PromoStandards Has Become a Regular, and an Interview with Paul Elfstro

Last updated: 08-09-2018

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 PromoStandards Has Become a Regular, and an Interview with Paul Elfstro

While the PPAI Technology Summit and the PPAI North American Leadership Conference are co-locating for a fourth consecutive year, another event has joined the party in recent years.

PromoStandards once again will hold workshops and discussions at the NALC-Tech Summit location, which this year is Aug. 12-16 in Washington D.C.

PPAI Director of IT Paul Elfstrom (pictured) answered some questions about the Tech Summit, including the growing presence of PromoStandards, which is a group of distributors, decorators, suppliers, and service providers, including Essent, working to create a more efficient promotional products industry through integration.

"PPAI has a good relationship with the PromoStandards group and we support their efforts. The Association is here to help members and we do that best by bringing people together, sharing information and providing a solid platform of support," Mr. Elfstrom said.

Here is the full interview with Mr. Elfstrom regarding the 2018 PPAI Technology Summit, sponsored by Essent:

Everyone who attends the Technology Summit learns a lot, yet they come away talking about the experience more than anything else. They’ll apply the learnings later, of course, but they come home talking about how much fun they had. So let’s start there: How does PPAI continue to keep the Tech Summit fresh and fun and improving every year, now in its fifth year?

Our goal with Tech Summit is to produce the best experience for our audience that means the entire package, from venue to event to activities. We're always interested in learning their most compelling reasons for attending the Summit. So, feedback is very important to us. We want our attendees to have great take-aways from the event and enjoy their time completely.

One session on the schedule covers cloud computing and how more and more infrastructure to the cloud. But isn’t everyone basically on the cloud already? (That’s rhetorical -- we know as technologists that the cloud is always evolving and moving). But why is it that cloud computing continues to be front-and-center even more than ten years since the cloud became mainstream?

There are a lot of advantages to moving away from traditional infrastructure to the cloud. Think of all the hardware you had to deal with in the past and reducing that footprint. Eliminate hardware budgets, purchasing, deployment, upgrades, updates, failures, obsolescence and all the other administrative headaches that come with it. Cloud solutions give you the opportunity to concentrate your time and effort in a more productive manner. Plus, you have the luxury of scalability at your fingertips. Other pros include uptime, redundancy, failover, disaster recovery, ease of deployment, better solutions for remote staff, etc. You have so many choices it changes the whole dynamic of system administration.

PromoStandards, the promo industry group advancing integration between distributors and suppliers, started co-locating their own workshops and talks at the Tech Summit three years ago. While the PromoStandards workshop isn’t officially part of the PPAI event, there’s no doubt that PromoStandards has grown its presence at the Summit to the point that where PromoStandards and the Summit are closely associated, even if not officially. Can you say more about the relationship between the Summit, PromoStandards, PPAI, and the industry itself and where you think it’s all going?

That’s a great question. The PromoStandards group has done well in the last few years, and so has Tech Summit. Both have benefited from each other greatly. PPAI has a good relationship with the PromoStandards group and we support their efforts. The Association is here to help members and we do that best by bringing people together, sharing information and providing a solid platform of support. Tech Summit is a great example of this. We're all striving for success and we know the industry is evolving. It's difficult to tell what it will look like in the future, but I would predict companies will be operating leaner and much more efficiently.

The Experience DC! party, and you can only pick one -- is it the kickoff for the Tech Summit or the finale for the NALC and why? I’ll ask Larry Cohen of the NALC workgroup the same and see how it compares.

It's a bit like yin and yang, isn't it? I'll stick with the Tech Summit kick off, of course! And we're grateful that NALC funds the event for us. It's very generous! Kidding aside, I'm happy to see we have an event like this. It's a wonderful opportunity for business and tech leaders to get together to share great conversation. It's really enjoyable and a unique networking opportunity that I hope continues.

The NALC and the Summit are co-locating now for the fourth consecutive year. Do you see the C-Suite people from the NALC staying for the Tech Summit in greater numbers as the years go by? Promo industry CEOs often have sales backgrounds so something like, say, integration endpoints and ANSI X12 protocol might not exactly be what makes them tick. Are CEOs "getting it” when it comes to technology? Trying their best to learn? Totally nailing it and understanding it inside and out? It’s clear that leadership and technology have to work hand-in-hand. It’s a unique perspective to see that dynamic literally play itself out in person every year at the NALC-Summit. How would you characterize the C-Suite/Technologist relationship and how it’s evolving?

Our goal is to show the executives why a Tech Summit would be useful to their IT staff and to get them to send them. Right now, the crossover is consistent. Our future plans actually address ways we can grow that group. The C-Level Execs from NALC will gain their interest if the content and delivery is right. The behind the scenes tech is really in the technology professionals court and the execs rely on us to take care of those details. The Exec is looking at organization strategy, value add propositions, marketplace changes, the future, etc. They're looking for solutions in problematic areas. Our role is to show them how technology can be applied to solve those problems. It's a consultative relationship.

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