By Pat Taylor, President of Proactive Technologies We whispered about the Prison of Proprietary Technology, and we plotted a path for escape. March 1, 2004 -- I completed an infrastructure audit for a third-generation printing company, and the family members running the business kindly invited me to dinner that evening. We waxed nostalgic about our beloved industry, its history, and the changes we are dealing with now. We marveled at the wonderful tools available today; technologies that fundamentally change the way we do business. We whispered about the Prison of Proprietary Technology, and we plotted a path for escape. “It all started for us with the Macintosh,” said the Prepress Manager (and grandson of the founder). “It began as Desktop Publishing and evolved into Digital Prepress.” “And we owe that transformation to Scitex,” announced the father - the president of the company. “Macs were cool, but Scitex changed the craft; they pioneered the movement to digital technologies for this industry. Scitex created faster and better ways of getting jobs ready for the press. They did it in a way no other company had ever done it before, and we loved it. But the honeymoon ended when I wanted to buy something that they didn't offer, and those Service Contracts are killing me!” Fact: Proprietary technologies have higher support costs. Why? They are secretive and exclusive; by their very nature, there are fewer people who know how ‘it' works. Proprietary technology can lock you into doing things one way - their way. For better or worse; leading-edge or obsolete. Remember BetaMax? Be Aware of Standards Beware of technologies that insist you do things ‘their way'. In the computer community, these product types are sarcastically referred to as Forklift Upgrades (because you forklift the old system out of the building to make room for the Upgrade). Be aware of Standards, and insist on them. Beware of technologies that insist you do things ‘their way'. In the computer community, these product types are sarcastically referred to as Forklift Upgrades Today, technology has matured to the point to where we--as computer nerds and software geeks--can agree on and establish Standards with which we can comply. We work independently to invent the next Great Gizmo to plug into that Standard. We compete within the technological rules of engagement to ‘make a better mousetrap'. You need not be overwhelmed; it is not necessary to memorize any particular standard(s). As a business leader, it is enough to be aware of them. Within our own industry, we establish committees that strive to define and enforce Standards for our communal benefit. CIP4 is the result of industry leadership contributing to the development of a technical standard that creates new efficiencies in our businesses. More importantly, it allows the smaller operation to chart tactical options along a strategic course for growth that is both cost-effective and flexible enough to support change as new business opportunities present themselves. Preparing for Tomorrow CIP4 allows the smaller operation to chart tactical options along a strategic course for growth. Logically, consumers of technology benefit by insisting on standards-based products. Standards drive competition among vendors and developers which results in more choices (in terms of products and feature sets) and lower costs. Additionally, they leave the technology door open for the Next Big Thing. Because you know what's coming next, don't you? Neither do I! However, I do know that a standards-based infrastructure gives me the freedom to deploy new technologies (whether my workflow vendor has ‘it' or not) and more readily adapt to changes in our industry. That is why you are well-advised to build your own standards-based digital infrastructures, and to insist on standards-based products from your vendors and suppliers. They give you flexibility to pick and choose from all the fabulous tools developed for our industry--emerging technologies that allow you to be the printing company your customers want you to be.