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Free: Changes at Xplor: New President & CEO Positioning Xplor as “Gatekeeper of Education for Digital Documents”

Xplor International announced a change of management today,

By Cary Sherburne
Published: March 23, 2004

Xplor International announced a change of management today, with the resignation of William J. "Bill" McCalpin from the position of President & CEO of the worldwide electronic document systems organization. McCalpin held the position for two years, and plans to return to his consulting practice.

Skip (Harold) Henk, EDP, formerly Chairman of the Board for Xplor, will assume the reins as President & CEO. Henk, who held the role of Chairman while also employed as director, system solutions for Kodak Versamark (formerly Scitex Digital Printing), is a 25-year industry veteran that has been involved in the industry as both a vendor and a user.

In preparing its series on Industry Association Consolidation late last year, WhatTheyThink spoke with Henk, who indicated at the time that Xplor had undergone a significant strategic reassessment. As a result, according to Henk, the association is refocusing itself on “on the educational portion of what we do because we feel we have one of the best educational forums in the industry.”

This sentiment was echoed by long-time Xplor member and President of NEPS, Denise Miano, EDP, who said, Skip really has a grasp of both the heritage of Xplor and the new digital technologies involved in the convergence of transactional printing and print on demand. He has the experience and the relationships, and I believe he will take Xplor in a positive direction. Xplor is best at promoting both education and professional growth for its members. On the other hand, the association needs to be more open to moving with the industrynot only creating its own curriculum and practices but sharing best practices with other associations. Skip's background and tenure with both Xplor and within the industry as a whole positions him well to be able to shed some of Xplor's historical baggage and move forward with an organization that still has a lot to offer. I love Xplor for what it has done for me both personally and professionally, and I want to see it continue. Miano has been associated with Xplor since the mid-eighties.

In our discussions with Henk last year, he expressed an openness to aligning with or partnering with other organizations, saying, Eventually you could imagine that there might be a drupa America. That would make all the vendors happyspend your money over ten to twelve days and it's done. It is becoming increasingly important to align yourself with other organizations and venues that make sense for your market segment and for your members.

WhatTheyThink spoke with Henk on the eve of the announcement to find out where he plans to take the organization.

WTT: What were the dynamics that brought this change about?

SH: I believe there were a few things that contributed to this change. Taking over as Chair gave me new insight into the organization. And I bring a perspective to the organization from both the member and the vendor side — having been associated with Xplor for 20 years on both sides of the fence. Bill McCalpin was brought in to make some changes, and to right-size the operation. Having done that, he decided he wanted to spend more time with his family and get back into the consulting business. He shared this with me and with the Board at our recent leadership conference and I was asked if I would take the lead, since the Board felt I had the passion for it. I thought I could bring a unique perspective, and I had a personal goal to make Xplor the “poster child” for reengineering technical associations.

In my role as Chairman, Kodak Versamark allowed me a lot of latitude to spend time working on Xplor business, 15 to 25 hours per week, and even that was not enough. This gives me the opportunity to do it full time, and I am really excited about the opportunity.

WTT: When we spoke last year, you indicated that Xplor was perhaps considering aligning with one or more organizations within the industry. Is that still the case, and has any progress been made on that front?

SH: There hasn't been a tremendous amount of progress beyond the initial discussions. I've talked to various other organizations, including both for-profit and nonprofit. I think we all agree that there may be synergy, and that we should keep talking to see if we can capitalize on promoting each other and the industry, perhaps co-locating events, doing some mutual promotion, and utilizing each other's services. Some progress has certainly been made in the mindset, and there have been some initial conversations, but there is still a lot that remains to be done. I think more will be determined in the next 6 to 12 months.

We are committed to Dallas and we have a contract with Orlando for the following year. That could change depending on the outcome of these discussions. My commitment is to be open, to talk to people, and if it makes sense, to make the proposals to our membership and the board. If it doesn't make sense, then I will simply look people in the eye and explain why a certain action doesn't make sense for the industry or for Xplor. All of the vendors have indicated that they want to support Xplor, but they do have financial restrictions. I committed to them that I would work to do what was best for all of us, and I will do so.

WTT: The printing industry as a whole is not growing aggressively, and the number of establishments continues to contract. What do you see as Xplor's role in helping this distressed industry become healthy once again?

