What is an EDBOK, anyway? By Pat McGrew

Note: At Xploration®14 Xplor International began a roll out of the first Electronic Document Body of Knowledge by providing conference attendees a limited edition of the document with the official First Edition released at the 2014 Graph Expo event.

Due to the significance of the publication and the impact on the industry as a whole Xplor has decided to provide a series of articles outlining what the EDBOK is, the impact it can have within your company as well as on one’s career.



Pat McGrew, M-EDP, CMP
Print, Inkjet, and Production Mail Evangelist at Hewlett-Packard

When the project began to create A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge (EDBOK), there were team members who had experience with other groups with similar documents. The one we used to model our talk track was the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) from the Project Management Institute. Their document forms the basis of the knowledge needed to attain one of the four PMI certification levels. We saw that as a great model for Xplor and the Xplor certification programs.

With the PMBOK as a model and years of Electronic Document Professional (EDP) certification portfolios to provide ideas, a team of Xplorers began the process of defining the knowledge they wanted to capture. The intent was to document the topics that form the basis of the EDP certification matrix so that prospective EDP candidates could map their knowledge to the certification criteria. Along the way as the contents were defined, and subject matter experts stepped up to write about the things they knew we found that the EDBOK was more than a path to EDP certification. It became the documentation of our industry.

We call it the guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge because Xplor has always been the user association where professionals involved in generating bills, statements, regulatory material, proxy statements, insurance policies, and the rest of the documents that authenticate relationships between consumers and businesses gather.  It is a tall order! And over the years Xplor expanded to touch all types of data-driven communication, including marketing communication. So think of Electronic Documents as the shorthand for all of those mail pieces that begin deep in a computer and end up in your mail box or inbox.

So what is the EDBOK? It is the definition of the key facets of the electronic document industry. It covers every step in the lifecycle of a document, from the idea to create it to the requirement to archive it. It covers the history of the industry through the changes in technology, file formats, and delivery techniques. It looks at details like image and font formats, and big ideas like Critical Communication recovery.

We consider it a living book. This is just the first edition to get us started. Our hope is that in the coming years there will be updates to keep the book current with technology and processes, and to add any missing pieces from the history gathered so far.

For more information on the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge please visit: www.edbok.org or call Xplor International at +1-813-949-6170.

Could Big Data Bite Us in The Clouds?

Submitted by Skip Henk, EDP, President/CEO of Xplor International
June 23, 2015

Big data has been touted as a means of helping target individual consumers for specific products and services based on a culmination of data points. It can be income, homeownership, where you live, if you have children, and so many other things. There are hundreds of different criteria that can be used in attempt to provide the right message, to the right person, at the right time, using the right media.

It’s a beautiful thing …
On the surface, big data’s virtues seem to present a win-win for marketers as well as the recipients of the barrage of marketing communications we receive each day. After all, attaching targeted demographics reduces the amount of communications being sent, thus reducing costs and increasing response rates. We benefit by receiving fewer aggravating and irrelevant communications and we receive more offers that are more targeted and match an individual’s lifestyle.

Looking at big data in this way makes it a ‘beautiful thing’. A technology and methodology that actually reduces costs to the sender and cuts down on the junk we receive in our email, mailbox and now our cellphones. Sign me up!

BUT beauty may just be in the eyes of the beholder ….
Hypothetically, what if big data had another angle to it? What if it was used to target individuals and as a result certain people were asked to pay more for the same product and/or service than someone else because they ‘could afford to’ (or not)?

I read an article this morning that is implies exactly that.

The airline industry is looking at big data to set ticket prices. In the future it may be possible that four airline passengers, who booked the same flight on the same day at the same time, end up paying four different fares because they ‘are different’. Some would pay more and others less.

If maybe you live in Manhattan, where living costs are normally higher, the airline could assume you can afford to pay more.  Maybe you live in a particularly nice zip code. You are a frequent flyer, booking 20-30 trips a year, so you assuredly would be willing to pay more and not give much thought.

According to the article, the amount you may pay for a flight in the future may no longer be just based on when and where you’re flying or when you booked your ticket. Your airfare could be based on who you are, with each fare being theoretically different for everyone.

Should we be angry or surprised?  Car insurance rates for years have been based on the value of your car and where you live while coverage usually is driven by ‘how much you have to lose’. But airline tickets?! Seems wrong to me.

So where could this take us?  The possibilities are endless, even if they today sound absurd. It is inevitable that if the airline industry goes this way, others will follow.

As I get closer to retirement, maybe I will consider selling my home and buying an old car so I can get lower airfare. It is a strategy…

Just think of the possibilities … Until next time.

The complete article reference in this post can be found on Yahoo!

