Connect 2005, EFI's 6th annual users' conference, kicked off Sunday night, June 12th, at the recently remodeled Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. Thankfully, the year's first named tropical storm had already passed through, and the weather at this delightful beachfront hotel was perfect. This year's conference was attended by 1,200 people, the largest number of attendees in the conference's history. Members of the press were also in attendance, from publications around the world and representing Australia, Europe, and North and South America.
Connect is a great opportunity for the press to mingle with EFI customers to learn what they are doing to improve their business processes and stay up with the fast pace of change in the industry. It is also a good opportunity to spend time with EFI executives gaining a deeper understanding of the company’s business results and strategy.
For users—who are, of course, the raison d’etre for the conference—it is an opportunity for them to network with each other and to continue their dialog with EFI executives and product managers, as well as to learn what is new and exciting from EFI and its partners. A number of partners took advantage of the opportunity to set up exhibits and share information and dialog with users as well.
The event started with an "out of this world" presentation by former astronaut Captain James Lovell, a member of the Apollo 13 crew, and made even more famous by the movie starring Tom Hanks. Captain Lovell is a remarkable man who has had a remarkable career, and he was welcomed with a standing ovation. He described the Apollo 13 experience as a case of crisis management that involved human characteristics that are necessary to be successful: good leadership, not just at the top but all through the organization to foster the teamwork that makes things happen; initiative; perseverance; and motivation. According to Captain Lovell, it was these attributes that brought Apollo 13 back. He said, “The Apollo 13 mission was scheduled to take off April 11, 1970, 13:13 standard time. Right there I should have known something would happen.” This mission was his fourth time in space and second trip to the moon.
Captain Lovell said, “When the explosion occurred, we were 200,000 miles and 90 hours from earth. We don't plan for multiple failures, and we rely on redundancy. No one could believe that there were so many multiple simultaneous failures.” The entire audience was spellbound while Lovell described the harrowing events of the mission. He also showed a brief video that was developed for Congress during its inquiry into the cause of the problems with the Apollo 13 mission that included actual footage from the mission.
He left the audience with these words of wisdom: “ There are three types of people in this world: people that make things happen, people that watch things happen and people that just wonder what happened. In the Control Center in Houston, there are people that make things happen. You have to learn while you are here how to make things happen, too.”
Guy Gecht, EFI’s Chairman and CEO, opened Monday’s General Session with a bit of a repositioning of EFI’s future direction. He quoted from an email that Bill Gates sent to 190,000 executives on May 19, 2005, that said, “ The software challenges that lie ahead are less about getting access to the information people need, and more about making sense of the information they have.”
Gecht added, “That is the type of IQ EFI is trying to build into our Print Management Information Systems (MIS). We have been good at collecting the information, but being successful in business is about delivering the right information at the right time to the right people so they can make the right decisions.”
He cited the fact that among this year’s NAPL Best Managed Companies, 5 out of 5 Gold Award winners use EFI Print MIS, and 5 out of 7 Silver Award winners also use EFI Print MIS. He promised the audience that EFI would continue to come up with creative ways to ensure that the things they invest in 2005 and beyond will bring these types of benefits to customers in the future.
As would be expected, EFI made a number of announcements at the event, which were reviewed by Marc Olin, VP/General Manager of EFI’s Commercial Printing Systems, during the general session and were discussed in more detail throughout the event’s 140 individual sessions. These announcements included:
- Unveiled Next Generation of Logic MIS Software
- Previewed Hagen MIS Software Upgrade
- Showed Advances in PSI Management System Functionality with Data Collection and Flexo-Specific Quote Modules
- EFI Previewed the Next Version of PrintFlow Scheduling Software
- Debuted a New Version of PrinterSite Exchange
- Announced an alliance with USADATA to Integrate Prospect Databases into Web-to-Print Software Applications
- Released PrinterSite Internal 2.0 with a Brand-New User Interface
- Introduced an enhanced PrintSmith Site Platform Introduced
Olin also talked about interesting work EFI was doing with partners to extend its offerings. Besides USADATA, EFI is working with WindowBook to add tool sets to make direct mail production more efficient. WindowBook will first be integrated with Hagen OA, and will migrate to other MIS solutions over time.
EFI has also built some basic integration for each of the MIS systems with SalesForce.com, a sales automation solution that EFI uses in its own business. The company plans to enhance these capabilities over next the 12 months to create a unified desktop between PrinterSite Internal and SalesForce.com.
Additionally, EFI announced that RR Donnelley had standardized on its Prograph Publication Planning Software for its 14 magazine catalog and retail insert plants.
Olin also spent some time showing a demonstration of integration from desktop to print shop, using EFI’s new Print Messenger from within InDesign to create a PDF and job ticket, submit the job to PrinterSite Exchange where more detailed specifications were added, including the cost center, and submitting the job as a rush. The job was then examined in the MIS, submitted to Fiery, and printed on a Xerox DocuColor 8000 right on the show floor. With Plant Vista, real-time production status was displayed, even showing the print counts as they increased on the DocuColor 8000. This demonstration was a powerful illustration of the end-to-end integration EFI is working hard to achieve.
Many demonstrations, including EFI and partner products, were set up in the back of the Grand Ballroom, and attendees took advantage of breaks and free time to educate themselves on new developments. VUTEk, EFI’s most recent acquisition, was also represented, both on the demonstration floor—although they were not able to bring equipment into the hotel—as well as in conference sessions.
Next year, the Connect conference will return to Las Vegas in May 2006, and EFI is expecting its attendance to continue to grow. If this year’s very successful conference is any indication, we should see Connect continuing as an important part of EFI’s relationship with its customers, partners, the media and the industry at large for some time to come.