Archive for the ‘All the rest’ Category

Something’s Gotta Give…

February 22, 2010

Free? Free? OK, almost free? No, no how about; at least do it at a loss for me?

Sound familiar?

Over the last 20 years in this trade I’ve seen and heard of more and more companies trying to conjure up magic numbers that maintain their clients illusions that they are getting a bargain. In fact some companies will take hit on the operational cost of producing the work just to have the client under their belt.

And what about cases where a potential client promises high spends that never materialise? Sales guys that expect the company to make investments in time, people and resource for a client that isn’t worth it’s value. I know your thinking that “any financial controller worth his/her salt wouldn’t allow this to happen” – yet it does, and will continue to do so.

These are all examples of how the life is being sucked out of what it actually costs to do the work. That and the high salaries of senior members of the companies that are nothing but a drain on resources – great if their bring in work, but what a dead weight if they don’t!

Anyway, thinking lets consider for example the Publishing industry; someone somewhere must have got some big bonuses for driving the cost per page down to near nothing, but the cost was at the industry’s detriment. It’s all well and good reducing the costs to the client so much that it keeps everyone else from getting a look in, then offshoring it all to India or China, but at some point something breaks! The client’s expectations of how much ‘stuff’ costs to produce are so high (i.e. they expect it at such a low cost) that companies can’t or don’t have the money to invest in the infrastructure needed to service them in the manner that they expect. OK, some companies do get deals on who pays for staff or what the kick backs are of different parts of the supply chain, but on the whole it is now a zero numbers game. Hard work and dedication just isn’t part of the equation anymore and reputation means diddly squat nowadays – in fact requtation could actually be a ‘worst enemy’.

Under such circumstances, is it any surprise that so much work is making it’s way out to India and China. Many moons ago it would have been eastern block countries until their cost of living went up and subsequently the cost of outsourcing rose with it forcing companies to find cheaper solutions – will we see the same with India and China? If so, where to next?

It confuses me slightly why clients source UK companies who outsource their work? Is that again something for them to save money on? I mean if I were a client and I discovered my pre-media operation outsourced I’d be pretty annoyed if they hadn’t told me. If I was in the position as a customer of course one part of me would say “why should I care because I’m getting a great price” but another part of me would say “I could just source an offshore company to work for me anyway”. After all most of them have representitives in my country anyway so what do I gain by having a ‘piggy in the middle’ -surely that ‘piggy’ is just getting fat for doing, er, well not much at all really!?

Well, maybe not that fat! I am sure that you have all been watching the media news recently where a number of ‘piggies’ (or middle men) have been going under. A sign of the times me thinks, where the bacon has been sliced too thin for them to survive off. We can of course stand on the side lines and opine at the fate of these middle men and their companies who clearly “had it coming”. However, at the end of the day these are people’s livelihoods that we are watching disappear down the pan – livelihoods that in some cases have been treated with total disregard and I am not just talking about their own employees, as there is a whole supply chain affected by such sad and sorry stories of mismanagement!

Of course, under such business circumstances something eventually has got to give! And I really do think that it is going to take one of the ‘big players’  to fall for the industry to realise that greed is not good for our business.

Author: Gary George

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Cartoon credit for Corporate Profits to Clay Bennett

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Freelancer Service

February 18, 2010

Many moons ago I wrote a little paper (that no-one saw) about how a centralised website with full API connectivity could be created to manage a virtual pool of freelance workers. Needless to say several years on now I can’t locate the document at all.

So in line with all my other ideas I’ve shared with you all on here I’m going to tell you a little bit about my idea.

We’ve all seen the countless number of job sites, recruitment agencies and networks for individuals seeking some sort of employment, right? These very impersonal sites and agents take your CV and add you into the pile of the thousands of other CV’s they have – they don’t match your skills to new positions, they don’t evaluate you, they really don’t help you unless you chase them, unless you are on their backs pushing them to match you. Strange really as most of them get some sort of commission if they have recommended you, normally a percentage of your salary, so you would think they would do more to connect and promote you, find out your inner most secrets in order to get the best job match possible. OK the reality is that there’s thousands of us looking for jobs, new jobs, new careers etc. so it probably is near impossible to have one-on-ones.

But what if you created a network and service that allows two-way interaction between the clients and the workers, a way for the clients to access the staff on their skills, personality, professionalism, cost, speed etc?

