A Conversation with CIP4 CEO Margaret Motamed
It is now approaching a year since Margaret Motamed took the reins as CEO of industry standards group CIP4. WhatTheyThink interviewed Margaret in December of last year, shortly after she took office. At the time, speaking about her goals and objectives for the organization, she said, “CIP4 is deemphasizing the marketing focus and placing more emphasis on educational initiatives by partnering with other associations and educational groups, like our partnership with IPA through which the JDF certification course is offered.”
As we approach Graph Expo, where we are likely to see JDF implementations in almost every booth, WhatTheyThink spoke with Margaret to see what is new with CIP4. We also asked her about what we could expect to see from EFI, since she is Director of Software Platforms for the company.
WTT: Margaret, thanks for speaking with us today. It has now been almost a year since you joined CIP4, so we are interested in learning what you have accomplished to date in that role. But before we do so, can you give us a brief update on EFI and what we can expect to see from you at Graph Expo? The company just announced record revenues for the most recent quarter. Things must be pretty upbeat around Foster City these days.
MM: Yes, people are pretty excited, especially in Engineering. It is very encouraging for us to see the uptake of our products in the marketplace. That’s what engineers live for. They really want to see people benefiting from their work. So I would say that EFI’s dedication to serving the customer first is paying off. And our commitment to integration and open standards demonstrates our desire to play a leadership role in open systems. Customers are seeing that, and when they are making a buying decision, I think that weighs heavily on our behalf. As I have said in the past, I am delighted that EFI has supported me in the role of CEO of CIP4, even though I have a full-time job here that I need to do as well. It is another indicator of how important it is to the company to be proactive relative to standards.
WTT: EFI has received a number of awards this year, as well.
MM: That’s another thing that makes Engineering really happy, especially the BERTL innovation award we received for Fiery. In addition, our EFI Desktop SE Fiery solution and our Colorproof XF proofing solution also received BERTL awards.
WTT: EFI was also very proactive in addressing the Adobe/FedEx Kinko’s brouhaha by placing the ability to remove the FedEx Kinko’s button within Digital Storefront. I know that you manage the Adobe relationship for EFI. I just wondered if you had any comment on that whole situation.
MM: Part of my responsibility is managing third party alliances for EFI, and Adobe is, of course, a very important partner for us. I thought it was great that Adobe was so open to both the industry, in terms of resolving the issue, and with EFI, working with us to allow us to quickly take action as well. As everyone knows by now, I am sure, Adobe will be releasing Version 8.1.1 of Acrobat and Reader in October. This just demonstrates the strength of our partnership and adds to the overall positive nature of the relationship, and is another example of how EFI helps our customers print to win.
I thought it was great that Adobe was so open to both the industry, in terms of resolving the issue, and with EFI, working with us to allow us to quickly take action as well.
WTT: So what can we expect to see from EFI at Graph Expo?
MM: As you know, we showed additional third party connectivity at Connect 2007, so we will be featuring that capability at Graph Expo. We will be showing MIS connectivity with various partners. This is part of our strategy to leverage JDF to fit seamlessly into multivendor environments. All of this shows how pervasive JDF is becoming in the industry. End users may not always see it or realize it, though, because the industry is beginning to use it as a de facto standard.
WTT: I recall your analogy about JDF becoming as much a part of infrastructure as USB or plumbing—something that is almost taken for granted by the user because it is so pervasive. We seem to have reached that point.
MM: Yes, I think we’re getting closer - just about all new products being developed take the JDF standard into account. This is certainly true at EFI.
WTT: What else might we expect to see from EFI?
MM: Another thing that has us very excited is the fact that we will be showing some brand new Fiery technology at Graph Expo. EFI traditionally has not previewed technology very often, so it is exciting for us to be able to show this sneak preview of what is to come from Fiery in a venue as large and important as Graph Expo. People should take advantage of that and come by to see us in Booth 3000. We have our largest booth ever this year at Graph Expo, and it is right near the entrance.
WTT: What do you think people should be looking for in general at Graph Expo?
