"Publishing has to be flexible, dynamic and scalable."
BY TEMEL KAHYAOGLU
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 4 2018)
Those who seek to market their products in this day and age face a very complex challenge. Shorter product development cycles and sales and marketing materials tailored to specific target groups with constantly changing requirements mean an increase not just in the number of relevant output channels but also in the frequency with which documents must be newly drafted or adapted. This is compounded by the fact that a large number of locations, participating bodies and departments favour coordination efforts and a potential for error that can easily jeopardise the efficiency of the processes involved. Counteracting this requires publishing solutions that are flexible and scalable. We speak with Alexander Dressler, Managing Director of InBetween, about the properties and features such a solution must have.
Mr Dressler, modern corporate communication is becoming increasingly important. What are the distinguishing features of a modern publishing solution?
On the one hand, a modern publishing solution must be user-friendly enough to permit a wide range of corporate offices with different backgrounds to work with it. On the other hand, of course, there mustn’t be any chaos or confusion about responsibilities and tasks. Above all, however, modern-day publishing needs to be flexible, dynamic and scalable. That is the basic premise behind contemporary corporate communication.
What do you think are the main reasons for this, and how does InBetween position itself here?
Companies are feeling increasing competitive pressure on the one hand and increasing customer expectations on the other. These two forces combined require ever-shorter product development and innovation cycles, so that the range can be adapted more quickly to new circumstances. This means marketing materials must be adapted very quickly and continuously, and this calls for a high degree of flexibility. Cooperation must also be flexible, however, because the task of creating company publications never falls to a single office within a company. At the same time, the number of channels that can accommodate an enterprise’s content is growing, and speedy adaptation to linguistic and cultural conditions is needed as new markets open up. So, scalability is a major issue for almost all companies – InBetween offers great benefits here, too. Even if large volumes of publications are generated, the solution offers high performance, and templates can be created completely independently of the subsequent output format, so this minimises the effort involved in initial project creation.
You’re talking about multi-format publishing. Is print dead?
In modern marketing, no one speaks of either web or print or mobile. The major challenge is to support what is known as the ‘customer journey’ in all channels and media – and of course in far more local language and range variations than before. Today, if you just decide to forego one of the formats and the channels that go with them, this will result in a loss of revenue in every industry. This is equally true for B2C and B2B. The most successful companies in your market are typically also going to have exhaustive publication coverage. At this point, most companies are aware of this. In our view, the only way to meet this challenge is through a more efficient publication process that partially automates as many channels and processes as possible. We systematically align our software with this goal.
Which companies stand to gain the most from these properties?
Thanks to the scalability of the solution, it addresses small, medium-sized and large companies. Thanks to its flexibility, the solution can meet the specific requirements of companies with a large and dynamic product range. Our customers include BSH, Stihl and Kärcher as well as smaller, specialised companies such as Telegärtner or Bette. At the same time, we are flexible in linking to the most common technologies in the field of publishing and design, as well as data processing. This makes it easy to integrate InBetween into our customers’ usual working environment, no matter which PIM or MDM system they happen to work with.
You actively encourage customers to propose features for your solutions. What do you stand to gain from this approach?
As already pointed out, companies are subject to enormous competitive pressure and face customers’ increasing expectations for product presentation. If they want to survive in this environment in the long term, the first step companies must take is to continuously monitor the market: customer opinions and the competition. Of course, the providers themselves often have the most complete overview of developments in their environment. With feedback rapidly becoming the fuel of innovation, we quickly realised that we do not want to simply passively hope for feedback and must actively seek it out instead. This is how suggestions for new features put forward by companies working in touch with the latest trends become an essential part of our own development, so we can continue to meet the requirements of industry into the future. InBetween is a standard solution that is continuously developed and improved. On the one hand, we ensure that it can be implemented quickly and can begin its work; on the other hand, thanks to close cooperation with our customers, we can always offer an up-to-date solution adapted to modern conditions.
Who are the actual users of this solution and what steps are taken to ensure that responsibilities and rights are clearly defined?
InBetween actually supports very different ways of working. For example, product managers, country managers and marketeers without any particular graphics expertise can very easily and flexibly assemble publications on the basis of pre-defined master pages. These master pages also preserve corporate design, and the presentation types can be set for a certain number of products per page to bring these in line with company-specific communication rules. Thanks to the central InBetween server, publications created in this way can be forwarded to the graphics department along with editing instructions, where they can then be creatively customised and finalised – working in their customary InDesign or QuarkXpress environment, of course. Sales can also use this solution via a web interface to quickly and easily create data sheets, brochures or catalogues that incorporate the freshest data.
What aspects need to receive special attention if a shared solution is applied by such different user profiles?
Naturally, a solution that can be used by virtually anyone also poses dangers that can be countered by granular management of user rights. This ensures that certain publications or, specifically, even output formats are available only to those departments and individuals who need and should receive them. A sales representative, for example, may only create PDF documents, while a graphic designer may generate InDesign documents – the product data can easily be extracted from the database using a plug-in. Usability is also extremely important: InBetween offers specialised interfaces for the purpose: an Adobe InDesign or Quark plug-in for the graphic designer, own tools for the administrator or power user, the Publication Wizard for the marketeer, purchasing agent or product manager, and a zero-training interface for occasional users in sales. This is how we can make sure that the respective requirements are mapped to the appropriate tool. Of course, behind it all there is always the same system, where all rights, changes or generations are managed.
And what is your approach to security?
In work processes as widely distributed as these, ensuring high standards of security is an absolute must. We continuously invest in this area to protect both internal and external communication between the individual InBetween components. The basis for this is consistent use of single-port communication, so that even in a business environment with distributed work processes – even across company and country boundaries – we can guarantee a very high level of data security for our customers.
To what extent do in-house processes already in place need to be tailored to the solution?
A rather natural prerequisite today is a database for product data that is also continuously updated. Other than this, there are no processes that need to be changed, as InBetween consists of web-based tools that can easily be connected to existing databases and technologies.
Alexander Dressler is the CEO of InBetween Deutschland GmbH and InBetween Software Development Pvt. Ltd. in Goa. With more than 15 years of experience in PIM and dynamic publishing, he ranks among the experts in the industry. A graduate with a diploma in business information systems, he took the helm at InBetween in 2008 following a management buyout.
Picture credits © Jan Hirrlinger