The announcement yesterday that Xplor will be co-located in Boston next March with AIIM/On Demand will raise some eyebrows, cause some heads to shake, and have plenty of people saying something to the effect of, "It's about time." This new alliance is one that many in the industry have long though made a lot of sense, but wondered why it hadn't happened. There are a variety of reasons for that, none of which matter any more. These organizations now have the opportunity to move forward together and do what each does well, and fill their respective roles in being a trade show and conference that encompasses several key aspects of the industry. To get some insights into this new alliance I fired some questions off to Skip Henk, President and CEO of Xplor International. Here's what he had to say.

ODJ: Skip, hearing that Xplor is co-locating with On Demand is something many in the industry have advocated for some time. Tell me a bit about how this has come about. Particularly, why is this happening now?

SH: The AIIM/On Demand partnership is a culmination of the re-engineering of Xplor that was started some two and half years ago. There are a lot of good reasons why it did not happen sooner. I won’t bore you with the details, all of which are moot at this point

However, the reason why the industry has advocated this for sometime is that companies that deal in transactional documents view the AIIM/On Demand segment as the “front end” of the Document Lifecycle while Xplor traditionally has been the output side. The combination of the three represents the Total Document Lifecycle.

In addition, during the two and half years of “re-engineering” we experimented in educational forums that dealt with the AIIM/On Demand side of the business and came to the realization we needed to stick to our core competency. We are the best in output and AIIM/On Demand are the best “upstream.”

ODJ: This is clearly a strategic alliance that makes sense for On Demand and Xplor. There are certainly some great synergies between Xplor, AIIM and On Demand. What do you think are the strongest advantages in this new alliance?

SH: The combination of the three programs will provide the transactional printing industry the most extensive “end to end” conference and exhibit in the world. There is no other place that a company can obtain the in depth  of knowledge on the Document Lifecycle from the three premier educational providers in the industry.

ODJ: Xplor has been co-located with Graphics of the Americas in Miami for the past two years. What is happening with that relationship?

SH: Actually we have been with GOA for three years. We started in 2005 with a variable data conference targeting the graphic arts market and followed up in 2006 and 2007 with more complete programs that combined our traditional transactional printing and expanded graphic arts curricula.

We are already begun putting together content for the 2008 event targeting the graphic arts audience, similar to the 2005 event, aligning our programming with the demographics and needs of the GOA event. We are also looking into translating the program into Spanish due to the large Latin Community participation. This program will be coupled with curricula that George Ryan, the new president of the Printing Association of Florida/GOA is planning with other groups and third parties that will provide excellent programming for the GOA audience.

ODJ: 2008 is a "drupa year" which always affects the budgets, planning and scheduling for the entire industry.  With On Demand/Xplor is slotted for early March, how do you think Xplor and On Demand can best address the challenges of crafting a show and conference so  that vendors and attendees will feel going to Boston in late winter is worthwhile, when drupa is only three months away?

SH: Yes, the “drupa syndrome.” First, the combination of AIIM/On Demand and Xplor is a compelling reason for anyone in this market space to be in Boston. For people within the U.S., a lot has changed in four years since the last drupa with regards to budgets, travel and time away from the office. If someone can get the information they need, see the technology and talk to the right people, justifying going to Europe represents a difficult case to make.

To attract Europeans to the U.S.,  my answer would be a strong educational content and a robust exhibition. I believe the international association affiliations of AIIM and Xplor will also have a positive impact. And by the way, one could look at it as “late winter” as “early spring”. Either way, Boston is a great city, even when it is a bit cool.

ODJ: Knowing how you work, Skip, I'm sure you've talked with a lot of Xplor members in advance of forging this new alliance. What can you say about their reactions?

SH: Xplor members in general have been supportive of our “re-engineering” and our refocus on education. They however, expressed that the whole definition of the document has changed with content, compliance, trends and technology playing a major role within their company’s document strategy.

All of the emails I have received and communications I have had from our members in the last few hours have been very positive so far. Comments ranged from “its about time”, to “this opens up a whole new world for our company and the industry.”

ODJ: Can you bring us up to date on how Xplor is doing these days and how it is filling its role as an educational organization for the industry?

SH: There is still no time to breathe and a lot to be done. We are launching XDU (Xplor Document University) Online “the virtual conference” starting in the later part of July, which will feature over 30 classes between now and December from the 2007 Miami Beach event. We are working on the schedule now for Q1 of 2008. Also, our new web site will premier July 1st, totaling redesigned, intuitive and full of information, some areas free to the public, others exclusive to our members.

We will also launching on October 1 “E-DocNetwork,” an opt-in interactive blog that will connect Xplor members for information sharing around the world. We have slated other programs for 2007 in the area of certification, e-learning -- and much more.