Well there are sites that already offer this type of service for just about everything from technical drawing to accounting. But when it comes to premedia; well yes there are people on these services that provide this and their clients are able to provide ratings, but they are not specifically targeted at our industry.

A lot of companies have integrated their enterprise resource management into their job management in order to track statistics for their clients billing purposes, but they haven’t got any way of managing any work they outsource to individuals or other companies. What they are using is primitive compared to what is possible today with web applications.

So imagine being able to register your company as a provider of business into the freelance world. Imagine having a service that you could integrate into your own systems and have instant access to a virtual pool of talent that is rated and where you have visibility of their earnings, their skill-sets and their availability…. Imagine that the service integrates a sophisticated file transfer mechanism that is fully audit-able and integratable.

The system could incorporate the latest in asset tracking technology to protect corporate materials, the freelancers could bid, secure or become one with their clients whilst remaining completely anonymous at the same time!

The key to all work, regardless of whether it is outsourced, insourced or staffed, is the ability for the briefing process to be interpreted correctly by the reader – imagine if the system forced a preflight checklist for the brief as a form of measurement that is automatically recorded against the record of the transaction along with a complete dispute process.

Considering that the system would have a completely open API, additional services could be provide such as soft proofing where the clients comments are visible as part of a new brief, needless to say that briefs would always be version controlled.

I have so many ideas around how the system should look & feel since today’s web technology and desktop client technology provides us with an unlimted amount of possibilities to make the user experience seamless.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you think the idea is worth pursuing or if you have spare chunk of cash laying around threatening to burn a hole in the carpet!

Author: Gary George

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Invest in the Employee – Your Greatest Business Asset

February 10, 2010

It’s pretty easy maths when you think about it; to get set-up as an artworker/designer/creative bod today doesn’t actually cost a fortune and for most people they would probably have a home setup that is better or newer than what they would be using at work anyway.

I did a quick shopping list using some estimates on what it would take to set-up a little home office. Being completely legal naturally (not to say that anyone would use pirated software anyway!) and this is what I came up with:

 

Now, consider that you wouldn’t rush out and buy all of the font collections in one go and let’s say you purchased them on a project-by-project basis (or if you were working on outsourced work you may even be supplied the fonts) a £5,530 investment over 3 years isn’t that bad. In fact £1,845 per year would be a ‘drop in the ocean’ if you are able to get the work in.

The thing with doing this is that you need to actually be good at what you do in order to maintain a steady income! A big part of that is the need to keep on top of your training in the applications, hell you’re responsible for your own income now, so if you don’t put the time in you have no one to blame but yourself….

Now look at it from the companies‘ point of view. They employ you on a wage (or if you’re unlucky a salary) and you are monitored on your efficiency to produce work in a timely fashion and actually that’s not much different to what you would do for yourself, although your attitude towards it is different when someone else is paying you, right?

In my mind, you, the employee are still responsible for yourself and your career advancements. You would be of less value if, for instance, you spent your life in QuarkXpress and never taught yourself Indesign – when looking for a new job you may find yourself unemployable.

But what about the employer? Do they have a resposibility to provide you with some sort of training? Some sort of career progression? Well no not really, not unless it is in their interest. But there is an exception to that you see, since the company wants to get the most out their assets is it not in their best interests to make sure you are the absolute best you possibly could be? Not only that, but you are a massive annual investment to them and you cost them a tonne of money each year that they need to charge onto the client in some way.

That’s to say that you as an employee can absolve yourself from trying to be a model worker and sit back and blame your company for you not going anywhere. No, you have to be the driver here, you have to want to be the best and your company should know that they can invest in you for their own greater return. Let’s face it most companies that are doing well will reward their employees and there’s even those with stockholders who share the wealth with their employees. I’ve always said that a happy employee is a productive employee, yet all I see and hear is how unhappy people are and how badly their employer treats them.

I wish that employers could see that their greatest investment is in their staff and their staff are what they should be nurturing, developing and rewarding in order to grow their business.

Author: Gary George

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Digital vs Physical – Convienence or Appreciation?

January 26, 2010

The other day I wrote about how in the UK at least the digital asset of music seem to have become more expensive that the physical assets you can buy in-store or online (how many of you have bought 3 CD‘s for 20 quid at HMV??) and how the consumer losses a lot of the appreciation factor of holding a physical item in there hand and placing it into their CD player….

This morning while flicking through a magazine, I read a short article about how Microsoft will be offering games via it’s Microsoft Live service, yet again the digital media supplied via a download service is more expensive than buying the physical copy online an having it delivered for free….