Skip Henk, EDP
Xplor International

Connecting the Dots – Common Sense in Customer Communications

Blog Submitted by Scott Bannor

The variety of technologies available for use in the customer communications arena has grown to the point where no doubt there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re in IT and need a way to build high volume, transactional mailings or in marketing and need a way to create targeted direct mail you can be sure there’s a vendor that has just what you’re looking for.

But as far as I can tell so far there’s no technology that consistently delivers common sense to the process. Here’s what I mean…

Last week my wife and I received new credit cards from a bank with whom we’ve done business for several years. Since the new cards were unexpected – the expiration date for the old cards was more than a year off – I wondered why we had received them. I compared the numbers on the new cards to the numbers on the old ones. Surprisingly the number on my wife’s card was the same but the number on my card was different.

This made me even more curious. Why were we getting new cards before the expiration date and why was the number on my card different?

So to get these mysteries answered I did what hundreds – perhaps thousands – of other folks do. I called the bank’s customer service.

Now for the good news: They answered promptly. Even better – it was clear from the way they answered that the bank’s customer service was US-based (apologies to anyone reading this who’s not US-based). The pleasant young woman who answered asked me how she could help. I explained what my questions were and (it just keeps getting better) she knew the answers.

The reason we received new cards was because the bank was moving from mag-stripe to chip technology in their credit cards. I was happy to hear this because having traveled internationally I was aware of the fact that the US trails the rest of the world in this particular field. But what was the reason for the change to the numbers on my card? She explained it was because chip technology requires unique numbers on each card – even in the case of multiple cards on the same account.

So the mysteries were solved. The nice young woman asked, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” and my customer communication industry professional came out.

I said, “Sure. I’m in the customer communication industry and I’ve actually been in your production print operation a number of times and am familiar with the technologies your bank uses in developing and producing customer communications. So how come you folks don’t put a notice in with the new cards that says something like, ‘Here are your new cards. We’re replacing your old cards because… Your numbers might be different because…’. Something as simple as that would go a long way toward driving down the number of phone calls like the one we’re having right now and save your company a lot of money.”

She said, “Yes, that’s right. A note has already been passed up to customer communications on this subject to see if there’s some way to drive down all the redundant calls we’re getting to answer these questions.”

In other words in spite of the fact that this bank has spent millions of dollars on all sorts of customer communication technologies no one thought the process through. No one stepped back to think about what customers would do when they receive new cards unexpectedly and / or their new cards have different numbers. No one thought about the back end cost of “all the redundant calls” their customer service group would have to handle because of the changes.

In other words the lack of common sense as it applies to this sort of process has a profound effect on the cost of customer communication as well as on how customers perceive companies with whom they do business.

By the time the folks in customer service passed a note to their colleagues in customer communications about it a lot of money had been needlessly spent. And of course, because of this the bank isn’t getting anywhere near the value they need out of those very expensive technologies.

I suspect the situation I’ve described is repeated time and again throughout the broad spectrum of customer communications and services. What can be done about it?

Is size the problem?
The problem, besides the absence of common sense lies in the fact that enterprises have become so large, complex and compartmentalized that it’s difficult maybe impossible, to connect all of the dots involved in customer communications and service.

Customer communications in itself is so complex and involve so many different constituencies and disciplines most enterprises are challenged to have a meaningful view into or an ability to control the entire process. Not to mention all of the different channels and all the different document types by which we communicate with customers.

For example let’s look at the process of sending out replacement credit cards. I think it’s safe to assume that in many cases the same organizations that produce credit cards also produce and send out documents such as letters, invoices and statements. In fact up to a point these processes employ many of the same technologies and concepts – databases, document composition systems, postal hygiene, production speed non-impact printing systems, etc.

Of course they diverge when it comes time to produce credit cards. I won’t go into the details on this. If your organization produces credit cards and you’re curious about how it’s done I’m sure you can easily learn about it. But once the cards are produced they’re affixed to what the industry calls “carriers”. Carriers are in effect, letters. The next time you receive a new or replacement card take the time to look at the carrier. If it was done “right” it should be personalized – at least in that it has your name, address and account number. More sophisticated operations may include other information specific to you such as your FICO score, your credit limit, etc.

But is the card issuer taking full advantage of this opportunity to communicate with you?

Would it be better for the bank as well as for their customers if (in addition to common sense) they had a way to allow people in customer communications to control the process of designing, approving and updating carriers Would it be especially effective if customer communications didn’t have to depend on IT to act as a conduit between them and their production print operations?

If the carrier my replacement cards were on had contained a message explaining the reasons for the replacement it almost certainly would have eliminated the need for my call to customer service. If the bank’s customer communications group had an easy way to manage the content of the carriers without having to rely on IT resources they would most likely be proactive rather than reactive in communicating with customers regarding changes of any sort.

