Human beings, by nature, are not solitary animals. Rather, they are among the most social creatures in existence, and have a very strong tendency to partner with others where there are common interests. People with a strong interest in music will attend concerts, and even if only for a few hours, will tend to align in behaviors, excitement and fun at the same points of the performance. This, too, is the human inclination that can bring thousands of people in a stadium to their feet during a sporting event in a perfectly synchronized “wave” of standing and sitting again. This is just how we humans are.
Print providers are usually very hard-working teams of people on very tight schedules, at a large or small, but nevertheless, diverse chain of workstations, with little time to learn from or share with even their own colleagues. And when they do, at the dining tables in the break room for instance, they are learning and sharing with others in that same work environment.
Peer affinity groups can do wonders to facilitate this kind of sharing. The benefits are obvious, from the most modest kinds of support, such as tricks of the trade for costing and pricing an application a print provider has never worked with before, to far weightier matters, such as emerging industry trends and how others in the field are managing their risk ratios of investment against developing new business. Production printing businesses are a little different from, for example, grocery stores. There isn’t necessarily one in every neighborhood, or even in every town. Some production teams, for example, are running print shops on cruise ships. They can’t exactly meet a colleague from another shop for a beer after work.
Interest in virtual communities among print providers has been strong for at least 15 years. HP was among the first – if not the first – with the DScoop community for its HP Indigo users. Xerox followed them shortly thereafter with its Premier Partners network. It didn’t take long for our own Konica Minolta production clients to ask for the same kind of online opportunity: a similar Konica Minolta-exclusive learning and sharing forum, to form alliances with colleagues, to find specific, relevant and valuable market and industry information, and to benefit by best practices on their Konica Minolta production solutions. Their wishes were our command; Prokom was born, and it immediately caught fire among our European Konica Minolta user community. It has taken longer for the good news of Prokom to reach all our production clients in the rest of the world, but quite literally the community grows every day, with steady expansion in European nations, Asia, Australia, Canada, Mexico and elsewhere, including, of course, here in the United States.
Konica Minolta’s Prokom community is a virtual community of owners and users of Konica Minolta production print and industrial print solutions. Its purpose is to allow Konica Minolta production users to learn from industry experts, Konica Minolta technical experts and one another, how to most efficiently and profitably optimize the use of their Konica Minolta equipment and software solutions – often along with the rest of their entire assets portfolio. The Prokom community allows its members – no matter how isolated they may be physically – to bring a global perspective to their strategies to start out strong, and grow stronger with each job they do. It helps its members explore, learn and expand, without leaving their businesses. And most importantly, Prokom helps print providers with Konica Minolta production solutions help one another, by the piece, by the application, and through the years in this business.
The Prokom community lets every one of those people – in every one of those work places that uses Konica Minolta production equipment – to experience that wonderful sensation of being with a whole host of other people around the world, sharing that same set of business dreams and goals. Imagine the learning opportunities alone!
Goals of the Prokom Community
We have essentially allowed our users to define the goals of the Prokom community, since typically the every Konica Minolta production owner and user shares a core set of goals in common:
These all roll up into the core purpose and goals of Prokom. We try not to drive a specific agenda, but rather allow the community to develop its own purpose and direction just as any natural, professionally aligned group of people might do if they were able to meet on Saturday mornings for a group breakfast.
Assistance during COVID-19
In these particularly challenging times during the COVID-19 pandemic, we opened up a new direct-connect feature, enabling print providers all over the world to connect with their colleagues to share resources and keep the work flowing – hands helping hands in a time of need. Within days of the emerging crisis, we had a Crisis Management Toolkit posted and loaded with production print business tools for survival and strategic positioning to help businesses stay strong and healthy until the crisis is contained, and to give Prokom members every conceivable advantage to use the “downtime” wisely, so they can “hit the ground running” when all of this is resolved. Finally, in light of the shelter-in-place mandates in place in so many parts of the world, we had, within hours, a sharing network established to let Prokom members all over the world find and communicate directly with other members (print providers) to ensure that no one in the community missed an SLA or other critical fulfillment obligation for lack of access to their equipment or people to run it. The response has been enormously popular and well-received. Just today I became aware of a U.S. member who needed and found a Prokom partner in Sweden to cover a critical delivery. It’s been really beautiful to watch.
Prokom was established in 2016. There is no membership fee and the only requirement to join is to own, lease or use a Konica Minolta production solution. Prokom events include the annual Prokom conference, country conferences and frequent online events. Sadly, we did have to cancel our first American Prokom community event, which was scheduled for April, 2020 in Miami, Florida. We had a venue and a great agenda in progress when the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic hit. But true to form, our Prokom community is a strong one, and it’s full of really good people – both in its membership and its administration.
For more information about Prokom, visit www.prokom.org, and watch for Prokom event programming at the re-scheduled Drupa 2021!