So why would people do this? I can completely understand the convenience factor of going to an online service such as Microsoft Live and downloading the digital copy directly onto your PC or Games Console, but were is the appreciation of the of the physical printed parts, the junk that they ship with the copies (you know the A5 leaflets about stuff you don’t want to know) and the booklet that contains the story of the game…. How does all the work the marketeers, copy editors, pre-media companies and printers get appreciated in a digital download?

With games there is also a resale value with the physical copy, not only do you pay less, but when you have completed it you take it back in-store and get a discount on your next purchase (or sell through marketplaces like ebay, Amazon and Play!)

So suddenly the print volumes are declining, the replicators are screaming and the manufacturer (software houses) are laughing all the way to the bank…. or are they? If we remove the physical packaging as our ability to purchase disposable consumer items like music, film and video games there is also the knock on effect to the retail stores, these stores spend millions in our pre-media market on advertising with point of sale material and their own pre-media advertising channels such as TV, Radio and Publishing, now the software houses can do that themselves and reap the rewards of a higher slice of the cash. I really don’t need to spell it all out to you, especially if you have been affected by this already and your business has suffered at the hands of digital download.

As a consumer though, I like to touch something I have purchased, even if it is just a 5 inch silver printed disc and a piece of packaging that will clutter up my house, it gives it a sense of meaning, something I can account for when I wonder where all the cash in my bank has gone.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this, I’ve illustrated in my first post about how in the UK it is affecting the sales of physical media in Music, now I’ve shown the same in the Video Games market, not that digital downloads of Movies has taken off yet, but you know it will at some point (how BT is going to manage it’s stupid fair usage policy when consumer Movie downloads hit the big time I have no idea, when you consider a HD movie is around 10gig you will soon have your bandwidth throttled to 1 meg after a couple of viewings!)

For the last 6 years I’ve been purchasing Norton Internet Security, wow what a business model they have, annual subscription that you have to renew to stay current, now these guys produce plenty of software and plenty of packaging which equals plenty of design & print. But I wonder if as part of their wonderful business model they actually keep the price of online subscription renewal higher than going out and buying the boxed product? Is there some sort of deal they have with the retail network that gives them the ability to push the product? Each year when my subscription is coming up to renewal I pop down to PC World and pickup my new version for under £25 where today online renewal is £54.99 – ouch over double the price for a renewal over a new boxed copy!

At the moment the artificially inflated digital prices are playing into print & pre-media hands all the time the printed packaging is cheaper, but at some point that will change as the next generations of youngsters only use download services providing a new paradigm of business opportunities.

For those companies currently diversifying their service offerings make sure you consider how your target market is moving in these digital times.

Author: Gary George

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Digital vs Physical – Why Pay More?

January 22, 2010

For a couple of weeks now I’ve known that one day I might wake up to a very bad day – you know the day when you turn on your PC and it simply just won’t boot? Well today’s that day. I had an inkling that it was getting close so I ordered a shiny new Samsung F3 hard drive and purchased some duplication software to tackle the task. I was all prepared yesterday to do it today and bang – this morning the system will only boot to the recovery partition and won’t repair the system! DAMN!

Anyway, luckily for me I have a Mac laptop (not without problems either, the keyboard and trackpad stop working occasionally so if anyone knows a fix drop me a line!) and while looking through my emails this morning I had a lovely colourful email from Play.com for the closing days of their sale…

Off I trotted to their site to look at some CD‘s and something sprung to mind…. Here on Play I can buy a CD of La Roux for £3.99 – so nice a cheap! So I headed off to iTunes and looked at the same artist’s album…. £4.99 – hold on, the digital copy where I get no packaging, no printed booklet, am unable to place on display and look at with pride (well not sure about that with the artist) and am unable to put on whatever device I want let alone lone it to my friends, costs me more….!!!

Clearly Play.com managed to get better colour here!

Think about what goes into the production of that physical copy; a complete pre-media process and manufacturing process has to happen in order to produce it. Whereas the digital version; OK it has some digital workflow involved but essentially the actual manufacturing process no longer exists, so why is it more expensive? In-fact if you look at Play.com you even get free shipping, so cash off of their profit for this physical product, digitally they still have to pay for delivery over their internet bandwidth, a fixed cost that they already can calculate into their business model….

So why?

What’s gone wrong?

