Interview by Andreas Weber
It is always a great honor and pleasure to carry on a conversation with Jacob Aizikowitz, President XMPie, a Xerox Company. He was a pioneer in one-to-one communication solutions driven by technology innovations when he started XMPie to enable Cross Media, VDP and Web-to-Print applications. His expertise is unique because he is able to bridge his profound technical knowledge with market needs that anticipate customers’ demand. No wonder that XMPie today is one of the most advanced multichannel solution providers around the globe. Nevertheless there are a lot of news to talk about. —Note: right at the beginning of 2016 Jacob and his team sharpened what they do. They created a new Web platform to share their state-of-the-art multichannel knowledge, headed by the claim: MANY CHANNELS. ONE CONVERSATION.
At a glance:
- Discover: Multichannel gives the smart collaboration of print and online a new dimension.
- Participate: XMPie’s Cross Media 2.0 opened the door to everybody doing digital media to contribute / participate in multichannel with print using XMPie personalization technology.
- Crucial: to understand the business and to understand the technology.
- The biggest challenge: automation of the conversation.
- The Target: to achieve ’One Conversation’, practically with no constraints on what and how one does in the digital media.
- Outlook: embrace digital innovation to transform applications. Best example: packaging. Via multichannel, packages will become the starting point of a conversation between the brand and its consumers.
- drupa 2016: a great place to experience the power of multichannel!
Jacob’s key message:
”It is all about to enable creating individually relevant and timely interactive customer communications that span time and a mix of digital and print media touch points”.
Focus on multichannel innovation
Before we start our conversation: What is your definition of ”multichannel“?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Interacting with your audience — customers, partners, prospects — with individually relevant and timely communications across time and along touch points that span the media spectrum from print to digital. — One should say: “One Conversation”. — Without that, the communications might be technically multichannel but not appear to the audience as a continuous interactive and relevant individualized dialogue. Achieving “One Conversation” is the tough part (especially when multichannel includes print). This is exactly where technology comes in to make it possible without endless and impractical team coordination that sometimes spans different organizations (e.g., the brand, its print agency / provider, its digital agency …).
Back to the future: You started more than 15 years ago as a pioneer with a 121 approach to innovate print production and marketing services processes. Nowadays it is all about multichannel in a digital world. How does that matter?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Good question. First of all, in a digital world it is so important not to forget that Print is still important. For all of us. It would be great if more enterprises and brand owners point that out. Secondly, in founding XMPie we observed that for the marketing professionals personalization equated with Internet. And we knew that personalization is also possible in digital printing. This triggered our vision to bridge print and digital for personalization. Such a vision enabled the marketing professional to practice personalization as a strategy and not as a media choice. Such a vision enabled the evolution of Multichannel.
What kind of changes in mindset or improvements did you made?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Now, through the years, we evolved our direction, adding Web2Print, adding analytics, and adding campaign planning and automation (Circle). We realized that these business applications became relevant to the marketing professionals and to service providers who want to upgrade the type of services they provide. Most recently — end of 2015 — we changed dramatically our approach to cross media, introducing Open XM and Cross Media 2.0 (all with our 8.0 software release for PersonalEffect).
Read as well:
”Ten Steps to Hitting the Sweet Spot with Your Multichannel Campaign“
What is the benefit?
Jacob Aizikowitz: With Cross Media 2.0 we opened our solution to enable our customer to use any choice of web design / development tools, not constraining them to one specific tool that comes with the solution. This made our solution an open platform, enabling state-of-the-art digital while still using the XMPie personalization so that print and digital — while being each state-of-the-art — will be synergistic, consistent, and effective. The heart of Cross Media 2.0 is the Open XM Technology stack. It allows one to use, say, WebStorm, WordPress, just plain HTML, and also, our Dreamweaver plug-in, all interchangeably, while developing communications for digital. It also allows to develop mobile apps and responsive designs. In a way it allows the digital designer / developer to continue using their tools and their workflows while developing individualized communications that are automatically consistent and synchronized and synergistic with the individualized communications that are developed for the print media.
… so your focus was always on technology innovation?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Yes and no. Most important was that we learned through the years what the customers of our customers wanted. Those are business people and they need business tools to manage marketing and communication campaigns properly. So we integrated responses via Web/PURLs and we established business analytics available via dash boards. Finally we learned and promoted: multichannel includes multitouch functionalities!