I should point out here that I’ve suggested this approach to people who run companies the banks outsource credit card production to. I’m sorry to report that they haven’t yet seen the advantages of offering this sort of facility to the banks they work for. It seems they’re content to manufacture the cards and affix them to relatively generic carriers. In fact in many cases the carriers are printed in completely separate operations. This is just one more example of unconnected dots. But there’s more…

Technology silos = unconnected dots
In the past it’s been normal practice for enterprises to build technology silos to address specific needs. However, it no longer makes sense financially or process-wise to continue doing this as it is a major inhibitor to connecting the dots.

So it would make sense if a system that empowers customer communications people to take control of the design and content of credit card carriers could also be used to connect those users with enterprise data sources and enterprise content as well as allow them (and others throughout the organization) to take control of the design and content of other high value, critical customer communications. These may include depending on industry, acceptance/rejection letters, application forms, order forms, premium notices, statements, bills, etc., etc. – just about anything that affects the relationship between the organization and its customers.

It might also be advantageous if the system allowed business users to make the determination (assuming customer opt-in) of how the communication is delivered – print, email, text, web, mobile or social media – again without having to depend on IT involvement.

The right technology would even allow customer communications to get creative in how they send out updates. For example would it make sense to inform customers that new credit cards were coming their way before the cards are mailed? Some customers might want to know via text message, others via their social media. Would this help cut down on customer service calls from people with questions?

Once this sort of system is in place users would find all sorts of ways to improve how their organizations communicated with customers. And they might use common sense in its application.

It’s clear this approach would save considerable time and money and more importantly, make customers happier. The customer communications arena has lots of dots to connect – isn’t it time to start connecting yours?

A look at Xploration 15 from the Student Perspective

Xplor International University Chapter, Ryerson University
Interview by Skip Henk, EDP with Ryerson students Valerie Drozdowsky and Kyle Tavares

Almost two years ago Xplor International and Xplor Canada launched their first University Chapter at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Since that time Xplor Ryerson has prospered with student members holding onsite campus events, a job fair, attending Xploration 14 as well as the 2014 Xplor at Graph Expo event and most recently Xploration 15 in Orlando, Florida.

And as time has passed some of the “founding” members of the chapter are graduating and venturing into the workforce.

I recently asked Kyle Tavares and Valerie Drozdowsky, two of the founding members of the Xplor Ryerson Chapter what their thoughts were on Xploration 15.

Skip: What was the value to you and the other Ryerson students in being able to speak with vendors and other document professionals at Xploration 15?

Kyle: Although we are used to speaking and networking with vendors when we attend other trade shows, Xploration 15 was a unique experience for all of us. As a student we usually do not get the “time of day” from the sales people because they know we are students and will not be purchasing their products or services.

At Xploration15 it was the exact opposite – we were able to speak with people who wanted to converse with us. Many of the vendor participants were decision makers who were very interested in what we thought about the Xploration15 experience, and they took the time to educate us on the goods and services they provide.

Valerie: The value that I find in speaking with vendors and other document professionals as a student is getting a chance to learn more about the mission that the vendors are trying to create as a company and also gaining the confidence to even speak to them. It may seem funny but being a student, it’s hard to know where you stand against these professionals who have worked in the industry for years. After a bit of time, the main value I get is recognition. When they start to remember your name and who you are, you feel valuable.

Skip: Was there anything in particular that you learned that may help your career?

Kyle: The experience taught me a lot about networking. As a student I found the educational sessions were very well done. I was able to attend most of the sessions that interested me and pull very valuable information from all of them. The best ones for students I thought were the LinkedIn and networking sessions. I found those very applicable for students. Many of the panel discussions also contained great information. It was great to be able to ask insightful questions about the topics.

Valerie: I have learned that building relationships is a very big part of being successful in the business world. Watching how everyone interacts at these conferences I now understand how to act, dress and communicate professionally in a conference and a working environment. All of this has made me develop a passion to work in the industry that I am entering. I have also learned how to approach and communicate with others, whether they are much older or much more experienced than I am. Being the second conference that I have attended, I found it easier to join in conversations and discussions, whether personal conversations or group discussions.

Skip: Any opportunities you may have to explore employment opportunities?

Kyle: For me personally it was a great opportunity to speak with a variety of vendors. I spoke with several vendors including Mary from NEPS to inquire what their business was all about. Later that evening their President approached me and asked if I would like an opportunity to interview with NEPS. Just following Xploration15 I had an interview and I am now a NEPS employee.