Pre-media companies have been beaten to within inches of their existence on the price of producing the artwork for print, the printers have had the rug pulled from beneath their profit line to print them and the replicators don’t know where to look to sustain their businesses. Yet the digital providors are sitting pretty, still able to drive their Bentley’s and Porsche’s.

All seems a bit backwards to me.

Author: Gary George

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Who’s Really Trying to be Green?

January 19, 2010

Over the last few years we have started to see companies advertising with green credentials, flexing their muscles against their competition as green helps them win their latest contract. But what does it really take to go green in a modern pre-media company? How do we measure what a company are does and to what degree to make them green?

One area that caught my eye was in the hard-copy proofing area of our industry. In going about my daily business I came cross Rick Colson of EcoVisual Communication who offers completely green photo printing. They provide a 10 point sustainability list for their production process that would fill me with confidence that they have taken measures to ensure photos are produced with the environment in mind. Here’s how they do it:

  1. They print on 100% cotton papers that is made from post-industrial cotton fibers – materials that might otherwise wind up in landfills. Their “most pure” and highest-grade papers are made with cotton “short-fibres” recovered from cotton-seed oil manufacturers.
  2. They source these papers locally (their business is in Massachusetts) to eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting bulk paper (very heavy).
  3. They use entirely VOC-free water based pigmented inks.
  4. They use biodegradable mounting adhesives.
  5. They mount to soy foam substrates or honeycomb substrates that are made from 100% post consumer recycled papers.
  6. On the rare occasion they need to print on fabric or canvas they only use 100% recycled cotton substrates. (They also have available a new cotton canvas that’s a blend with recycled plastics from soda bottles!).
  7. ALL their imaging papers are totally chlorine free, tree free and acid free.
  8. They softproof whenever possible which reduces paper proofs.
  9. They colour manage workflow to ensure accurate colour which also reduces proofing.
  10. Everything they produce is 100% recyclable.

Feeling that these guys have really gone to great lengths to provide an environmentally friendly solution for producing proofs/prints, I had to ask him a few questions to get his opinion on how the industry and customers saw what was happening.

Here’s what I asked with his responses:

1. In your experience, what is the key driver to companies using products like yours?
There are three: 1) A passion for green, 2) an uncompromising drive for museum/archive/collector quality and 3) the desire to work directly with a name and face, not just anonymous “customer service.” I work with every client we have, personally.

2. Given the complexities of running a modern business, are companies doing enough to make a difference?
I don’t fault any company at this point in time for not trying hard enough to make a difference, with a few exceptions. So many businesses, and chief among them photographers and artists, are simply doing their best to survive. There is also a mistaken belief among most that making a difference, being socially responsible, maximizing green efforts, etc.  will all cost more than the “simpler” ways of doing things. In my humble opinion, this is a misguided and short-sighted belief. However, when you’re struggling for survival you don’t often consider anything but the essentials. The exceptions I noted above include those companies that are thriving (insurance, financial services, petroleum) who don’t pay anything but lip service to green issues when they, above all, can afford to. Greed, I think, is blinding.

3. How to companies weigh up the cost of being green against customers’ demands for cheaper & faster?
If you look at our pricing you will see that we’re actually less expensive than many printers offering similar services who are far less green. On the other hand, there are a lot of “quick and dirty” ways to obtain prints that are much less expensive than custom labs and “giclee” printers (including us). There will always be those who want the best quality and are willing to pay for it… fine artists, professional image makers, museums, galleries, art buyers, collectors et. al. The trick for us is to be more cost effective than those who are printing less green while delivering an equal or superior product. Then it’s a “no brainer.” In fact, I’m literally banking on it. It’s also true that people in this country, as a whole, are willing to pay only a very slight premium for green. So while green is one of our essential ingredients, we would be lost without quality, timeliness and service.