Sounds that you made a very interesting journey…
Jacob Aizikowitz: …indeed. But what we never changed is our original design. Our fundamental view was right and still is! From the very beginning we give a lot of value to our customers helping them find the right balance of technology and client needs. It is always important for us to understand the business as well as to understand the technology.
In summary, what is the secret of all those technical inventions you made via XMPie?
Jacob Aizikowitz: There are three main aspects: 1. Understanding the market and where its going. 2. Understanding how to apply technology in an innovative and elegant way in order to enable the market trends and address its emerging needs. 3. A holistic view at solutions, which was also reflected in our tag line: One to One in One.
In my understanding XMPie’s success is a result of a perfect team work. What are the top criteria to characterize that?
Jacob Aizikowitz: I agree. Team work is a must. Our top criteria are: Smart people who bring new dimensions and flavours of technologies. — Alignment which is focused on the customer. — An open culture to exchange opinions frankly and in a very creative way.
Digitalisation changes everything — all kind of biz, marketing and communication processes. IoT and Industry 4.0 make big progress to automate what we have to do. Is this a threat or a chance?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Tough question but not that difficult to answer. IoT means everything is connected. So in fact we have more data to deal with. That works well because we are already familiar in handling huge amounts of data. Industry 4.0 is driven by automation. — What I feel is that personalization and the ability to interact across time and media touch points are very much related to IoT and Industry 4.0. So, these are synergistic trends.
What is the biggest challenge?
Jacob Aizikowitz: The big challenge in my view: automation of the conversation. Therefore we made a big progress and are able to offer a special solution, named Circle which leads you from storyboarding to campaign automation.
Note: Circle is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution for managing your multichannel plus multitouch marketing campaigns. Users can track results and find out which messages are working best with which people, in which context and in which media a.s.o.
Circle seems to be the next big step based on a new business level for your customers? Right?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Surely. In any case XMPie is an enabler for Industry 4.0 compatible services. Automating the dialogue with the individual, while keeping it engaging, relevant, and effective is the main challenge; this is extremely challenging when the dialogue spans print and digital touch points. Many in ’Marketing Automation’ are after this — DRIP campaigns, Nurturing, etc. — but the XMPie offering is unique as it blends the automation of the individualized dialogues with the powerful media personalization — including print media (even if not printed — like PDF) and interactive capabilities. All under one roof — One to One in One.
Sounds good for your customers. So, if they follow our advice XMPie customers will become the HUB for new services?
Jacob Aizikowitz: We aim to provide our customers with technology that will allow them to stay relevant and attractive to their customers. We need our customers to have the vision and innovation; our role is to bring them technology that lets them pursue their vision. Some were influenced by our technology innovation to take the visionary view and go after their dreams.
Is that the reason why Gartner Group analyzed end of 2015: ”XMPie’s rating as a Challenger in this Magic Quadrant reflects its strong ability to execute on marketing communications.“
Jacob Aizikowitz: We are happy about being a challenger. Gartner addresses a number of other players who make technology integratable with other systems. Their focus is on customer communication management [CCM]. The notion of CCM was invented as an evolution of transpromo coming from transaction document management solutions. But with XMPie we made already a step ahead: our technology is accessible and much more open following the new paradigm of multichannel and multitouch.
Focus on drupa 2016: time for a change!
A milestone this year will be drupa 2016 end of May 2016 in Düsseldorf/Germany. Multichannel is one of the trade show high-lights. The drupa motto: Touch the future. What is your guideline and vision to create further success? Is the Graphic Arts market or the print industry community still the best target group for XMPie?
Jacob Aizikowitz: As always drupa delivers a good context for XMPie and our customers. I recognize the fact that graphic arts and print service providers (PSP) are solid customer bases. Going after multichannel vision is now very critical for PSPs. This is because the enterprises — the brands — are shifting at light speed rates to individualization, dialogues, nurturing, automation a.s.o. Except that they have no clue how to properly blend it with multichannel that has print media in it. The PSPs must shift their business and capabilities to multichannel and automation in order to provide their customers with services that match their needs as they (the brands) shift to digital and automatic individualized marketing. Our technology is a critical enabler for these transformations that the PSPs must make; and it is our goal to continuously innovate to make sure that we stays relevant, technology-wise, for our customers!