Valerie: Last year I was able to make a connection for an internship opportunity with Symcor, in Mississauga for the summer of 2014. It was required to complete a 420 hour internship at a company related to our school work and the graphic arts industry.

This year was a bit different. I did get to meet a lot of new employers, mostly from the U.S. Since I am looking for employment in Canada I wasn’t able to find an employment opportunity directly from the conference but I did make additional connections. I had a third interview with TC Media a week ago and I am still waiting for a response. We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks. Fingers crossed.

Skip: Sounds like it was a great event for you both. Do you have any closing remarks?

Kyle: My involvement with Xplor International and the Xplor Ryerson Chapter has provided me opportunity to not only expand my knowledge and personal network, but also launch my career. I would recommend any student looking to be part of the Communications Industry to join Xplor, and if your school has an Xplor University chapter become part of it.

Valerie: It’s always valuable listening to the latest trends in workflows, listening to how companies are getting the younger generation more involved and how the companies are evolving their mission statements to cater more to and fit in with the millennials.
Skip: Valerie and Kyle, thank you for sharing your experiences about Xplor as well as Xploration 15. I look forward to seeing you both next year at Xploration 16.

Note: Any college or university that would like to discuss the possibility of having an Xplor University Chapter can contact Chad Henk at chad@xplor.org or call +1-813-949-6170.

Click here for a brochure on the Xplor University Chapter Program.


Harry’s Corner – Star ‘n Cones

Submitted by Harry Stephens, President/CEO of DATAMATX
May 11, 2015

Anyone who knows me well knows I love everything about the mail. Even when I travel, I like to visit the local post office to see what it is like—particularly in countries outside the U.S. Recently, I was in Italy on a trip that took us from Rome to hilltop towns built up to 10 centuries ago and to Florence. It was quite a trip with our driver (Paulo) who explained the history of things along the way. Of course, my request was always to stop in each town to see how they managed their mail. What I learned was the post offices in Italy don’t resemble any post office we have here in the United States. Unlike here, where we view the post office as a place to buy stamps and send packages, the Poste Italiane is a place where you can accomplish all sorts of tasks.

You can pay certain bills, collect a pension check, renew a passport and even buy health insurance. Seriously—you can. It is also a competitive operator in the area for financial and payment services: savings accounts, interest-bearing bonds, national and international money orders.

Additionally, you can shop for things like books, CDs and even cell phones. There are posters all around promoting these things and there are consultants on site to help you with whatever you need. In Florence, when I entered the door of the Poste, I saw a machine that dispenses numbered tickets based on what you were planning to do there. Then, similar to the DMV, you waited until your number came up on the screen. The Florence post office was a veritable hub of activity.

Standing there I started thinking about our post offices—what may be missing and it sparked an idea (if you read my column, you know I have made several) for an option that might help alleviate some of the financial burden it carries. If European towns use the post office as a hub for other things besides mail, why can’t we? I know we can’t let a government institution go into banking or sell insurance. Private enterprise would not allow it. But how about getting support from private enterprise in another way?

For example, what if a company like Starbucks® stepped up and decided to help out the situation by creating a franchise model that would rent space from the USPS, similar to how the USPS operates within a Staples store? Or a telecommunications provider, like Verizon® or T – Mobile® have a franchise model that rented space from the USPS? If it was the type of products and services people wanted, and the franchise was located within the USPS real estate, perhaps it would spur activity around the post office itself, encourage local involvement and help offset the costs of operating the building.

This idea strikes me as particularly relevant for local post offices in rural areas where services like the ones mentioned are needed and not always available. A model like this might be a good gesture on the part of a company like Starbucks or Verizon and bring in more foot traffic to help keep our smaller post offices open. A few years ago there was a survey that found at least 6,000 post offices in the U.S. served a volume of only 3.3 people each day. 3.3! People in these areas don’t want to lose their post office—or their jobs. So if it’s some of my earlier suggestions, like “no work Wednesdays,” or decreeing “Saturday a day of rest” that might help save the USPS—or sharing space with Star ‘n Cones—the point is we all know something has to change.

Until next time – Harry
Harry Stephens

Harry Stephens is President/CEO, and founder of DATAMATX, one of the nation’s largest privately held, full-service providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. As an advocate for business mailers across the country, Stephens is actively involved in several postal trade associations. He serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta Postal Customer Council, Board Member of the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC), Member of Major Mailers Association(MMA), and member of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service . He is also immediate past president of the Imaging Network Group (INg), an association for Print/Mail Service Bureaus. As an expert on high-volume print and mail, he has frequently been asked to speak to various USPS groups, including the Board of Governors, about postal reform and other issues affecting business mailers. Find DATAMATX at www.datamatx.com.

