Commentary & Analysis
Free: More Workflow News from On Demand
By Cary Sherburne
Published: March 16, 2004
Increasingly, workflow must reach back to the user communitythe content ownersmaking it easy for them to interact with the graphic arts service providers. In our continuing coverage of the softer side of On Demand, we will review a few more representative examples of companies that are translating this requirement into reality.
EFI had a strong presence at the show, proudly displaying its new identity announced in January, and the integration, from a branding perspective, of recently acquired Best, T/R Systems and Printcafe. EFI also hosted the JDF Workflow Tour featuring representative interoperable solutions from EFI and other CIP4 members. From its first unveiling at Seybold San Francisco last fall, the JDF Workflow Tour continues to expand and demonstrates the increased interoperability CIP4 is working hard to deliver. The JDF Workflow Tour was a popular destination for On Demand attendees. Moving forward, all eyes will be on drupa, where there will be 18 vendors in the JDF Parc, each showing one or more interoperable solution, including a number of anticipated new product announcements.
The EFI product suite begins reaching out to the end customer with Digital Storefront, formerly a T/R Systems product, a job submission solution that, as an EFI staffer put it, captures the customer's intent. Digital Storefront allows a high level of customer self-service in an easy-to-use front-end interface that is sold as a highly customizable licensed softwarerather than an ASP hostedsolution. Once a job is submitted, it can enter a PDF workflow via OneFlow, a user-friendly, hot-folder based workflow offering which has been endorsed by a veritable Who's Who of the graphic arts industry ranging from Xerox to Heidelberg to Kodak Polychrome Graphics. The version shown at the show features a JDF Connector which can feed both digital and CTP workflows and is aligned with the growing trend for companies to offer more integratedrather than pointsolutions, incorporating both Adobe Acrobat and Enfocus Pitstop in a bundled offering. With JDF Connector, information will be automatically transferred from EFI's job submission tools, including Digital Storefront, to its Hagen MIS system. The company has stated its intent to offer equivalent support for its other MIS products in the future. The company also displayed a variety of print output devices from various manufacturers fed by EFI Fiery servers and using EFI Balance for load balancing, job splitting (color and black & white), and other productivity-enhancing features. EFI Best proofing and color management products were also in evidence in the EFI booth.
Of particular note in the JDF Workflow Tour was ObjectiveAdvantage, a company who has not historically been a household name in the graphic arts industry. But you can be sure you will be hearing a lot more about ObjectiveAdvantage in the future. I met with Gareth O'Brien, Vice President, between JDF Workflow Tour sessions to learn more about the role the company is playing in accelerating the JDF enablement process. The company was formed in 1996 as a general computer software consultancy and integrator, is based out of Houston TX, and became involved with JDF about two and a half years ago when a client needed a job ticket for an online print purchasing system. Like many newcomers to our industry, O'Brien was amazed at the fragmented and disconnected nature of today's printing industry. He said, My grandfather was a printer, and I spent a lot of time in his print shop from the time I was seven years old. Two years ago when I revisited a printing plant in conjunction with this project, I still recognized most of the operational pieces from when I was a child, and I saw the potential of JDF to tie this industry together.
Since that time, ObjectiveAdvantage has been assembling a set of tools for developers to enable them to rapidly add JDF capability to existing or new systems, as well as training and consulting to form a total solutions package aimed at software developers. O'Brien claims that utilization of the ObjectiveAdvantage tool set provides a software developer with a rapid deployment platform for JDF, since the full tool set has been certified through the JDF InterOperability process and provides an underlying architecture from which further development can be accomplished. The company also works with medium to large printers who have developed their own solutions and wish to JDF-enable them. O'Brien said, An example of this at work is Tharstern, based in the UK, who sells an MIS system targeted at small to medium enterprises. They were trained on the ObjectiveAdvantage tool set in January and came to the CIP4 InterOp six weeks later, matching or exceeding the results of some of their competition who had been involved for the last 18 months. Because they built on top of an already certified tool set, they did not have to worry about the mechanics, but went straight to the business logic. The impact of ObjectiveAdvantage on the overall deployment of JDF bears watching!
