By Nachum "Homi" Shamir, President and CEO, Scitex Digital Printing June 9, 2003 -- In April at the On Demand trade show in New York it was great to see how many companies have come to embrace the message of convergence. Perhaps best of all, show attendees were coming in with questions about specific applications, looking for ways to get the most out of every piece of equipment, because maximizing utilization and workflow are essential parts of convergent printing solutions. Everyone, it seems, is recognizing convergence as a real force in the industry, one that is altering the way documents are created, how they are produced and distributed, and how data is playing an increasingly important role in many different applications. Convergence of datastreams and print engines, and of page description languages and applications were the key focus in many booths. And much of the convergence is about color. As Charlie Pesko of CAP Ventures pointed out in his keynote address, universal copier/printers, machines that are cost-competitive for both black and white and full-color printing, are taking hold in the market. "Business documents will change in a subtle but visible way as color moves from being quarantined in 'color-only' documents to a new model where color is used as needed," noted Pesko. "This will encourage more color printing," This trend is shaping the market in a couple of ways. New technologies and improved economies of scale are making color an expected part of many business documents. In offices, where shrink-wrapped software makes it easy to create presentations, proposals, spreadsheets and graphs in color, printing in color is simply logical, especially since color has the eye appeal and the power to persuade and communicate while rapidly becoming affordable for all types of printing. This groundswell of color in the office is the beginning of more sweeping changes, setting an expectation that most documents will be in color. I think of this market expectation as color-enabled convergence. Digital color is the enabler for marketing and document production to work together to make transactional documents a value-adding product for businesses, as opposed to a pure cost. Digital color fits the trends, overcomes the barriers of change, and is already seeing success in vertical industries with selected applications. Add variable data, and digital color satisfies the requirement of document content owners to enhance the value of transactional documents and satisfies the requirement of document producers to contain costs and ensure time and accuracy needs are met. But since it still costs more to print in color than black and white, most businesses need to justify the higher cost as print volumes increase. Three key areas can provide the ROI that makes digital color a "no-brainer" decision. And convergence plays a role in each one. * Insurance companies, banks and credit card companies are combining high-volume transactional printing with targeted direct marketing offers. For example, credit card statements with offers based on customers' purchase habits provide better sell-through than generic offers, especially when supplemented with graphics or coupons. Convergence of billing and marketing applications may require redesigning forms or statements and improved database management, but customer response to each offer is measurable--and profitable. * Customized direct marketing materials, especially when linked to purchase habits, or requests for information to call centers or over the Web, have been proven in both quantitative studies and anecdotal examples to increase response rates, easily justifying the higher printing costs. And as those costs decline, digital color becomes the clear choice for successful direct marketing communications. * Preprinted forms, as used in transactional and direct marketing, have become a commodity business at best. Eliminating preprinted forms ties into convergence because digitally printed forms can include all corporate design elements, necessary account information and targeted messages. The costs of preprinting, warehousing and waste virtually disappear. By using blank paper, digital printing makes the available space on a form more flexible. For example, while corporate identity and key variable information on a statement must always be in the same location for ease of use, targeted messaging of varying length can be associated with specific graphics and vary on each statement sent out. Variable color opens the door to unlimited possibilities. It presents the greatest potential for consolidating transactional and marketing documents, saving postage and turning them into marketing tools. Think hard about how you can leverage convergence to make bills and statements more valuable, more compelling, more powerful. Well executed,, carefully targeted digital color printing can make a significant, measurable difference in virtually every kind of transactional document. Whether you are a print provider, marketer or document creator there are digital color solutions that can help you make color-enabled convergence part of your business success.