An Interview with Mike Jackson, CEO of eLynxx Solutions

By: Skip Henk, EDP, President/CEO of Xplor International

I was recently introduced to Mike Jackson, CEO of eLynxx Solutions and although I was not familiar with eLynxx, Mike certainly had some interesting insight on some of the relevant issues in our industry.

I decided to go back to Mike, ask a few more questions and share them with the E-Document News audience.

Skip: For our readers who are not familiar with eLynxx, give us your 15 second elevator pitch.

Mike: eLynxx Solutions provides cloud software that serves a very specialized need in the marketplace. Our software is purpose-built to help organizations plan, source and manage the acquisition of custom marketing materials such as direct mail, publications, POP signage and all things print. Our platform connects stakeholders and coordinates all steps from planning to payment. In short, it strengthens the marketing supply chain by bringing complete order and transparency to a process that’s usually managed through a maze of emails and spreadsheets.

Skip: Can you tell us about eLynxx itself and perhaps a short history?

: I’ll try to give you the short description of a long history since eLynxx has been around since 1975. Throughout our forty year history, we’ve helped buyers and producers of custom print work more effectively together to the benefit of both parties. We have extensive experience and expertise working initially with printers to help them compete for GPO projects and later expanding our focus to work with private sector print buying organizations.

A pivotal point in our history came when we invented and patented a method for sourcing custom print. This method solved the so called iron triangle, allowing print buyers to achieve required product quality, on time delivery and lowest price – all at once. Conventional wisdom had previously been that you could only achieve two out the three at any given time.

Today’s eLynxx is principally a software company offering the most robust cloud software available to help print buyers and their organizations achieve cost and operational efficiencies.

Skip: From a positioning stand point, where do you see your products and services in the industry?

Mike: When it comes to buying and managing custom print, organizations have to decide whether they want to have responsibility for it or if they’d rather have someone else do it for them. If they want a third-party to take everything over, there are plenty of capable firms but that’s not our business. When an organization wants to maintain full control of everything and manage it themselves, we can greatly assist them with a solution that’s rather unique in the market.

The concern over working with a BPO or broker that I most often hear in the market is that it requires relinquishing control. Decisions over critical elements like what vendors are used, how much is paid and so forth, are placed in someone else’s hands. Depending on the arrangement, there may be limited transparency or access to information. But on the surface, the business case may look attractive because their buying power likely brings economies to the table.

When organizations maintain control by employing people to directly source and manage projects, they have the benefit of being in charge of everything but typically lack tools made for the job. Too often it’s a highly manual process that relies extensively on spreadsheets, memory, and email. That’s where we come in. As a purpose-built tool built for print buyers, eLynxx software positions organizations to have the control they want and the economic benefit they need. It’s not one or the other.

Unlike third-party arrangements, eLynxx has no print capabilities or vendor relationships. Our clients use our software to empower their own people, streamline their own process and work more effectively with their own trusted vendors. When working directly with print vendors, the inherent profits of the broker model are eliminated. And when our patented sourcing method is applied, the cost of print is reduced to levels that are often favorable to what the third-parties achieve through volume discounts.
So in short, we’re positioning organizations to have the best of both worlds – full control and the most competitive cost. We sum it up as your people, your process, your vendors, better results.

Skip: Let’s talk a little about the technology. How can enhanced workflows change an organization?

: When it comes to custom print, every organization has some level of prescribed or required workflow in the lifecycle of a project. The stages typically begin with planning and then move to sourcing and production management before concluding with approvals and payment. When they’re planning they may be going to vendors for budget pricing. When they’re ready to buy, they may do so under a contract, through a competitive bid and award process or they may even hand it to their favorite vendor without competition. And once a job is in the hands of a vendor, someone has to monitor whether the project is being produced on time, at quality standards, and ultimately ensure that the vendor is paid the right price.

The steps that happen along the way usually involve a lot of people and there are often change orders after the project is in production. So there are a lot of moving parts. When you are in the spreadsheet and email world, you rely heavily on people’s gray matter to insure that details are cared for, that boxes are checked, and that things are done in accordance with policy. Technology can effectively deal with all this complexity and transform workflow. For example, our eLynxx software allows organizations to streamline complex workflows and dependencies in a way that creates full accountability, transparency, and record keeping without adding friction. This allows our clients to embrace the complexity and deal with the workflow in a way that assures compliance. When people are freed from chasing tactical details, they’re able to focus on strategic actions.

Skip: Two questions that are somewhat related. First, what impact is the cloud going to have on how we do business and second, how will the cloud affect communications management?

