently, XMPie announced the launch of a new use' group, stating that the Users’ Group will work collectively to ascertain and deliver unbiased business, marketing, and technical knowledge to allow members and their organizations to successfully develop variable data campaigns with XMPie software. WhatTheyThink spoke with the group’s President, Stefan Agustsson, who is also Vice President of Yoffi Digital Press, to learn more about the group and its objectives.
WTT: Stefan, thanks for speaking with us today. Before we get started speaking about the users’ group, I wanted to get your perspective on last week’s announcement about Xerox acquiring XMPie and what impact, if any, you think it will have relative to the group.
SA: This will be good for XMPie because it will allow them to further develop the product without some of the constraints they had as an independent company. The user group is an independent organization and it will likely be a help rather than a hindrance to the group.
WTT: The XMPie Users Group sounds like it will be pretty interesting, what with the increased emphasis on one-to-one communications in the market today and XMPie’s visibility and market share in that space. Can you give us a little background on how the group came to be formed?
SA: Sure. We installed XMPie software about two years ago, and from the beginning we were asking for a group like this to be formed, as were many other users. At Yoffi, we have been active in a number of these groups, including the old Scitex users’ group, the Creo users’ group, and Adobe’s developer network, and we have always found that participation to be extremely valuable. As the XMPie user base has grown, there is now sufficient critical mass to make a group like this work well.
WTT: Is this an independent group or solely sponsored by XMPie?
SA: It is an independent group and anyone who owns XMPie software can join. XMPie is helping us out a little bit financially in our first year, and two XMPie representatives sit on our board of directors, which consists of 10 directors. Our objective is to gain enough members to become financially independent after our first year.
WTT: How do people register to join?
SA: They can visit www.xmpieusers.org and fill out the registration form. We have purposely kept the membership fee low, at $295 annually per company, so there will not be any financial barriers to joining, especially for smaller companies who own the products. And for companies who join during 2006, that fee will cover membership through the end of 2007. Also, at Graph Expo, we will be holding a reception at the XMPie booth on Monday, October 16 th at 5:00 PM to share more information about the group and provide users with the opportunity to join.
WTT: What type of infrastructure does the group have planned?
SA: We are in the process of building a very robust web site for the group. Those services were donated by Mike Panaggio at DME in Daytona Beach FL , and we are really appreciative of that donation. The web site is currently live at www.xmpieusers.org with some basic information about the group, and the ability to register to join the group. Between now and the end of the year, we will be adding more content and capability. We plan to keep the site current with all kinds of information on the products and on the market in general. Besides that, we plan to implement three forums: Business/Marketing, Technical and a forum for company executives. Those should be in place by January 2007 at the latest. We will see how it goes and determine whether we need more granularity as the group matures. We are also planning an annual meeting in Las Vegas for January 19-20, 2007 .
WTT: What do you expect to see in the way of an agenda at the annual meeting?
SA: We are working hard to create a program that will deliver considerable value to attendees. Like many user groups, it will be a blend of general sessions, and two tracks: Business/Marketing and Technical. XMPie surveyed its users as it was preparing to get this group going, and overwhelmingly, user companies were interested in sending technical people to a meeting like this so they can learn as much as possible about both the software and where it is going in the future. And, of course, companies are always looking for ways to better market themselves as well as develop innovative campaigns for their customers. We plan to include lots of networking opportunities, as well as presentations from both XMPie and the users relative to business strategies, best practices and more. We are also considering a “state of the industry” general session by a leading industry analyst, but we don’t have that nailed down just yet.
WTT: Sounds like a good agenda. Why do you think users will invest in attending the meeting?
SA: The users’ survey reflected a strong interest in holding such an in-person meeting. The biggest value will be in the exchange of ideas and a technical exchange not just about campaigns, but in the technical realm of how we use the product, especially for smaller companies that don’t have development on staff or capabilities to produce some of the more complex campaigns. And the direct interaction with XMPie and its technical team will also be very valuable, both to the users and to XMPie. In other groups I have participated in, this has been well received. The users like to know where the product is going and to be able to plan to take advantage of new capabilities and strategies, and the manufacturer gains great insight into how users are deploying the product and where they want to see it go. This is more than just customer service, which XMPie does a good job of providing. It is more of a strategic discussion.