4. What level of education on the wider ‘green’ issue does your company provide its customers?
I do a lot of public speaking on, among other things, the relationship between indoor air quality and art and the use of green technology in imaging. One of the key components of being green is health, a fact that many seem to ignore. A significant health issue pertains to the use of solvent inks with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are known respiratory- and neuro-toxins. This is especially an issue for those who create prints with these materials as well as those who use the art. It’s a sad fact that no one knows what the combined effects of these VOCs and other toxins are when they mix with other potentially  toxic chemicals commonly found in household cleaners, carpets, paints, office products plus diesel particulates and other solid particulate pollutants. It’s these interactions which are the great unknown. Conventional chemical imaging involves dyes, pigments and silver, many of which are potentially toxic. In fact, elemental silver, used in conventional imaging, is a known heavy metal and carcinogen.  Many toxicologists link such symptoms as fatigue, inability to concentrate, respiratory problems such as asthma, depression, anxiety, and other neurological and psychological disorders with environmental toxins. That’s why every print we make is produced with 100% VOC-free inks on 100% cotton papers made from reclaimed cotton from cottonseed oil manufacturers (cottonseed oil is a food product).
In addition, I spend at least an hour a day on various online forums and blogs trying to provide useful information.

5. What are the 3 biggest selling points for green products in your opinion?
The first is health, the second is quality and the third is sustainability (not necessarily in that order). The globe is warming, resources are dwindling and there are far more health issues than ever before. To me, even in as “relatively insignificant” a field of endeavor as imaging, it simply makes sense to be as green as possible.. especially when there are virtually no compromises! Why would you do anything else?

How Much?

For some time now companies have switched their lighting consumption to low energy lighting, installed motion censors so the lights are only on when people are in the room and ensured that hardware is set to go into screen saver mode after only a short period of time. But is that really enough?
Having worked myself in a busy studio I can tell you that not many people are energy conscious when it comes to the hardware they use, they will happily go home at the end of the night leaving their Mac or PC on, sucking money straight out of the companies bottom line…. OK you may think this is a little excessive, but actually when you start adding it up it turns out to be a pretty juicy amount, doing some very simple maths here, using my standard consumer rate of electricity and one of my 24 inch Dell 2407 LCD screens I have calculated that having the screen running for 24 hours a day with a screen saver running would clock up a hefty £133 a year on my electricity bill. Luckily for me I don’t have it running 24 hours a day since I have 2 of them! I couldn’t face a bill of over £500 a year just to run my PC, but I’m sensible; my screens go to standby after 5 minutes, I shut my PC down at night and I have a energy saving peripheral multi-gang socket that switches off all of the additional plugged in equipment (mouse dock, printer, scanner and actually the screens!)

Now just multiply that against the number of screens in your creative studio, say 20? Left on for 24 hours a day 365 days a year – a company would spend around £2660 or through managing the staff’s shutdown process they could just be spending £900 – now £1760 might seem like a small amount of money in the grand scheme of what that creative studio might actually earn, but that £1760 is no different to simply burning it for no reason! Another way of looking at it is that £1760 is the cost of a new G5 Mac something all the staff would love to have every year, in fact it’s what they normally ask for every year as if they deserve it!

I’m the one paying my bill, so I am energy conscious. But on the whole employees aren’t and most really just don’t care. For me going green isn’t just about using sustainably sourced materials (although I’m not knocking anyone that does) it’s about changing the complete mindset of your business and it’s employees, it’s about promoting it across the company about how being green saves money, save the environment and makes for better business, we all know that better business means higher incomes and longer term survival.

What would I do?

There’s plenty of things that companies could be doing in order to be more thoughtful about the energy they use. Thinking about my top 10 company green points that I would promote to my clients, I’d have to have some sort of measurements to ensure that my employee’s are maintaining the standards my company has set. I mean what’s the point of having any type of policy if you don’t measure if it is being followed, anyway my list would look something like this:

  1. All employees would use public transport or bikes to get into work.
  2. All employees who have to drive car pole in some way and have low emission modes of transportation.
  3. Any company car would be energy efficient (i.e. not gas gussling tanks, and all the way up to chairman he gets a Smart just like his staff!)
  4. All computers and peripherals would be shut-down at the end of the day.
  5. Recycling bins and reported measured waste (anal I know, but how do you get people to care about recycling otherwise!)
  6. Sustainably source company products (i.e recycled loo roll, recycled photo copier paper, fairtrade tea & coffee etc etc)
  7. Low energy lighting with motion detection.
  8. Only company owned equipment plugged into the companies electricity (sorry all those personal mobile phone users who charge at work!)
  9. Solar heated buildings
  10. Thermally insulated buildings

Conclusion

That list is without looking at the material you use in the daily business you provide your clients. I know what your thinking “my God, you want a lot, do your clients really care?” Probably not, but much like Apple has wow’d us with how green the production process and material used is in the products they manufacture, so should we be wowing our clients by being environmentally responsible. As Rick pointed out above it can cost the same if not less to produce environmentally friendly proofs for your clients, as so it wouldn’t take a lot to implement policy throughout your business on energy consumption, educate your staff to be responsible for the environment, your clients and your bottom line.