Mike: The cloud is having a bigger impact on business every day. One obvious attraction point is that organizations don’t have the traditional investment in infrastructure and support costs. One common concern is that their information is being stored somewhere outside of their own four walls, so to speak. But we see a growing number of organizations, even ones who not long ago were averse, coming to embrace cloud-based solutions.

From an operations standpoint, I think the fundamental opportunity with the cloud is that it provides a means to access information, execute actions, and collaborate from anywhere, at any time. With our software, for example, all you need are internet access and credentials to login. This means people are no longer tethered to their desks or phones. The ability to see and do things from anywhere at any time makes people more productive.

Skip: Do you believe that more companies will be looking toward the software-as-a-service model?

: Absolutely. I think that not only will more companies look toward it, but those companies who are already using it will look to do more things with it. I foresee a day, not too far out, where the majority of activities are happening through cloud software.

: Compliance is a major issue for organizations. What challenges do organizations face and how have you been able to help them?

: In print procurement, the biggest challenge I see with verifying compliance is that it’s usually done on a spot-check basis. If an organization wants to pressure test whether they’re meeting compliance objectives, they have to pick random samples of jobs. The next step involves grabbing data in many forms from a lot of disparate systems. This often includes auditing email trails and may even require doing interviews to document recollection of phone conversations. So when compliance is monitored through a manual, spot-check process it’s time consuming and by definition incomplete.

What we have done with eLynxx software is insure that all jobs are managed through the same system allowing all activities, communications, and approvals to be indelibly captured in one place. Whether metrics or actions are based on time, quality or cost, our clients always have an up to date single repository. This not only affords uniform compliance monitoring, but it also means you can proactively see when a job is about to go out of compliance. It’s a very powerful business tool.

Skip: What is the importance of balancing compliance with operation efficiency?

: Getting back to my example of a more manually driven environment, if you want 100% compliance, the only way you get to that is by sampling 100% of the jobs. That means you have to add more personnel in the form of analysts and auditors. All that adds excessive administrative cost to the point where you can’t afford to get to 100% compliance. Compare that with using a purpose-built platform that automatically monitors and measures compliance as work is being done, not as a separate effort after the fact. Not only can balance be achieved, the return almost always exceeds the investment.

Skip: If I am looking for software, should I build it, buy it or both? What are the pluses and minuses?

Mike: I meet many organizations that have progressed beyond using spreadsheets to procure and manage custom print projects, often by creating an in-house system. The thing they have in common is they believe that if they build something they will get exactly what they want but not have to pay for things they don’t want or don’t need.

Now, if you’ve ever been involved in one of these projects, and I have, what you find more often than not is that, they take longer than anticipated to build, they end up costing more than expected, and you never end up with everything you’d hoped for. There’s also a requirement for operational people to be heavily involved in the design and acceptance testing which detracts from their ability to do their core jobs. So organizations typically end up dealing with trade-offs anyway, so what they get in the end is something that is less than 100% of what they wanted.

Assuming you get all this right in the first place, more unforeseen issues loom on the horizon. If they haven’t made a commitment to continually support and upgrade the software to meet their changing business needs then it will start to fall out of phase with requirements on day two. I have met organizations that are working with 10 year old home-grown systems and tell me that because it was never updated they’ve had to create numerous manual workarounds. It’s a back to the future scenario.
I think the advantage of buying it is that you are typically dealing first of all with software that was purpose-built for solving the common problems of many organizations. This brings broader perspective. And because the software is the core business of the provider, they are always looking to innovate and keep pace with changing market demands. Access to these upgrades typically comes at little to no cost to individual clients because the burden is shared across the provider’s entire client set. In the case of eLynxx software, for example, upgrades are included in the subscription price so our clients are always using current software.

The benefit in this regard, with eLynxx in particular, is that our software is designed to be tailored to fit each client’s specific business. By that I mean clients don’t have to change the way they do business to fit our software. Instead, our software is configured to fit the way they do business. That’s one of the many things that make eLynxx software unique in the marketplace.

Skip: Mike, thanks for taking the time to speak with me and share some additional thoughts and insights. Anyone wanting to learn more about eLynxx can go to their website at www.elynxx.com or can reach Mike at michael.jackson@elynxx.com.

After 5 … People Do Amazing Things

Submitted by Skip Henk, EDP, President/CEO of Xplor International
March 19, 2015

After writing about technology I decided to deviate a little and talk about some of the amazing people in our industry that do amazing things, for others, after 5 (and on weekends).

A few weeks ago I was honored to speak at the Neopost USA sales kick off meeting in Dallas, Texas. I spent three days with hundreds of people from across the country, observing first hand who Neopost was, their culture, and the people that drive the success of the company.

