The third annual PPAI Technology Summit got under way Wednesday in San Francisco, California, bringing together more than 100 industry technology professionals at all levels to share best practices and case studies, and to discuss critical topics and some of the solutions available. Introduced in conjunction with Expo East 2014, this is the second year the summit has followed the PPAI North American Leadership Conference, which wrapped up on Tuesday.

The two-day education event was developed to bring together the industry’s IT professionals in a forum that allows them to bond and collaborate on finding solutions to the technology challenges faced by the industry. It is also the site of the second annual Tech Summit Awards presentation. These awards showcase and celebrate technology advances that bring success to individual companies and the industry as a whole. Essent Corporation’s vice president of research, Stephen Lussier, was recognized with the Internal Innovator Award, while DistributorCentral’s IT director, Chris Schlemmer, and vice president of operations, David Shultz took home the Industry Collaborator Award.


Gus Anagnos and Anne Marie Chun

Tech Summit’s first day focused on issues, concerns and developments relevant to industry IT professionals and staff. It opened with an exploration of cybersecurity, an area many companies wrestle with, featuring presenters Anne Marie Chun and Gus Anagnos from cybersecurity firm Synack. There are no silver bullets in security, they say; breaches will likely continue, but you can minimize the risk. When developing a security program, Chun and Anagnos stressed understanding and assessing needs before building and developing the system. Security is both preventative and responsive in nature, they say, and the right balance is in knowing your business and organization’s risk appetite.


TechSummit250Dale Denham, MAS+, CIO of Geiger (standing at right) and leader of the Tech Summit Work Group, led a panel discussion with Ajay Kaul of SanMar, Eric Alessi of Essent Corporation, Eric Shonebarger of Hit Promotional Products and Irwin Goldstein of HALO Branded Solutions on PromoStandands, a data communication standard for configurable product data, pricing and decoration. In a session characterized by frequent questions and conversations with the audience, the panel discussion outlined the rollout of PromoStandards and its impact on the industry.


Sherry Yazdi

IBM’s Sherry Yazdi and Kunal Jain spoke on big data—extremely large data sets—and its potential for the promotional products industry. Yazdi framed big data as a powerful disruption that could change long-standing business practices and interactions. Digital transformation affects all levels of business and society, she says, rapidly altering behaviors. Organizations have been collecting a wide variety of external data, and a growing number are learning about the power of leveraging these new technologies.

Joe Kane, director of application development with supplier alphabroder and first-time Tech Summit attendee, says, “Going to a promotional products conference, you get to see all the different technologies that folks use and their challenges. It’s great to connect with some of the customers’ IT folks, hear some of the issues they’re having, and make contacts so that we can respond and collaborate, and push the ball forward.”


Jason McDonald

Following lunch, SEO expert Jason McDonald spoke on search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing (SMM), and how they can help industry companies stand out in an increasingly crowded internet search. McDonald shared a number of tools, technologies and tactics to make the best of SEO and SMM, but emphasized that the basics matter in making them work.

Following breakout sessions focusing on legal issues and enterprise resource planning, Tech Summit’s first day ended with its Technology Tips session. A popular part of the program in 2014 and 2015, the Tips section invited every attendee to highlight one thing they do well in their technology organizations. For 90 minutes, more than 50 attendees shared single-slide, 90-second presentations on what they were doing well in their organizations.

“There are two great values to Tech Summit,” Stephen Lussier says. “The first is that a lot of the presentations are things you’re not necessarily aware of, so you’re learning a lot. Different viewpoints are presented and it’s a great place for collaboration. The second reason to come here are the networking opportunities. Meeting new people, different companies, expanding your network is huge at this event.”

Tech Summit continues today with a full schedule of education and networking opportunities. Read more about it in next week’s PPB Newslink.