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Exclusive Report: Software Vendors Positive on Xplor

Press release from the issuing company

By Noel Ward, Exective Editor, OnDemandJournal.com, Managing Editor of WTT's Tradeshow Coverage November 2, 2004 -- As I noted while at Xplor last week, show floor traffic at this show/conference can seem weak because people are sitting in the many educational sessions taking place. And in fact, the show floor was on the quiet side, yet most of the vendors I talked with weren't unhappy. This is important for the Xplor organization, especially coming just ten days after Graph Expo, and in a drupa year, when vendor budgets are as tapped out as the people who have been to all the shows. Software companies in particular seemed to share positive impressions from this 25th Xplor conference, largely pleased with the leads they were gathering. One of these was Whitehill Technologies, a Canadian provider of document composition and data transformation tools. President and CEO Paul McSpurren said Whitehill normally attends vertical industry shows and went to Xplor because of its more horizontal focus. He was pleased with the people he was meeting in Dallas and already plans to be at Xplor 2005 in Orlando. Whitehill's software tools are targeted to the needs of C-level executives in the legal, financial services and insurance industries. For example, CTOs, CFOs, COOs, and CMOs in insurance can utilize such Whitehill tools as Group List Bill, Online Account Current, E-Document Presentment, Electronic Billing and Payment, and Reporting. Similar tools are designed for legal, financial services and other industries. The folks at Solimar Systems were also pleased with the show, seeing attendees with an interest and need for the company's robust job management tools. Solimar's focus is on the many flavors of data transformation, a key ingredient in today's convergent document environments. Solimar's tools manage jobs coming in from AS/400, UNIX, mainframes, and networks in virtually any datastream, convert them on-the-fly to the PDLs needed for output in the given environment and manage the output. In effect, this lets users design a custom print server based on their specific production requirements. I also was introduced to Prinova Technologies, a full service provider of systems integration, consulting services, and data processing, specializing in the large volume document delivery market. Prinova's ENGAGEit methodology consists of several somewhat modular processes to deliver what it calls document engineering tools. These encompass the many functions associated with data extraction, document composition, print stream manipulation, and print or electronic delivery. Depending on customer requirements, the Toronto, Ontario-based company provides professional services, managed services or complete hosting of customer applications. Prinova targets the usual suspects--banks, financial services and insurance companies--and is worth a closer look by companies seeking to better manage their document production. Exstream Software gave Xplor attendees a good look at the latest version of its Dialogue document creation tool. Targeting six key markets including financial services, banking, insurance, service bureaus, telecom/utilities, and retail, Dialogue 5 has enhanced its already industry-leading features. The new version offers faster statement production, easier regulatory compliance, simpler data acquisition, more robust image statement processing, improved campaign management, and more design flexibility. At Xplor--and in Exsteam's marketing for Dialogue 5-- the company suggests that companies not migrate but "evolve with a next generation solution." That may be a path prospective customers are willing to follow. According to 2003 SEC filings and a June 2004 report from Madison Advisors, Exstream has sold more software for personalized document creation than more established competitors such as Group 1, Docucorp, Document Sciences, and Metavante CSF, companies with 10 to 20 years' experience in the marketplace. Software wasn't the only story. FedEx Kinko's is clearly on the path to change the options for document production. With something on the order of 1800 retail storefronts and over 40 "closed-door" facilities around the world, FedEx Kinko's is offering something completely different. It's not a quick printer, a CRD, document service bureau or facilities management company. It is all of these, and is leveraging the synergy of putting these different types of businesses under one roof--and brand. Everyday documents can be manually or electronically submitted to any FedEx Kinko's retail location for local or remote printing. More complex jobs, especially ones requiring variable data, can be produced in the closed door locations which have high levels of security. Mailing services is the next step and is reportedly under evaluation. Christopher Ahearn, Vice President of Commercial Marketing and Strategy told me the same principles of precision service delivery that made FedEx a leader in overnight shipping are being applied to all levels of document production. This extends not only to the extensive range of hardware and software but the high-bandwidth network infrastructure that supports global document distribution and to the training provided for staff at all levels. "The goal, just as with package delivery, is to ensure a consistent customer experience," says Ahearn. That extends to pricing. FedEx Kinko's is running a pay-as-you-go model where corporate clients pay for just those services (and clicks) they use, with no monthly minimums or high fixed charges. This is likely to cause some heartburn for other document outsourcing and facilities management providers--and some glee among CFOs, CIOs, document owners and purchasing agents. That's why FedEx Kinko's came to Xplor, and were happy enough with their results in Dallas to schedule space for 2005. On the hardware side, Kodak Versamark was drawing attendees to see its drop-on-demand and continuous Inkjet solutions--and wrapping up some deals, too. Color is clearly on the march in the transactional space. Across the aisle, Xerox was steadily busy, showing the new DocuTech 180 HLC and the Nuvera Document Production System. One exec said they'd had complaints from some attendees that they hadn't brought enough equipment. You know how those equipment junkies are: they can never get enough. On balance, this was a quiet, but still positive Xplor. Final numbers were not available as I write this, but the sense I have of it is that the reinvention of Xplor is well underway--and should prove to be successful. While the show was dwarfed by the cavernous Dallas Convention Center, the sessions were generally well attended, an indication that Xplor is continuing to be thought of as an educational resource, even in a time when the industry is changing.