Mike BogadAfter 5
At the end of the day a group of us met in the pub to relax a bit which is when I met Mike Bogad, Director of CCM Channel Development.  After talking about his role in Neopost, our conversation drifted from work to our families and onto the things we do outside of work. Mike spoke passionately about his support of The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers, providing survivors long, healthy lives.

His involvement started when a high school friend invited him to a “shave event.”  His friend’s son played hockey with a boy named Dawson who died from childhood cancer. Mike is on one of the hundreds of teams across the US who help raise money for childhood cancer research. His team, Dawson Hairless Heroes, is based St. Louis, Missouri.

What differentiates being a member of the “Dawson Hairless Heroes” is that some of the more daring ones volunteer to have their head shaved by participating in “the shave event”. Mike is one of those daring individuals.

Amazing Things
Already in his fourth year, Mike’s goal for 2015 was to raise $7525. He finished at $8750, 121% of his goal and secured the #4 spot in fundraising out of 613 “shaves”!  Their event raised 500K. On Saturday, March 7th at 4:45 pm, he stood in solidarity with kids being treated for cancer and had his head shaved!

In Mike’s words, “When I started 4 years ago, I never imagined we could surpass $3000, now we’re over $8,000! My involvement is because of a friend who invited me to a shave, I knew I had a lot great friends that would help!  Since then, families we know and love have been impacted, thus pressing me forward to remain involved.”

This year’s event is over but the need still exists. To learn more about St. Baldricks visit www.StBaldricks.org or if you would like to visit Mike’s site go to http://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/739394/2015

To Mike Bogad and all the others in our industry that do great things after 5, thank you.

Next up …. Ken Leslie, (Former Xplor Chair) and founder of 1Matters.org ,whose mission is to house as many homeless veterans nationally as they can, as fast as they can



Skip Henk, EDP
Xplor International

Do You Wanna BOK?

Submitted by Skip Henk, EDP, President/CEO of Xplor International
March 17, 2015

When you read the title, what was the first thought that came to your mind? I am hoping some of you were asking yourselves “What is he talking about? What is a BOK?” That was my dilemma.

Although I have been active and involved in the industry for many years, I did not know what a BOK was or why it was important to our members and the industry in general.

According to our friends at Wikipedia:

a body of knowledge (BOK) is the complete set of concepts, terms and activities that make up a professional domain, as defined by the relevant learned society or professional association.

EDBOKMaking It Relevant
I must admit I was a bit slow to come around to the whole idea of having a BOK for the association. The idea that a document could or would contain the “complete set of concepts, terms and activities” for our industry was difficult to conceive. Looking at the “complete document lifecycle” and all of the inherent components, the different technologies, methodologies and disciplines that put end to end defines our industry would be a monumental task.

Climbing The Mountain
At Xploration® 13, a group of Xplor EDP members got together and determined that it was time our industry had a Body of Knowledge for the Electronic Document Industry. The “Limited Edition” was presented at Xploration® 14 with the first edition being published and released last year at Graph Expo. In all, almost forty people contributed in one way or another to the creation and delivery of our industry BOK. The scope of the book is impressive and includes:

  • Document Development Lifecycle, requirements gathering, business analysis, technical analysis, stakeholder agreement, architecture, information design, project design, development, critical communications recovery(disaster recovery), test and QA, production launch, maintenance
  • Document Production Workflow, data, data objects, composition, print streams, transformations, print management, electronic presentation, web and mobile delivery, archiving, print technology, inserting technology, delivery process.

The end product has become the basis for our industries knowledge and the platform that now drives Xplor’s educational mission.

Who Cares? You Should.
Anyone in our industry, no matter what role you play, will benefit from reading it. If you are in a technical or operations role, this book pulls it all together, filling in the blanks and expanding your overall understanding of the electronic document industry. If you are in sales or marketing, it will give you an end to end view of the industry, the various components and the knowledge will certainly differentiate you from your peers.

Special thanks to all those responsible for bringing this ground breaking document to fruition.

The project team: Matt Riley edp, Project Chair, Neil Merchant m-edp, Project Manager, Pat McGrew m-edp, Editor, Scott Baker, Roberta McKee-Jackson edp, Chad Henk eda

The technology contributors: Paul Abdool edp, William Broddy m-edp , Franklin Campbell edp, Tim Ciceran, Brett Dashwood edp, Christine Durfee, Carol Fiore, Franklin Friedmann edp, Neal Gottsacker , Chris Halicki edp, Cheryl Kay, Kevin Lantaff edp, Robert Linsky, Wendy MacMillan m-edp, William McCalpin m-edp, Linda McDaniel edp, Roberta McKee-Jackson edp, Neil Merchant m-edp, Denise Miano edp, Tim Nelms, Stephen Poe edp, Rebecca Rodgers m-edp, Kevin Tondreau edp

So, Do You Wanna BOK?
For more information on the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge (EDBOK) visit the EDBOK information page under Career Development.


