November 24, 2003 -- (by John Zarwan, WTT Contributing Columnist) -- User groups offer many benefits: networking and interaction with others; sharing tips to solve mutual problems and concerns; and – what makes them unique – direct access with their suppliers to voice concerns and issues and also to learn about future product and technology plans. Unfortunately, our industry doesn’t have a long tradition of vibrant and active user groups. One exception is the Heidelberg Digital Imaging Association (HDIA).
Now in its 15th year, HDIA’s keys to success are staying nimble and embracing change. I recently attended their annual conference, Directions’03, in Atlanta. The content this year was as good as any I’ve attended in the last five years.
This jaded conference attendee found the keynote speakers to be particularly interesting - even those I’d heard many times before. Most noteworthy were HDIA Board member Jean-François Cuillerier, Vice President, Technology/Customer Solutions, Quebecor World; Don Walker, General Manager of Adobe’s Print Workflow Group; and Venkat Purushotham, President of NexPress Solutions, LLC.
Of course, Heidelberg management from both Germany and the U.S. offered their new product plans across the wide array of the product line. And Dr. Rainer Prosi, a Heidelberg software architect and Chief Technology Officer of the CIP4 consortium, provided an excellent summary of JDF and its current status.
These general sessions also offered panel discussions on “Increasing Profits Through Workflow Efficiency” and “Tips on Researching & Adopting New Technologies for Your Business,” featuring leading HDIA members.
“We work hard to achieve the right balance,” said Joel Friedman, Executive Director of HDIA. “We especially try to meet the needs of those users who find the general industry conferences to be - well, too general for them. For Heidelberg users, this is as specific as you can get: sessions on NexPress, the Prinect workflow system, migration from Delta technology; discussions on Heidelberg consumables, service, training, and administrative issues. We find our attendees realize it’s actually more costly to stay hunkered down in the shop than to join with peers to discuss the highly specific challenges and opportunities they face each day.”
Reflecting the diverse interests of its members, HDIA’s afternoons and evenings were divided into two tracks, on digital print production (for NexPress and Digimaster customers) and offset print production (for traditional prepress workflows). These tracks provided informal opportunities for networking over lunch and dinner, interactions with Heidelberg and NexPress staff, and sometimes lively discussion sessions and panels on topics as varied as databases for variable data printing and real experiences implementing JDF workflows. Of course, these discussions - and others - often carried over late into the evening.
John Zarwan is a well known and respected industry analyst. He is currently an independent management consultant and contributing editor for WhatTheyThink.com. He can be reached by calling 902-892-7272 or by email - [email protected]