MM: People need to continue to ask about workflow solutions and connectivity, and they need to be looking for things that are going to improve their business overall rather than focusing on a laundry list of features. Even though I am an engineer and engineers love features, I believe it is more important for printers to be looking at the business impact of the solutions that are being offered. That is where JDF comes in, because with the automation JDF enables, users are not rekeying, and they have better quality and a more seamless connection throughout their shop in an integrated workflow. People just need to keep asking, “What is in this for me and my business? Why should I buy this? How is it going to make me more profitable and competitive?”
One of the most exciting things is that we have released a number of additional ICS’s (Interoperability Conformance Specifications) which allow vendors to make sure they can interoperate with other suppliers.
WTT: Turning to your role as CEO of CIP4, what is new there?
MM: One of the most exciting things is that we have released a number of additional ICS’s (Interoperability Conformance Specifications) which allow vendors to make sure they can interoperate with other suppliers. ICS’s become a common level of interoperability. We are now up to a total of 11 ICS’s and we have come a long way. Each time we work through an ICS, we spend a lot of time working through real customer scenarios so that this is as useful as possible and not just a lab experiment. Engineers don’t want to put anything into an ICS as required unless they can see a real need for it. Engineers are very practical. They are trying to look out for the customers as they define the ICS’s, although the specifications are quite technically detailed. For example, the MIS ICS focuses on parameters needed for job costing and job tracking and is very specific to an MIS. All MIS systems should support the MIS ICS. The full list is available on CIP4’s site.
WTT: What about the GATF testing? It has been a little quiet on that front.
MM: I think people were waiting for the new ICS’s. Our initial ICS’s covered only a small part of the workflow, and that limited the number of vendors who had anything to test. Now we cover a broad spectrum, and I expect to see the activity level really start to heat up.
WTT: What about JDF in the packaging arena? EDSF will be releasing a research report soon that was produced by Ryerson University under an academic grant on this topic. It found that there is very limited adoption in the packaging industry.
MM: Packaging is an area we have placed focus on this year, so hopefully you will see that begin to change.
WTT: What else is new at CIP4?
MM: We are very excited that we are going to be participating in IGAS in Japan this year. Each year, we choose one show to participate in. We can’t afford to have a booth at all of them, and we also want to be as international as possible. This will be our first time in Japan. We have a JDF Pavilion that will cover 212 square meters and include a Solution Zone, a Demonstration Zone and an Education area where we will deliver short seminars. The interest is very high and we expect a good turnout.
WTT: EDSF also did a study a couple years ago with Cal State University LA and Wuhan University in China that looked at JDF adoption in the U.S. versus China and other parts of the world. That study found that adoption was much slower outside of North America. So this is good timing to get the JDF word out in the Japanese printing community.
We are actually beginning work on a textbook about automating the printing process. We are looking for authors that can write various chapters for us.
MM: This is why the CIP4 educational efforts are so important. We are actually beginning work on a textbook about automating the printing process. We are looking for authors that can write various chapters for us. We want to make sure the universities have the tools they need to provide the level of education our industry requires in new graduates. As pointed out by Frank Romano recently on WhatTheyThink, we don’t have enough students going into the graphic communications programs, and inside of those programs there is an imbalance. We struggle with the same thing at EFI. We have openings for user interface designers that we have difficulty filling, because everyone wants to be a web designer or a graphic designer. They are more interested in the art, rather than the science. We need to swing the pendulum the other way.
WTT: Janice Reese and Network PDF have also been doing some work along these lines in collaboration with CIP4.
MM: Yes, that’s right, and they will have an MIS Guide for Managers available at Graph Expo. All of these educational initiatives are very important for the future of our industry.
WTT: Since CIP4 doesn’t have a booth or pavilion at Graph Expo this year, how can people find information?
MM: They can find information at CIP4 member booths. They should be able to ask all of the vendors directly about their JDF story and how it is going to help attendees make their businesses more profitable and competitive.
WTT: Margaret, thanks for sharing all of this great information, and thanks for all of your hard work on behalf of the industry.