SH: We have talked about the convergence in technology for several years, just like we talked about color for ten years. Color is finally here, but it is not fully embraced. I see the role of Xplor as moving that whole mindset forward from an educational perspective. With color, it is not simply printing. You need indexing, CRM, storage, retrieval, all of thatbecause you are dealing with a different context of data. From an educational standpoint, Xplor can be the glue that helps people understand how to leverage the graphics, the data, and the IT infrastructure to get ahead of the digital convergence, which I believe is only about three to four years away.

I don't want Xplor to be known as a trade show. I want it to be known as the gatekeeper of education for digital documents. That takes us out of competing with On Demand and Graph Expo. It will take us some time to get there. But there is a huge need for an organization to focus on that area.

WTT: I understand you have been able to turn your own membership decline around. Why do you think that is, and do you see continuing growth this year?

SH: Yes, we had seen a decline in membership in the past. This last year we realized a small increase, about 3 to 4%. I am gearing up for a 7 to 10% increase this year, which is absolutely realistic.

One of the things that happened when Xplor was in trouble and we had debt was that we had to cut membership benefits. We have now paid off all of our debt and have money in the bank, and we have ten new benefits coming out this year and we are spending money on marketing these benefits. Our Brazilian chapter had a meeting last year and 2,000 people showed up. Only about 100 to 200 were Xplor members. We are now helping Brazil put a marketing plan together to reach out to those 1,800 non-member attendees. That is just an example of how we are working with our local chapters to help them grow their membership base. We are talking about a totally different approach. I am confident that we are going to increase our membership. I am hoping it exceeds 7 to 10%!

WTT: What are your trade show plans beyond Dallas?

SH: We committed to Orlando because it was a scalable environment. The Orlando facility is a hotel convention center. Our vendors and members told us they missed the days when everyone was all under one roof, and you could easily network with people and didn't need buses to get around. The Orlando venue offers us the ability to do that.

We also wanted to move to a more educational format, and the vendors support that as well. Orlando could even end up being a hybrid pipe-and-drape type show. A lot will depend on how we do in Dallas, where we will have a lot more educational format. Between now and Dallas, I will be spending a lot of time with vendors and users getting their feedback on the new formats. If the new formats catch on, it would be the first instance of Xplor being not a trade show, but rather a high-level educational forum.

Typically we had our exhibits and our conference sessions, and they were separate. This year there will be more focus on applications that are enabled by individual vendor hardware and software solutions. Rather than a vendor having to bring 20 machines to show its wares, companies are going to be talking about their products and the business problems they solve. In Dallas, a couple of major vendors are talking about having a hybrid area where they might show one new printer or one new product in a small booth space, and then heavily participate in the educational forum. It will be a very interesting conference.

In the past, we have been primarily involved with PDLs, and focused on printing and output. This year we are also focusing on CRM, disk storage, archiving, retrieval, indexing, and the companies that can front end output devices to deliver a total solution. One way that will be in evidence is in what we are calling quad pavilions. Already we have a quad pavilion that will focus on security print. It will consist of a classroom and auditorium that four companies will share. One might be a company that does micro-verification; one might provide security papers; another might sell MICR printers; and another with another complimentary technology. It will feature "Ask the Expert" rooms where visitors can talk to the experts from each one of these companies.

And the educational pavilion that IBM and Oce did together last year was such a success that one of them has asked to host it on their own.

WTT: You spoke before about changing member benefits. Can you bring us up to date on that?

SH: Now that we are in a solid financial position, we are gearing up the member benefits and building a more flexible structure with a number of new benefits as well as new classes of memberships and benefits for both the individual and companies. We will have silver, gold and platinum memberships that provide really good benefits in terms of accessing the knowledge base of our members. One way we can do this is through Webex marketing focus groups. I have talked to vendors and end users about this concept, and the reception has been very good. We will also have a lot of online educational programs, and we are working with one of the print schools to develop a curriculum on digital printing that will be available beyond just our members. We are also looking at an industry newsletter that will benefit the industry as a whole.

WTT: Skip, thanks for your time today. Any parting comments you would like to share?

SH: The differentiator for Xplor two to three years from now will be that we are all about applications. And the best is yet to come. Xplor has been around for 25 years, and we have enjoyed a rich history. As we move forward and refocus on the document itself, as we change the curriculum and focus on what we do better than anyone in the industry, that will make us unique and will allow the organization to grow and prosper.

What you will see over the next 12 to 24 months is a great deal of out-of-the-box thinking, and a great deal of change. We hope people will continue to support us and to support that change. At the Dallas conference, we will be honoring all of the past leaders of Xplor and looking back at the things that got us where we are in the first place—education, networking and being the gatekeeper of the documents.

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.

 

 

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