By Pete Rivard What is "cost transparency" and how does a person know when it is increasing or decreasing, given its reputed transparent quality? May 24, 2005 -- I'm holding a brochure put out by a "provider of value-added solutions" who will remain nameless (as I intend to bend the arm of that provider later for an equipment donation) and who claims their solution, among other things, "increases cost transparency". It does what? What is "cost transparency" and how does a person know when it is increasing or decreasing, given its reputed transparent quality? Polling six different people on the show floor was no help. None of them had any idea what the phrase meant, including two of that company's own employees in their booth and the woman at the firm's information kiosk. RIT luminary Frank Romano was the only soul brave enough to venture a guess. He opined that it might have something to do with hiding cost increases from the customer. Huh? How many print buyers cheer on the implementation of 'value added solutions" by their print providers which stick it to them in a most invisible manner? I wonder if JDF has anything to do with this cloak of invisibility? Apparently, it does dang near everything else. I wonder if JDF has anything to do with this cloak of invisibility? Apparently, it does dang near everything else. For my part, I look for the costs associated with the solutions in my college program's Print Services Center to be as opaque as possible. I certainly don't want any of my own costs to be see-through until such time as they wallop me on my monthly bottom line. Eshew Obfuscation Here's another bottom line--whoever crafted the phrase "increases cost transparency" and thought they were communicating is sadly mistaken. When only one out of seven people of above average intelligence will even try to guess at what somebody meant when they said something, then that certain somebody would have been better off to say nothing at all. The phrase "value added" is getting a tad wearisome as well. The inference is that the core services--prepress, printing, finishing--are without value. Only the database and fulfillment services have "value". Try not charging for the non-value added services and watch your enterprise evaporate. "Additional value" would be more accurate. Mr. Romano refers to these activities as "ancillary services," which is more to the point and doesn't denigrate the core business. The phrase "value added" is getting a tad wearisome as well. The inference is that the core services--prepress, printing, finishing--are without value. Covering the AIIM/On Demand show for OnDemandJournal.com, I helped myself to all the press kits and releases, (as well as the free coffee and lunches). After spending an evening chopping through these releases like the prince hacking his way through the thorn thicket circling Sleeping Beauty's tower, I was equally and intellectually, scratched, bruised and bloodied. Without the payoff. Here's another one: "seamless integration across the enterprise'. That sounds like the welding work on Captain Kirk's starship. Hey, I want my various workstations, presses and finishing devices to be stitched together in a sturdy and dependable manner. Eschew obfuscation. The Purpose of Communication is to... The purpose of communication is to deliver the content of a message in as unambiguous a manner as possible. Huddle up everybody. We are in the Communications trade! We are supposed to be professionals at conveying messages. Without the benefit of a Webster's dictionary (I asked the bartender at the Philadelphia watering hole where this story was composed for one but she couldn't put her hands on a copy) I will nonetheless confidently state that the purpose of communication is to deliver the content of a message in as unambiguous a manner as possible. Tell me what you have to say; then make sure I heard it correctly. Do Marketing Majors take any Composition 101 classes? My Comp professor would have torn up most of the gibberish that passes for press releases and marketing matter with scorn. His first rule--if you can't read something aloud without running out of breath, you need to rewrite it. You need lungs the size of a blue whale's to get through much of the multi-syllabic babble that passes for "communication" in this trade. These press release poets cement three, four and five syllable words end to end until they create an impenetrable wall between the reader and the message. One last one--this is a howler--"integrating numerous disparate repositories". Good God. Numerous disparate repositories sounds vaguely, ominously and unpleasantly medical. It turns out that our particular "communicator" here is referring to enterprise content management. Which is, well, seamless, and enterprise wide, and tremendously transparent. If you know what I mean.