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Commentary & Analysis

Cultural Obstacles To Technology

By Pat Taylor,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: November 10, 2003

By Pat Taylor, President of Proactive Technologies November 10, 2003 -- I get to travel quite a bit, and I see a dozen different prepress, printing and publishing operations almost every week. I slow down occasionally--I like to keep my wife happy and I love to love my kids--but I stay busy because I know how lucky I am to have this job. I am privileged to be in the position I enjoy--I have front row seats for The Change. Being older than I used to be, I occasionally wax nostalgic for the craft side of this business. The old guys remember it like it was yesterday, but it was ten or a dozen years ago before all this digital rigmarole. There were dot-etchers and strippers; there was “craft” back in the day. Nowadays, most all the shops I see have modernized, and every single one of them uses Macintosh and PCs. Accounting has an Accounting system and ADMIN gets reports. Prepress got digital, strippers became extinct and software did away with jobs. No one smokes in the building anymore, and things are cleaner and safer… The Internet Boom tried to change our industry and there was all that talk about every one being linked to every one and every thing, but the bubble burst and those changes are gone. Since then, the economy in general has been on a downhill slide and everyone is staying right where they are. They add a little RAID to the server and keep CDs instead of job bags, but nothing else is changing. Nothing big since Y2K. The common culture is cautious; it is content with “the way things are” and almost ostrich-like with a view toward the future. All the written and unwritten rules about how things occur in an organization make up a company’s (and an industry’s) culture and our culture right now is one of “wait-and-see”. I can say that because I travel all the time and talk to printers and people in prepress departments all around the country, and I’ve been doing so for several years. I go to Graph Expo and see the most incredible technologies, and I see these innovations deployed in a small percentage of the shops that I visit from sea to shining sea. John Giles wrote in this magazine about the technical divide that exists between many departmental staff and their executive management or ownership, and I agree with him. There is a cultural issue that creates an obstacle to change and, specifically, the deployment of the technologies we--as an industry--need to evolve. To survive and thrive in the coming years, we will need to embrace The Change. The survivors will eventually integrate their isolated technologies and reduce existing redundancies. At the ‘end of the day’, they will connect with every one and everything. The fact that we have put our toes into the digital water and successfully assimilated Desktop Publishing and Computer-To-Plate does not mean that we fully leveraged technology throughout our organizations. Since we cannot charge more for the printed page (o no! they want it cheaper, faster, in shorter runs with better color) we must create efficiencies in order to realize sustainable profit. One proven source of efficiency solutions for business is digital technology. We must expand our capabilities to “do more with less”; this clear message must come from leadership and be a valued component of a company’s culture. The successful company will be energized. Those companies will see this shared attitude manifest in clear objectives that create a leaner, more productive business climate.



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