The promo industry’s most forward-thinking tech minds are in Tampa, Florida this week for the PromoStandards Tech Summit (February 19-21). Unique from other industry events and conferences, the PromoStandards Tech Summit brings education that specifically focuses on industry-relevant technology and integration opportunities.

“The Tech Summit is the largest gathering of technologists in the industry ever,” says Catherine Graham, CEO of commonsku.

Over 150 attendees from 60 promo companies are in attendance this week to learn about and discuss the technology developments that are most likely to shape the industry’s future. Included in that list were Dale Denham, PPAI’s president and CEO, and Nick DiNicola, PPAI’s digital transformation manager, taking in the scene and utilizing the opportunity to learn and network over the tech solutions.

“It is fantastic to see the industry technical community coming together to collaborate and learn,” Denham says.

The packed schedule has included sessions on topics such as open standards integration, cyber security, factory-level technology and much more.

Jon Norris, COO of Starline, says the PromoStandards teams wants to, among other things, “focus on moving the industry forward in their digital transformation journey.”

Data Science Is The Future

Monday’s schedule kicked off with a keynote presentation entitled “Generating Value from Data: Building a Data Science Practice.”

  • Tom Stablein, director of the Global Online Business Analytics and Information Systems (MS BAIS) programs for the Muma College of Business, was the keynote speaker.

Stablein has over 20 years of experience working in team management, program management and portfolio management.

Data science practices are the sort of high-level technology possibilities that companies can implement now, and over time, reap the benefits of having such practices in place.

“We hope our attendees will bring their lessons learned and new tech networks back to their companies to implement the digital transformation ROI,” Norris says.

ERPs Are Vital Tools

Later that afternoon, Norris led a breakout panel session on ERPs in the industry.

“Our ERP session focuses on the process and best practices of selecting, planning and implementing an ERP system as told by industry leading CIO’s and technology implementers,” Norris says.

Selecting an ERP is an important decision for all promo companies as they scale in size, but not every ERP will be utilized in identical ways by different companies. A key to success is figuring out how to get an ERP to co-exist and bolster a company’s tools and practices.

“[The panel] focuses on how to implement supply chain integrations like PromoStandards inside of your ERP to reduce transactional friction,” Norris says.

In Digital Transformation, The Customer Comes First…

Michael Conway, managing director of digital transformation at Aspirant, delivered a session called “Executing Digital Transformation.”

  • Monday’s session educated on how to align customer experience to strategic business goals.

Aligning customer experience with strategic business goals is elemental to success and, in 2023, requires sophistication in technology.

  • Conway’s presentation brought specifics to the urgent mission of delivering complex and novel software solutions on time and on budget.

“This is a group keen to bring innovation and drive digital transformation in the industry,” Graham says.

…And Digital Transformation Always Passes Through The Factory Floor

Warehouses and factory floors are continuously touched by digital transformation.

  • Graham led a Monday panel entitled “Digital Transformation on the Factory Floor.”

“Promotional products remains a highly manual and labor-intensive industry,” Graham says. “Digital transformation is critical to driving efficiency and automation. There are many opportunities from a hardware, software and data perspective that this panel of experts will be discussing.”

Integration Remains The Top Priority

The goal behind PromoStandards is the development and adoption of an open standards formula that can make the industry operate more efficiently. It is a goal that few could dispute is necessary.  

“Having been in the industry almost 30 years, I am glad to see us really coming together to focus on integrations to improve efficiency,” DiNicola says of his time at PromoStandards Tech Summit.

  • Goals can be stated over and over again, but an event like this week’s allows peers with unique knowledge but similar problems and hopes to come together and create momentum for such goals.

“We collaborate to create industry-leading open standards that enable industry participants to improve customer experience, reduce transactional friction and effectively execute their digital strategy,” Norris says, reenforcing the organization’s mission.

Differences of opinions exist on how the industry can most effectively get to the point of integrating a proper open standards formula.

  • PPAI has launched its evolving Promo Data Exchange program that includes a partnership with SAGE.

Norris says that he wants PromoStandards Tech Summit attendees to “walk away with a roadmap for how PromoStandards can tackle and address industry pain points.”

Those “pain points” are the heart of what PPAI and PromoStandards can agree that we must eliminate through collaboration.

“I particularly appreciate how much PromoStandards focuses on improving industry efficiency through integrations,” Denham said after a day at the event. “Moving the industry forward through integrations is critical and should be on the priority list of every supplier in 2023.”

“Getting a chance to meet in-person with familiar faces is always a pleasure,” DiNicola says. “And I was glad to get to answer some questions for members about PDX and how they can leverage their investment in PromoStandards even further with little additional cost.”

  • Denham and DiNicola’s presence at the PromoStandards Tech Summit was a benefit to them and the Association.
  • It was also a healthy reminder that PPAI believes in the mission behind PromoStandards.

“The efforts approach integration and adoption differently, but both support the same goal of efficiency,” Denham says. “PPAI supports the efforts of PromoStandards to improve industry efficiency and supports all member efforts to improve efficiency through integrations.”