Cloud Services - threats and opportunities (for the print and publishing industry)

Are cloud services a danger or an opportunity? This is the question I will be exploring during my presentation at the Print & Digital Convention 2021 together with the audience.
What actually are cloud services? If we research the term, we find various definitions. One of the best definitions is: "The term 'cloud services' unites the wide range of services that are provided to companies and customers on-demand via the internet." Therefore, we can take the position that a cloud service, just like any other service, is a service that we as customers can access. Conversely, there are the classic 'on-premise' applications and services. These correspond to services that run in one's own data center or on one's own PC and have no need for an external component that can be accessed via the Internet.

Exploring the debate in favor of cloud services, three central arguments are readily cited:

  1. Higher scalability
    Necessary infrastructure and software are provided externally, so the customer does not have to invest in their own resources or provide IT staff to manage the services.
  2. Lower costs
    Billing cycles are on a monthly or annual 'subscription' basis, eliminating the need for the customer to pay directly for software licenses. This eliminates the need to invest in underlying infrastructure, maintenance and upgrades.
  3. Greater flexibility
    Services are available on demand. When a particular application or platform is no longer needed, the company can terminate the subscription or deactivate the service.

Of course, these arguments are accurate- but cloud services have another aspect that is really crucial to their impact on the business models of customers who use them. Their use gives customers a low entry point to services that in the past were the preserve of only large enterprises. As Haeme Ulrich aptly put it in the discussion, "Cloud services enable services to be democratized" This fact accounts for a substantial portion of the success of cloud services.

If cloud services now enable customers to easily access benefits (services) that otherwise require a large investment, why should cloud services present threats and opportunities?

If we explore the process chain in the creation of an advertising medium, such as a catalog, magalog or brochure, there are various steps, as exemplified in the figure, that need to be processed on the way to completion. Even today, many of these steps are still done manually by internal or external agencies with Adobe InDesign or automated selectively with software such as our priint:suite.

Nevertheless, there are always points of contact in the process chain where cloud services can be used. Let's take three examples.

  • AX Semantics
    a classic software-as-a-service solution that can be used to automatically generate texts in up to 110 languages based on self-designed rules.

  • priint:cloud
    with one of the services we offer for the automated rendering of data sheets via a service, without any technology of its own, just on the basis of an interface.

  • Gelato
    An API-driven service to send print jobs to up to 33 countries without worrying about the details of the process.
    Each of these services offers advantages that normally require not only systems but also expertise. This is where these services develop their strength, as they solve a problem that may only be solvable for the customer at a considerable expense.

The difficulty with cloud services lies within two points: 1.) the selection of the right service for my use case and 2.) the question of how to orchestrate different services along the services I need.

The conclusion of the talk is also a pretty clear classification of cloud services for any industry, not just the print & publishing industry. Cloud services can pose a threat to service providers such as agencies, as they promise free access to services that were previously difficult for customers to access on their own. However, cloud services also offer the opportunity for evolution because, as with any free, technical innovation, it is up to everyone to incorporate them into their work processes and improve them as a result. Only if we do not embrace the development of it will it become a danger.