Susrainability + Environmental Awareness can only equal good business, higher gross profit and better employee rewards? Or are you just playing lip service to the need of your clients?

Think about what more you could be doing in your pre-media supply chain to reduce your carbon footprint!

Author: Gary George

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Premedia & Consumer White Goods?

January 12, 2010

Almost every week  we hear or see something that we think is absolutely pointless – and then there’s some stuff that will revolutionise the way we use devices! So today I was challenged to ‘blog’ about two such devices and how they fit into our pre-media landscape.

Firstly let’s look at what I was directed to….. Yes you got it, a Microwave and a Washing Machine with a 7 inch touchscreen Android embedded system!!!

Seems pretty pointless right?

Well if your client is one of these manufacturers then definitely not, since you probably hold all of the company’s digital assets and brand material and therefore you are in a prime position to offer some sort of content management services and facilities for these devices. There is a whole supply chain process that would be involved in getting content fit for purpose on these new touch devices and sure, they may not hit mainstream consumer purchasing while the technology prices are still high for this type of implementation, but really when you think about it, is it no cheaper for manufacturers to reduce costs by providing less choice – i.e. not have to have so many parts to maintain?

Whilst pre-media companies need to diversify, are they really able to make a leap into consumer device application development? Or is it a step too far? We already see the big boys in the industry providing iPhone apps for their suites of applications to help their clients feel more in-touch with workflow. So they have huge technology & development departments dedicated to application development and who’s to say they won’t be able to transition their already gathered user interaction experience into the mainstream consumer device application market?

I don’t know about you, but I have a nice shiny new touch screen Samsung phone, the downside is the frustration of my fat fingers trying to get to the letters of applications I need instead of constantly selecting the option next to the one I want – so is touch just a storm in a tea cup? or will it be the next revolution of consumer products?

I won’t go into why you would ever want wireless networking, browsing, etc. on your washing machine because I always thought that the fridge that kept track for the contents and add depleted stocks to your shopping list was a great idea, but in practise would it really work? What about the fridge/freezer with an LCD TV embedded in the door? Well great, so you design your new kitchen around the fridge being in the optimal viewing position while you cook dinner!

The future is all touchy feely

With Apple supposedly releasing a tablet style touch screen device in the coming months it is clear that they would have done their research enough to know that the time is right for that style of device (let’s hope that they are not banking on the success for the iTouch/iPhone as a benchmark for people to spend 3 to 4 times as much on a tablet device!). We have also seen a number of conceptual designs for paper style digital magazines/newspapers – again odd since the Kindle/Irex/Sony ebook readers hardly made mass market! There are plenty of new opportunities for pre-media companies to get a handle on where their future profits come from and try and cash in on the new pre-media output channels that are constantly appearing.  All application, user interface and user help systems require assets, supply chains, workflows and content management so have you thought about what your customers are working on in their roadmap to ensure you are considering it in your strategic plans as well?

Author: Gary George

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Recession Bites Hard

January 8, 2010

Well what a depressing start to the year – first the UK gets hit by some of the worst temperatures we have ever had making getting to work near impossible for so many people (something I’ll come back to later in this blog) and then the news of more closures and liquidations in our industry that will send a few waves through our industry….

Closures

So this week we saw the announcement that Positive Focus will be closing their doors for business citing that the lack of investment from companies in the pre-media and print sectors that created extremely poor operating revenue which they cannot survive on. This type of news is of course sad as it removes competition from the integration market. Some people will benefit by picking up existing support contracts as the vultures sweep in to pick the bones out of carcasses, yet the sadness is with the family run business that operated for 32 years providing top quality services to our industry.

The point is though that this is not the first time that an integrator has come up short in sales and had the bones picked out of them. In previous situations private investors have jumped in to save the companies, but what value has that ever bought? Integrators like other companies need to continually reinvent their service offerings, it’s not enough in today’s markets to only supply the same software and services you established your company on. We only need to look at how the pre-media landscape has dramatically changed in the last 24 months with mobile media and personalisation becoming more and more prominent with mobile devices and digital print being the fastest expanding markets.

