The Burdens That Standards Bring--Roger Dickeson
The paradigms—the standards—of a company make it impossible to change an established business in the face of disruptive innovation. So says Clayton Christensen in his "Innovator's Dilemma." Certain company behavior becomes so deeply embedded, it is incapable of radical modification. And so the company must perish.
Mergers and acquisitions frequently fail because the standards of two companies just cannot mesh. The tyranny of the legacy can be fatal. For this reason some printing companies have found greater success in building new plants than in attempting to unite cultures. The word frequently used to justify printing mergers is "synergy," meaning that the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. Planned synergy in mergers more often than not results in one plus one equals 1.5. The standards of the two companies won't harmonize.
At the moment, we're observing a phenomenon called print e-commerce. An effort is being made by 100 or 200 intermediary tech companies to bring print buyers and printers together via the Internet. To do so, standardization between buyers and printers must prevail. The intermediaries offer a variety of translation methods and media to enable coherent interchange. A kind of vertical merger must occur with a synergy that makes purchaser and supplier more efficient by reducing costs of both.
To accomplish this idealized, mutual efficiency, the buyer must fill in forms that require structured, linear information for the computer server at the intermediary or at the printer as an RFQ—Request for Quotation. The RFQ is then transformed into digits that the printer, or a marketplace of bidding printers, can receive in their computers over Internet connections—linear, digital data. Received RFQ data is automatically estimated, priced and quoted.
Acceptances, change orders, proofs, approvals, production and delivery progress, invoices and payment drafts fly back and forth between customer and printer over the Internet—computers speaking the same digital tongue or an instantaneously translated language.