Skip Henk, EDP
Xplor International

HP Exstream Takes Customer Communication Management to 11!

Guest post by Deborah Corn

I can’t resist a Spinal Tap reference, and in this case it’s easy to work in. I was hanging out in the HP High Speed Inkjet area at DscoopX last week and Heather Oliver from HP Exstream was just a few feet away manning their demo station. I was able to catch her in a brief moment between customer and attendee visits, and she was kind enough to talk to me about HP Exstream and the upcoming Xploration 15 Conference. I had no idea this software did all that it does – like spell check MEDICAL and LEGAL terms, and now with the launch of Empower customer communications can be managed online, and by a group of people!!! So actually, maybe this product goes to 12!

Check out the Xploration 15 Pre-Conference Workshop I am presenting with Trish Witkowski from Fold factory and Joanne Gore from Avanti on April 13th: Rescue Your Printshop’s ROI… Online Strategies For Offline Success

See you in Orlando!

Want To Earn More Money? Attend A Conference!

Submitted by Skip Henk, EDP, President/CEO of Xplor International
March 2, 2015

A couple weeks ago I read the 2015 InPlant Salary Survey and certainly was heartened to find that salaries are in fact on the rise. In fact, in the InPlant world, they have risen 9.9% over the last two years.IP_Clip

The survey was very well done and included a wide variety of statistics. InPlant did their typical great job. Of particular interest to me was that of the 231 usable responses, 44% of the managers who attended conferences (up from 27.5% in 2013) made 17.2% more than those that did not. That is a significant number.

The question is why?

Today, one can go to the internet and find almost anything they wish. The internet has become the go to source for information but as Albert Einstein once said “Information is not knowledge.”

To experience knowledge one must not only find facts and information but also acquire skills through experience or education.

So it simply makes sense that those who invest in expanding their knowledge by attending conferences, and learning from the experiences of others are more invaluable to their company.

Besides making more money, Why Attend A Conference?

  • Conference attendees benefit from people who have the same challenges and are willing to share them in order to help others learn from their experience. To learn what to do as well as what not to do.
  • Meeting people face to face and expanding ones professional network has many benefits that will impact your career. Your professional network can become a sounding board, a venue for new ideas, a place to find solutions or in some cases a future employee (or employer).
  • A good conference is a great place to keep up on all the latest technologies and trends.

Just one idea from a conference event can save or make a company a great deal of money. Here is what just one attendee stated after a conference.

“XPLOR one year gave me answers to take home a $500 Million dollar savings to my company! That being said, I was nominated employee of the year!” – Gene

All conferences are not created (or executed) equally

Attending a conference is an investment, one that can pay big dividends but all conferences are not created equal. When choosing a conference you should look for several things.

  • Does the agenda have topics of relevant interest?
  • Are there sessions that will take you beyond what you are doing today? Expand your knowledge of the industry.
  • Are the educational sessions a blend of users and vendors speaking?
  • Are there plenty of networking activities?
  • Does the agenda include best practices and industry trends?
  • Will you walk away with new ideas and motivation?

Yes, I am a bit biased. 

Being the president of Xplor, I may be a bit prejudiced but I believe Xploration® 15 is a unique event that encompasses all six points mentioned above “when choosing a conference”, because it was designed that way.

“The conference content is selected by our members, Xplor HQ just handles the logistics.”

Xploration 15 is April 14-16th at the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive in sunny Orlando Florida. Check out our digital brochure.

  • 60+ Educational Sessions
    • Featuring end users, industry analysts and subject matter experts
  • Daily Networking Events: The number one networking conference in the industry!
    • (2) evening events, (2) lunches and (1) breakfast
  • 35+ Industry Partners in the Vendor Forum
    • Meet with leading edge vendors
  • Motivational & Industry Keynotes
    • Devon Harris, three-time Olympian and 1988 Jamaican Bobsled team member which inspired the Disney movie “Cool Runnings”
    • John Biehler, Top 10 Influencer in 3D Printing
  • Acadami’s Electronic Document (BOK): Production Workflow Basics Track
    • A great program for anyone who wants to get a better “end to end” understanding of the document lifecycle.
  • Optional Pre-Conference Courses
    • Print Media Centr – Rescue Your Printshop ROI Workshop
    • Madison Advisors – CCM Intensive

For more information, or to register, please visit the conference website.

Hope to see you in Orlando April 14-16, 2015 ….. (If not, at some conference somewhere)



Skip Henk, EDP
Xplor President/CEO