Brand Director Workflow Management DAM

We also have seen a massive upraise in Digital Asset Management with business process & workflow at the heart of the service offering and so for integrators is it enough to only focus on a single solution when smaller and individual consultants can offer services across multiple software offerings without the need to increase the costs of the software solutions to cover their own operational cost (since they are being paid as consultants anyway!)?

The next 6 months in this industry will definitely see more casualties of the recession and my concern is that, while everyone is holding onto their purse strings, the industry will diminish into a barren landscape of little choice as to who you use. On the upside, the integrators that are left to compete will take their pick of the best talent across the market at pay levels that are unrealistic to UK living!

Contingency plans?

eavy snowfall in much of Britain caused widespread travel problems throughout the country Monday morning, causing hundreds of flight cancellations and rush hour chaos in London

AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Whilst we are suffering the effects of this recession and many families struggle with the continuing fuel costs, the snow in the UK has rendered so many people incapacitated when it comes to travelling into work. This is a serious problem for the pre-media and print companies as many of them have had to reduce their costs to the bare minimum to remain competitive and therefore are unable to have contingency plans in place for staff not turning up for work. Even though the clients are in the same situation as their suppliers there is little sympathy for their inability to produce the work and this is leaving more clients looking at how they can offshore their work to countries that can cope regardless of the weather conditions which in turn strengthens the effects of this recession (the “who is to blame” question is a much more political discussion that I won’t get into – but I hope the industrial sector put pressure on the UK government for poor preparation, again, of the weather we are having here.

Most companies never plan for ‘staff’ outages let alone any diaster recovery plans when serious problems occur (building fire, hardware failures, hardware theft or internet outages for example). Yet to me, contingency plans should form part of any contract when a continueous supply of work is provided and the assets of the clients are stored on the companies servers. Staff contingency is difficult to manage as companies should have suffient workflow & job management in place to be able to prioitise work for the clients that have a high demand, they should also have the ability to work with business partners in order to provide a continuation of services. Yet this is always an ‘after the event’ type of reaction which gets spoken about, then as soon as cost becomes involved normally gets shelved as something to do another day.

The future is bright

Being the harbinger of doom is never nice so I’m going to try and put a positive spin, regardless of the amount doom and gloom there is so far in 2010. The work still needs to be distributed between the companies that survive the recession, there will also be new births coming out of the woodwork that have fresh perspectives on the way to do business, pre-media will be a primary focus of these new businesses with the new technology and new workstreams paving the way to the next generation of business models. There will still be room for the traditional businesses, but the truly award winning companies will have the ability to react to the changing technolgy landscape and market their changes in ways that ensure they are on the summit looking down heir competition.

I also predict that there will be no room for fat cats in these new business models! Corporations that once hoped to increase their profit income from design and reproduction companies will shed their interests as quickly as they were snapping them up and we all know that there is no creatvity around the corporate board room table, only balance sheets, paperwork and endless justifications for stuff they simply don’t understand!

Author: Gary George

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Food for Thought

January 5, 2010

A Happy New Year to all of our readers. I hope that we provided you with some interesting topics during 2009 and to continue into 2010 I want to touch upon one today that puzzled me a little over the festive season.

The story starts like this; My daughter is just about to turn 6 months old and in the last month she has become  very aware of her surroundings – all normal development I guess. So we decided to stimulate her senses by taking her to London Zoo and so, rather crazily, we headed out in the miserable drizzle on the Wednesday between Christmas and New Year, both of us with horrible colds but determined to show our little bundle of joy the animals that she has only seen on the TV so far.

Whilst there, we stopped at the completely over priced Oasis Cafe in the center of the Zoo for a quick snack – two sandwiches and 2 bottles of pop at £18 (and strangely my partner didn’t tell me the price at the time knowing what my reaction would have been!). Anyway the pop she purchased was Pepsi and a very good proportion of the bottle’s label was covered by a QR Code. OK, nothing new since Nick Butcher wrote about the QR Codes hitting the mainstream back in Feb of 2009 on his blog here (oh and I nicked his images since I forgot to snap one myself!).

Now, two things here got me thinking about the use of QR Codes, Microsoft Tags, Datamatrix Codes etc., etc. 1) Considering this is  in the mainstream consumer arena the god damn things are ugly and any designer would struggle to add them to packaging or promotional material without them being an eyesore and 2) What exactly does the consumer get out of it anyway? (more…)

A Very Merry Christmas

December 22, 2009

For all our readers, and the people we couldn’t send this to personally, we here at Tunicca would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous Pre-media New Year!