Posts Tagged ‘workflow’

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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Dalim Software announces Dialogue ES, the softproofing and approval server based on the new ‘ES’ architecture

August 3, 2009

So those of you that have managed to get to a integrator event during the summer or to the Dalim User events you will be fully aware of what this is all about, but for those who didn’t get to an event, Dalim releasing the new ES architecture to provide a future development platform for their product range. Dialogue is the first application to take advantage of this new powerful platform that can also incorporate the Adobe PDF Print Engine for consistant results of transparencies, trapping and seperations.

For the pre-media world this represents the next evolution in an open working platform arena that can be integrated into your workflows and portals to provide client & brand owners a colour consistent soft proofing environment without the need for client installations.

Dalim ES

Kehl, Germany – Dalim Software, a global leader in the design and development of innovative and automated professional production workflow software for premedia, print, packaging and publishing, announces that DiALOGUE ES is the first application to utilise its new “ES” architecture.

First seen earlier this year at Dalim Software’s EuroDUO 2009 user conference, followed by a three-month private beta programme, DiALOGUE ES is the first application to be based on the new “ES” architecture, developed using XML, JDF and AJAX technologies and accessible using a standard web browser.

Continue reading here.

Author: Gary George

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Automation, Automation, Automation

June 28, 2009

It’s Saturday afternoon and we’ve had a great day so far, gearing up now to spend the evening tucking into a nice bit of Spanish tapas with friends, so as the sky’s darken and the rain sets in and my partner puts her poor pregnant swollen ankles up before we set off, my mind starts to wander remembering days past where I was faced with providing improved business processes and the way it made me feel.

Feelings? well yes, where do you begin when faced with the challenge of automating? What are the objectives of adding automation? And why do they want more automation?

These and many more questions are what ran through my head all those years back and unfortunately at that time I could only see my immediate environment the things we did every day; the things we were trained to do…. So where do you go, what can you do and more importantly how do you do it……

In many companies there are tools of the trade, the desktop applications, the server software, and the workflow systems, in isolation they all perform the task admirably, the tasks we or our predecessors installed them for. But as the saying goes, beauty is only skin deep and all of these channels of creation have a much deeper hidden power, a power that is normally only tapped into by software solution experts, but with a little effort, a little learning and a lot of reading, you can uncover the powers and start to appreciate what it is that you can automate.

I posted a while back an example of using Photoshop actions and how people in my experience do little but ignore them, actions that can be made into droplets for easy drag and drop, so why would people want to explore the Applescript or Javascript capabilities of Photoshop…. Or any of the desktop applications for that matter…. Look at what OSX has to offer, a rich Unix OS with scripting capabilities beyond your imagination, Apple even provide a way for the end user to access this scripting in an easy to use UI, yet how many bother to explore what Automator can do for them to improve their day to day working efficiency?

Looking beyond that and into the workflow systems, it is widely believed that the technical guys come up with all the ideas and plans to improve the flow of information, this is true to a certain degree, but very short sighted, there are a whole host of people that need input into the development of a workflow, as they will inevitably go beyond just having a file input, some processing and then a file output, there maybe for instance some business intelligence that is captured along the way, information that is useful to someone, if not only to justify the workflows existence in the first place….. yes I have heard the old “why are we paying XXXX for the support on this system each year” well with out the business intelligence to say “well it processes 500,000 pdfs a year for us” for example, business decisions can be made out of the context of the operation. (there are plenty of examples I could use here)

So remember that automation for any pre-media operational step be it user, application, server or business needs to be analyzed, measured for it’s return and then pitched/promoted for it ability to save money or improve business. Never think that something simple is not worth it, if it saves time, then it saves money. And always talk to others about your ideas, no innovation on this planet was ever created by a single persons input and this is the same in pre-media, share collaborate and expand on everything you think.

Doh…. look at this, I even managed to close my laptop before the blog posted and we went off to stuff our faces, so after a nights sleep ontop of 22 tapas dishes between four people I finally post this properly!

Author: Gary George

Colour Processing – Where is it going?

June 4, 2009

So we’re all familiar with the old problem of managing colour, well we should be so many people talk about it and claim to be experts (I only know two people that really do live and breathe it) well it looks something like this:
Snap15
Where you have little control over the input channels as you have no idea who created them, whether the profiles attached are real or not, what process they have been seperated for and even if they have been provided to anyone as some sort of colour expectation…. So we attempt through our workflows to standardise to a set standard and reprocess the colour of the desired output channels.

Seems ok I guess? It’s been working for however long, but what is the future?
We know that our biggest problem is not the technology, even though technology is improving year on year with companies claiming to have developed the ultimate tool only to release something even better the following year, so software technology, workflow and hardware is the least of our problems. It boils down again to the human factor, how do we eductate people in subjects that they are not interested in, how do we get them to follow very very simple proceedures that we set out for them, how do we get them to beleive that we know what we are doing and that they need to follow we have laid down in those proceedures…. Why is the human factor such a problem!

Are we able to change the rules and rather than make it simple for the users to get wrong, we make it extremely hard and let them follow the path of least resistance and get it right? Sounds an outrageous idea, but we have tried easy, people seem to think we are insulting their intelligence with easy, so lets make it hard and get them to think for the money we pay them.

Or do we place even more colour processor workflows in and allow for a completely automated colour transformation where the final output is not the same as the viewed colour on the screens? Myself I think we will automate more to de-skill the workforce a little more in order to gain control over our colour expectations.

Author: Gary George