You mean at drupa there are still opportunities to transform established print businesses?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Certainly. The opportunities are huge especially when relating to digital printing business models beyond online printing. It is all about bridging concepts and technologies to be still relevant to new customers needs. With our recently released Cross Media 2.0 technology, we make it possibility for PSPs (and their customers) to practice multichannel with print in the mix, while having the freedom to use their tools and workflow of choice for the digital elements in that mix. This opens the door to state of the art digital solutions, to collaboration, and consistency and synergy between the digital and print media touch points in a dialogue.
This new approach for Cross Media, combined with Circle, makes the XMPie technology also directly relevant to the enterprises themselves, and it opens many possible avenues for Enterprise / PSP collaboration and business workflows. In addition for a future multichannel success all kind of brands and enterprises are relevant. We have to continue to involve and to guide them step by step to experience our drupa 2016 presentation.
You serve a range of premium marketing service solution providers around the globe. From your point of view, what make them unique?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Most of our customers are serving their customers in the best way to achieve a sustainable benefit from multichannel communication success. They had in an early phase clear visions to change what they did and are able to transform it into new business opportunities. Very important fact: all of our very successful customers are not afraid of all kinds of digital and/or disruptive technologies. It is all about the readiness to embrace innovation!
Last but not least: In my opinion the main challenge will be ”customer centricity” driven by high-value multichannel capabilities. Do you agree or disagree?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Of course I agree. The digital age is the age of the customer. Why? Your audience is always connected. You have to become part of their conversation and to be connected all the time. The old school marketing methods don’t fit in that scenario anymore. To create reach and awareness by mass media is no longer working in the same way as in the past. Brands are interested in a relationship, a dialogue, on-going, continuous, with their consumers or prospects.
This is very clear from the high investments brands make in social media, seeking “likes” and leveraging these likes for marketing. One exciting avenue for such a relationship between the brand and its consumers is something most digital-centric brand marketers have not yet seen — its packaging. The package — a nicely engaging and attractive piece — is the perfect starting touch point for a dialogue with the mobile-holding individual. The ability to offer multichannel in a packaging context is hot and attractive, and we enable this.
So the best and most desirable example comes from the packaging world. Brand owners realized that a package achieved by a consumer is not the end of the story. It is the starting point of a conversation which will be managed by innovative multichannel communication processes. This is a huge opportunity for our customers to develop breathtaking new applications.
Thanks for the great conversation, Jacob. What is the essence to summarize our talk?
Jacob Aizikowitz: Finally, it is all about strategy and technology. We kept our strategy pretty much consistent through the years. Main changes were adding Web2Print, adding Analytics, adding Campaign Management (Circle), and revising our approach to cross media. This last point is what we call Cross Media 2.0, and it embraces into the XMPie fold the leading methods and workflows of state of the art in digital today. It’s open and ready for collaborations. The reason this last point is important is because a service provider who wants to provide Multichannel services, must recognize that its customers most likely have capability in web design, web sites, etc. The brands most likely have a web team or a digital agency. So, for our customer to offer multichannel they cannot just dismiss the brands web team or web agency. With Cross Media 2.0 it’s now possible to collaborate and share and work together, using the full spectrum of tools and methods available for digital, while still leveraging the XMPie personalization engine — the exact same engine that will feed the print side of the multichannel endeavor.
In summary: It is all about to enable creating individually relevant and timely interactive customer communications that span time and a mix of digital and print media touch points. —Jacob Aizikowitz
About Jacob Aizikowitz, XMPie, Inc.
Dr. Jacob Aizikowitz is the president of XMPie, which he founded in 2000 with Israel Roth and Reuven Sherwin, as a spin off from Scitex. XMPie has since grown to become the leading brand for integrated cross-media personalization solutions. In 2006, Jacob and the team led XMPie to a successful acquisition by the Xerox Corporation (XRX), where it now operates under the name, “XMPie, A Xerox Company”.
In the early 90’s, while at EFI (EFII), Jacob guided the early stages of the Fiery™ and led the development of EfiColor™ and Cachet™. These technologies, together with work by Adobe and Apple, brought user-friendly, quality-color to desktop publishing. In the late 90’s, during Jacob’s second term at Scitex, he led the early stages of the R&D of the Creo Controller. In parallel, he and his colleagues developed Scitex VPS™ which became a leading, objects-based, page description language for variable data printing.
The success of VPS, indirectly, inspired the founding of XMPie, and promoted the vision of cross media personalization and the democratization of variable data publishing.
Jacob holds a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Cornell University.