By Terry Nagi The ability of a printer to handle digital formats from beginning to end, versus just preparing digital files for film output, will become ever more important to the success of a printer. August 11, 2005 -- In the past, a printer's Directory of Technology was the head of manufacturing. Desktop changed all that. Desktop began the era of having a true technologist evaluating new technologies and recommending appropriate purchases. Although, in the beginning this was only in the prepress area. Today, with the digital transformation of the printer continuing, this prepress technologist often extends their analysis and recommendations beyond desktop into digital printing and output. In the future, the time this analysis takes and the ever increasing dollars of investment required will force a change in this process and who does it. The Digitalization of a Printer Initially, desktop investments were approximately $250,000 to $500,000. The transformation was chaotic, ever changing, and non-profit making. Electronic prepress is still being referred to by many as the black hole, but desktop technologies have somewhat stabilized. Tomorrow's decisions will transfer from electronic prepress to digital applications including digital presses, partnering or internal production of CD-ROMs and Web sites, other multimedia outputs impacting the bindery, etc. The ability of a printer to handle digital formats from beginning to end, versus just preparing digital files for film output, will become ever more important to the success of a printer. This will require a total corporate involvement, analysis and recommendations. It will create an opportunity for the creation of a Director of Technology who manages the technology issues of the printer much like the Director of Manufacturing manages the production facilities. Director of Technology As printers become more reliant upon multimedia input, production and outputs, a single individual will be required to analyze the ever changing world of digital information flows, customers' ever changing needs, products and services to satisfy these needs, a broader range of equipment to serve these needs, and the ever increasing importance of workflow management and employee training. This most likely will no longer be adequately handled by the lead technician in the desktop department, who spends a majority of their time problem solving client files. It will ultimately become a full-time position for many printers, beginning first in large organizations where it already exists, then working its way down to printers of the size $10 million or more, and ultimately becoming a key responsibility for even smaller organizations. The Director of Technology's responsibilities could include: Staying on the cutting edge--and even knowing where it is--requires a single individual who accumulates all the information and sees how it can apply to your business 1. Attending those 2 to 5 print and non-print, conferences and exhibitions per year where the future is displayed in pure hype and promises. Keeping track of the rapidly changing world of non-traditional production and services will be a prime role for the Director of Technology. The conferences and exhibitions could include will be the On-Demand Conference and Exhibition, the annual PODi conference, GATF/PIA Annual Digital Print Conference, etc., as well as various multimedia and Internet/Internet conferences and exhibitions. Attending these conferences is both time consuming and expensive. You can figure 20 to 15 days in attendance, at a cost including travel of at least $4,000 to $5,000. Yet to stay on the cutting edge--and even know where it is--having a single individual accumulate all the information from these conferences/ exhibitions will be the best bet to select which of the risky-but-essential new technologies should be pursued by a printer. 2. Creator of the 1, 3, and even 5 year digital transformation plan of the printer. This is the person to evaluate market potential for these new products and services, oversee the market research, receive the data on client expected needs, relate to technological solutions, evaluate the best equipment and software, and recommend not only final selections, but create appropriate forecasts and budgets. Each significant purchase should ask not only implementation strategies, but a pay-back scenario. 3. The Director of Technology would be the lead of the printer's Technology Team. This team, composed of members of manufacturing, sales, customer service, finance, marketing, prepress, press, and the company president, will be the group to approve all major purchases. The Director of Technology will be responsible for finalizing all proposals and justifying all expenditures. The Technology Team will put their stamp of approval on any plans, purchases, and outcomes. 4. The Director of Technology will also be responsible for creating a training program for both internal employees and clients. As the print industry's digital transformation continues, there will be significant training required of internal employees unless they are to be replaced. Important training issues will be directed at sales people who are to sell new technologies, customer service people who are to explain problems and solutions, press and bindery people who have to understand the integration of their traditional duties with these new technologies, estimators who must bid them, etc. Training in electronics, digital, and new technologies will be a company-wide versus single department issue. The positive impact of training clients on how to create electronic files that image the first time is a known success. In addition, client training will become more important. In today's world, the positive impact of training clients on how to create electronic files that image the first time is a known success. Tomorrow, client training in creating files for multimedia output, expectations from digital printing, repurposing and reformatting, and how they can best use ever-changing new technologies will be essential. Training programs will be a continuing development including city-wide training, individual client training in their offices, hands-on training at the printers location, etc. 5. Developing a "peer" network will also be important for the Director of Technology. Implementing change in an organization is always difficult. The experiences of others using these same technologies will be essential in accelerating the learning curve, and building success. The Director of Technology will be responsible for finding peers who are using similar technologies and learning from their experiences. The Director of Technology for a printing organization will be tomorrow's information czar. The Director of Technology for a printing organization will be tomorrow's information czar. They will be responsible for evaluating transformation, finding best products, assessing their value, planning their implementation, providing cost and profit justification, training all possible users internally and externally, and effectively managing their implementation. As the print world progresses, this will become a full-time responsibility for almost all printers in the next two to three years, even if it starts as a part-time duty. Who will be your information czar and your Director of Technology?