XMPie had a good presence at the show, with its own booth and a presence in the Xerox booth as well. XMPie has extended its suite of variable data composition tools to include uGenerate, which easily Web-enables any marketing campaign. According to XMPie's Laureen Chudzinski, uGenerate can take a minimum of two days of development time off of the process of building a Web-based marketing campaign by automating the coding processand two days can seem like an eternity in today's fast-paced world where time to market can mean the difference between success and failure in many instances. Additionally, with XMPie's enhanced support for Xerox VIPP, users can now easily switch between one-pass digital color applications and production using monochrome printing on preprinted offset shells, using the same set of templates. This allows users to drive two workflows through a common front end, depending upon the specific job requirements. Chudzinski pointed out, Anytime you can reduce the number of steps and the number of interfaces a user must deal with, you also reduce the training time required and improve overall productivity of the operation. XMPie has also added copy fitting to its solution set, with the ability to control text underflows and overflows during variable data composition.
In more variable data news, PageFlex announced that MarketingForce, a provider of online ad building ASP platforms and ASP marketing services, would deploy Pageflex.EDIT as the technology powering online document customization for its franchise, dealer and small business users. MPower 4.1 was also released at the show with support for VDX. Ogilvy, a leading advertising agency and marketing firm who has been using PageFlex with five global clients for some time, announced Ogilvy 1 Campaign Director based on PageFlex, launching it as a standardized offering available to its worldwide sales force. One of the key selection criteria was PageFlex support for 62 languages in both composition and output. PageFlex's Alice Fackre commented, Historically, customers have not been willing to share information on their variable data implementations, considering it to be competitively sensitive information. These two announcements demonstrate a dramatic market shift we have been seeing in just the last few months as marketing executives become increasingly educated about their technology options and are issuing increasingly detailed RFPs.
Moving into the world of transactional printing, GMC Software Group launched Version 4.1 of its PrintNet T Triple Suite document design and composition software. This major release has incorporated a number of functionality enhancements, including a new message management feature, as well as enhancements to its workflow, layout, imposition, proofing and production modules. The goal is to provide increased ease of use and marketing automation integration. According to GMC's President, Darryl Dobin, Our whole approach to life with this Triple suite is to provide a seamless link all the way from the initial creative process to the end recipient of the final printed or electronic piecethe customer or prospect. This allows marketers to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Dobin indicates that GMC is continuing to enhance functionality, including a new Version 4.2 that will be shown at drupa. He says, This will be another big leap forward, leveraging our rapid deployment of critical enhancements and our partnering strategy that links solutions to the right partners and systems integrators to get a full, comprehensive offering to the customer as quickly as possible. GMC has primarily targeted the transactional service bureau market, but Dobin acknowledges that workflow needs to extend across the supply chain and indicates there is increased interest on the part of enterprises, who are using the solution in conjunction with their outsourced suppliersand even their lawyersto create that seamless flow of information from creator to recipient.
Another player in this space present at the show was Document Sciences. Executive Vice President Dan Fregeau indicates that about three years ago, Document Sciences embarked upon a complete, ground-up rewrite of its solution set designed to tune it to true support of multichannel communications. The result is xPression, unveiled at the show, a standards based solution written on J2EE with full XML compliance and featuring Unicode for multilingual support. Fregeau said, Our traditional business is in business contract managementpolicies, contracts, lenders' documentation, insurance and securities, typically batch-driven operations. xPression also goes well beyond that into real-time environments. Our challenge now is to migrate our traditional customers to the new real-time environment with solutions such as an interactive proposal generation system for insurance agents. To that end, Document Sciences also announced xPression Revise, a Web-based thin client editing application that enables swift production of custom documents through a searchable library of customized text and attributes and which can be integrated with enterprise content management systems. Fregeau says, Customers are looking for a complete business solution, not pieces. Our new model is built around technology vendors working together to provide low-risk, pre-integrated, standards based offerings that solve real business problems.