News and information about MIS vendors have always been very popular with our readers. There was a time when consolidation and changes in the business landscape of MIS companies happened so fast that it was hard to know what was really occurring. WhatTheyThink.com has covered these firms since our inception and we have watched as this area of the industry has stabilized, especially since EFI acquired the biggest newsmaker of them all...Printcafe.
I had the pleasure of attending Connect last year representing WhatTheyThink. It was the 4th annual Printcafe user conference, and the EFI acquisition was in process but not yet complete. While it was clearly a Printcafe user conference, EFI played a prominent role, including several talks by EFI CEO Guy Gecht and other executives.
As this year's eventthe first to carry the EFI name approaches, I was curious about the user perspectivewhy they attend and what, if anything, they expect to be different this year. With that in mind, I spoke to four Connect attendees to get their feedback. First, though, a little background on the conference.
What is Connect?
Scheduled for June 27-30 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, EFI Connect 2004 is the fifth annual users' conference for users of EFI (Printcafe) MIS solutions, including Hagen OA, PSI, PrintSmith and Logic. The conference is exclusively for current customers and offers them information and updates on the product portfolio, andfrom my experience last yeara good view into the future plans for the products. It also is a forum for discussion about how the feedback from the previous conferenceand feedback from users during the yearhas been acted upon. The conference also offers hands-on time in the computer lab, and over 150 breakout sessions on various subjects. Attendees can also see the latest technologies from market leaders like Heidelberg, Xerox, Canon, MAN Roland, Komori and more in a technology showcase. EFI indicates that Connect 2004 is dedicated to addressing the solutions and technologies that are critical to a printer's business.
This year's conference will also feature some of the industry's foremost authorities on maximizing profitability, including Andy Paparazzi from NAPL; Rab Govil from PODi; Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com, one of the hottest IPOs in the market and a leader in Customer Relationship Management Software; and Gus Pagonis, Vice President of Logistics at Sears and former General in charge of Logistics under General Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War.
The User Perspective
The four Connect attendees, whom I want to thank for taking the time to speak to me, were:
- Bob Tenney, President of The Mid-York Press in Sherburne NY. He says, Sherburne is a nine-letter word for heaven, and I can't argue with that! (Logic user)
- Bill Jacot, Vice President of Manufacturing, LAgraphico, Burbank CA (Hagen user)
- Diane Schwarzenberger, Manager, Information Systems, Vision Graphics, Milwaukee WI (PSI user)
- Sheila Morgan, President, Lipps Printing, Kenner LA (PrintSmith user)
According to the folks I spoke with, the primary reason they attend Connect is to network with other users, to learn more about their MIS systems, and to spend time with executives and technical staff involved with their respective MIS systems to learn what's coming in the future. Most have attended all four of the previous sessions, and some, having had their MIS systems in place for many years, attended user groups long before the formation of Printcafe.
What attendees are looking forward to most this year, though, is the expanded technology showcase where they will have the opportunity to interact with other vendors, and to seeing the impact of the EFI acquisition on future MIS product plans. Morgan said, My husband, who runs prepress at Lipps Printing, will be attending this year, and is looking forward to seeing what is out there that will work for us. This year I expect that EFI will bring more of that to the table and help us find ways to interface better and to automate our prepress department. We expect to hear a lot about JDF this year, as well.
Users look forward to the conference as an opportunity to learn what is new with their MIS system and what they can expect to see going forward, finding the educational sessions and the personal interaction with developers and other staff valuable. Jacot said, It is an excellent opportunity to work with a wide array of EFI (in our case, Hagen ) personnel to get our questions answered regarding issues and requests for enhancements in new software. It is also a great opportunity to take advantage of many instructional sessions that may be particularly applicable to some of our key employees.
Schwarzenberger echoed those sentiments when she said, If I learn only one thing each year that we can use on a daily basis to improve our operation, then I feel that I got a good value because of the increased productivity we obtain from using PrintSmith. We have had PrintSmith for two years. Printcafe always listened to what we think works and doesn't work, and that's unique. We expect to see that tradition carried on with EFI.
Users are looking forward to seeing what EFI will bring to the table this first year that Connect is run as an EFI conference. They are happy about the financial stability that EFI brings to the organization, and are expecting to see positive changes as a result of the several months of organizational integration EFI has under its belt since the acquisition of Printcafe was completed.
Tenney summed up the advantages of the conference to MIS system users best when he said, Of all the printing organizations I belong to, Connect is the one I get the most information out of. I get the best value and find more innovation. I would like to see more users attend; it is in my best interest that the printing industry as a whole be healthy because it allows for new technology to be developed. Efficiency, accuracy, fast turnaround are the name of the game, and it is how you manage your money, not how pretty your printing is, that will determine your success in the future.
If Connect attendees take Schwarzenberger's advice and look to learn at least one new thing that will improve their businesses, they will be better prepared to contribute to the overall health of the industry—and their own operations—in the coming year. WhatTheyThink.com will have more coverage of this event later in June.
For more information about Connect, visit www.efi.com/connect2004