Five Software Trends to Watch For at Graph Expo 2010

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Oct 4, 2010

Software continues to play an integral role in print and cross-media production. Conventional wisdom is shifting from “throwing software at it” to try and solve problems in production environments to “strategy-based” software deployment. Numerous times we have seen companies play a reactive role when it comes to software; a client has a need not currently met by a company’s existing software arsenal, forcing them to quickly come up with a solution through investment or custom development. While this approach solves an immediate issue for a particular client, larger opportunities and long-term implications can be missed.

While there are no doubt many challenges service providers still face in today’s economy, many businesses are anxious to tackle initiatives they may have been forced to put on the back-burner in the past year or two; these initiatives may include automating workflow to increase efficiency, extending capabilities to the Web with e-commerce, and offering new services. Software is a key enabler for many of these initiatives, and service providers need to take a more proactive approach to choosing a vendor, product, and ultimately a partner that can help meet strategic goals.At Graph Expo 2010, companies taking a proactive approach to software have an incredible opportunity to get hands-on, face-to-face experience with vendors and their products. There are a number of trends that service providers should consider when investigating software solutions at Graph Expo; vendors can also benefit from being aware of these trends to stay competitive in the marketplace.

  1. Cross-Media Enablement: Print service providers continue to be in a state of transition, with many companies working toward building out cross-media marketing services. Deploying personalized direct mail, Web landing pages, and e-mail blasts have been common functions of marketing services automation software. Still, service providers want to reach more channels and perform in-depth analysis on data and campaign results, and vendors are working to meet those needs with new software releases.
  2. Integration: At the end of 2009, InfoTrends surveyed print service providers about top considerations when looking to invest in print production workflow software. The overwhelming top consideration, even over software costs and training requirements, was ease-of-integration. As print service providers automate disparate “islands of workflow” in their operations, integration continues to be a key requirement to streamlining processes, increasing efficiency, and reducing costs. Vendors seem to be listening as new developments in cross-product integration and partnerships occur.
  3. Workflow convergence: Printers continue to invest in digital print devices, often times augmenting an existing fleet of offset presses. Combining offset and digital workflows (often referred to as hybrid workflow) has been a challenge for service providers in a number of areas; splitting runs cost-effectively across processes, color management, finishing, and tracking are just some of the issues printers face. Legacy offset and digital workflow vendors are working to bridge this gap and provide functionality and versatility of a true hybrid workflow.
  4. Software-as-a-Service: One trend InfoTrends has been tracking closely is the evolution from licensed, client/server software deployments to hosted, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscriptions. This trend is indicative of the software industry as a whole, and has an impact in the print production software market. Print service providers need to be more competitive than ever, which means being responsive and bringing products and services to market quickly. Additionally, many smaller printers do not have the IT resources or budget to buy and manage software. New vendors are launching flagship products solely as SaaS subscription models; many vendors with existing products are now offering Web-based, on-demand versions in addition to their “thick” counterparts.
  5. Mobile production management: Executives, salespeople, department managers, and customer service representatives are increasingly tied to their mobile devices to tap into their company information on-the-go and to be as responsive as possible to clients. As phones become more capable and the need for mobile access to information expands, software vendors are providing mobile versions of their products. Print MIS, workflow management, Web-to-print, and cross-media solutions vendors are providing more mobile tools than ever to extend data access beyond the computer screen through mobile Websites and native mobile applications.

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