by Bob Raus of Océ North America's Digital Document Systems Division January 10, 2006 -- About this time last year I talked about ways you could make a quick start to success in 2005. I congratulate those of you who made that investment in equipment, software and skilled people and encourage you to continue the journey into 2006. If you waited, though, you are now further behind, and this year is the time for you to make the moves that will position your business for the future. The good news for you procrastinators is that that time is now! In the past twelve months many print operations have ceased to exist. These have been commercial print companies, quick printers, corporate in-house printshops and data centers. There are multiple reasons for their respective closures, but one reason I often see is that they failed to keep pace with technology, limiting their ability to meet customers' increasing expectations, manage operations, and control costs effectively. The firms that have prevailed, and especially those that have thrived, have invested in their future by leveraging technology to make their businesses stronger and more competitive. Absolute Requirements InfoTrends/CAP Ventures cites four "Absolute Requirements" for success: Having a full range of customer-facing tools. The Internet has irrevocably changed the way printers do business--and what customers expect of their print providers. They note having software tools that makes it easy for customers to do business with you is as important as a bank having accessible ATMs everywhere, or offering online payment services. Don’t believe it's important? Ask Apple Computer about downloading music from, or Amazon about selling books online. Investing in new technology, services and solutions. There are competitive advantages to be had in the latest equipment (greater productivity and lower operating costs); and most up-to-date software (new capabilities and greater versatility). As technology improves it provides greater benefits and value to your business. Super efficiency. Most print providers tend to focus on quality or customer service, and these are still important attributes. But today, with escalating cost and time pressures, efficiency is mission-critical. Emerging standards such as JDF and UP3i, and integrating them with ERP/MIS systems, says InfoTrends/CAP Ventures, will continue driving down costs and reducing time requirements. The right tools--mostly software--can automate tasks and process steps to make your operation as fast and lean as possible. Market Knowledge. Pay attention to what is happening in the industry and what it means for your business. Attend conferences, webinars (like those on and and read industry newsletters that can broaden your perspective on the market and industry. Think about how you can take advantage of trends and new technologies in ways that benefit your customers--because that in turn benefits you. Three Places to Invest With these requirements as perspective, take a look at your customers and your market, take an inventory of your capabilities, and consider places where you could--or should--be investing. Right now I believe the three most important areas are: Digital production color printing. This includes both full- and spot-color digital printing for a broad range of documents. It may be replacing pre-printed forms, adding colorful marketing messages to statements, producing targeted collateral and direct marketing materials, and far more. Because color printing costs more than black-and-white, it is important to consider how much color is most appropriate for a given job. Many jobs can achieve the same impact with one or two spot colors --thus saving money and time when compared to full process color printing. Think about the kind of jobs you run and invest in the printing technology that provides the greatest versatility in producing them. The Internet. As InfoTrends/CAP Ventures notes, the Internet has changed the way you can do business--and what customers expect. I don't just mean having a website; that's a given these days. The new requirement is an Internet storefront. Not having one today is like not having a telephone in 1960. It is vital to leveraging your website, promoting the services you provide, and automating the lines of communication between you and your customer for every aspect of the business transaction. From job quoting to submission to tracking to invoicing to customer service, the Internet has to be as integral to your business as your physical storefront. If you aren't making strategic use of the Internet now with a storefront, make it a priority in 2006. Open architecture workflow. Every printshop has a workflow, and many vendors offer one with their print engines. The differences between them can be both subtle and dramatic. But because virtually everything that takes place in a printshop is digitally-oriented, the most versatile workflow is one that can accommodate the broadest range of job types, data streams, print engines and software tools available today, next year and the one after that. Furthermore, your workflow process must be able to support changes needed to leverage market opportunities such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Check 21 or to integrate with emerging standards such as JDF or UP3i. We don't know what the future holds, but open architecture workflows enable you to be better prepared for whatever comes next. It is a foundation for growth and the reason Adobe has created the new Momentum In Print conference later this month in San Francisco. As you venture out into 2006, look for the places where you can invest your resources to help your operation grow. If you invested in 2005 you may already be leading. If you didn’t, you need to invest this year if you are planning to be here next January. The investment can be modest or substantial; it just needs to be made with a view to the market and how you can adapt to, manage and benefit from change. Don’t wait too much longer! The technology investment is critical to YOUR success. Do you agree? Or not? Drop me an e-mail at [email protected]