WTT: How do you think users will benefit from the online forums?
SA: It is another way for users to interact with each other, see how others are using the software in ways they might never have thought of, and to exchange tips, tricks and best practices through the www.xmpieusers.org web site. At the same time, XMPie will learn a lot from the forums and be able to contribute to them as well. For example, if they see a lot of users talking about a workaround, they can determine if it makes sense to change the product to eliminate the need for a workaround. Or if there are things that you do frequently that take, say, five steps, maybe that can be reduced to one step. Members will also have a formal process for submitting feature requests. Although we have been using XMPie for two years, we learn new things every day. We have an informal network of other users we call on to share ideas or ask questions. But that approach doesn’t really build a knowledge base that is accessible to everyone. Formalizing it in the form of the users’ group and the forums will make all of that knowledge available to everyone. And it should really help to accelerate growth in the one-to-one communications market.
WTT: Besides yourself, who else is on the board?
SA: We have a terrific group of experienced business people that are already making great contributions as we form the group. In addition to myself, other board members are:
- Greg Dean , Chief Information Officer, DME
- Steve Thornton, Chief Information Officer, K/P Corporation
- Gavin Smith, Director –Digital Services, Toppan Printing Co. America
- Chris Lewis, President, Lewis Graphics
- Yuki Okamoto, Managing Director, FIS ( Japan )
- Paul McCarty, Director, digitalLogic ( Australia )
- Wesley Dowd, Director, Inc. Direct ( UK )
- Eyal Goldwerger, CEO, XMPie, Inc.
- Jacob Aizikowitz, Chairman and CTO, XMPie, Inc.
You can see the group is international in scope. That was very important to us as we established the group.
WTT: In covering the variable data market, I have always found that it can be difficult to get people to share their experiences and results, because either they or their customers consider the way they structure their campaigns and the results they achieve to be a competitive advantage. Do you see that hindering the value of the group?
SA: Not at all. I do understand that perspective. I certainly don’t want to give my campaign ideas to the whole users’ group, though that may happen with some people. But more importantly, it is the tips and tricks that allow people to push the product to the next level, and that will help XMPie to be even more of an industry leader. More people will be able to see how easy this product is to use. When we show our customers how easy it is to use, they are consistently amazed. They come into the discussion thinking variable data products are hard to use based on past experiences. With this increased exposure and activity, XMPie will see a lot more campaigns pushed out, and that will help them sell more product and have more user seats out there. That in turn results in more revenue to invest in advancing the product. We have already seen that type of acceleration in the last two years as their base has grown, and this should help accelerate it even more.
WTT: What are some examples of the acceleration you have seen over the last two years?
SA: For example, the introduction of uChart and uImage. Bringing all that in house has been a great benefit, and was a direct result of user requests combined with increasing market share that allowed them to invest in the product. Additionally, I think they will gain some users based on people knowing that the users’ group is there as a resource.
WTT: How will this group be different than other variable data focused initiatives such as PODi?
SA: It will be an open dialog between users, and a great place to meet other people that are trying to solve the exact same problems you are. PODi is a great meeting, and it is interesting to find out how people are attacking problems in different vertical markets. This will be more product specific, how to solve specific issues, what new markets I can attack, and how to do that with my specific product. Some larger organizations have a range of different tools they can use, but in my estimation, probably 90%+ own only one tool, and this type of specific interaction is invaluable. Between the web site, www.xmpieusers.org, our annual meeting and other interactions among the group, there will be tremendous opportunity to take advantage of this focused and specific interaction.
WTT: Stefan, thanks again for speaking with us. Anything else you would like to add before we close?
SA: Just that XMPie and the Board are very excited about establishing this new group, and we are really looking forward to getting a lot of users on board quickly so we can start taking advantage of the new synergies the group will provide. Don’t forget to check out the new site.