Last week in Austin, Texas, the fourth annual PPAI Technology Summit presented two days of in-depth, diverse discussion on the issues, challenges and opportunities top-of-mind among industry technology professionals. Running August 16-17, for the third year in a row Tech Summit was held immediately following the North American Leadership Conference (NALC), which ended August 15.

“Tech Summit this year was awesome,” says Jon Norris, vice president at supplier Starline USA, and chair of the Tech Summit Work Group. “It offered an increased number of breakout sessions, which allowed attendees to customize the experience to their business needs, and the general sessions provided strong, industry-relevant content. The focus on integrations and collaborations are always popular topics and gathered excellent reviews from attendees, and the networking opportunities were the best yet.”

Dale Denham, MAS+, CIO at Geiger and incoming chair of the PPAI Board, concurs, saying, “The value of this event is tremendous to our organization and to the industry. With technology becoming more and more crucial to the success of all organizations, having an industry-focused event drives value that cannot be obtained anywhere else. Suppliers, distributors and service providers all shared openly about technologies and processes used to help their organizations (without giving away too many secrets!).  Networking between attendees generates all sorts of positive opportunities for ongoing collaboration and has been an important part of continued growth in improving electronic communications between suppliers, distributors and service providers.”

Tech Summit has cultivated an interactive, engaged experience for its attendees, and its lineup of sessions drew expert speakers and thought leaders from the promotional products industry and the information technology world. Its second day opened with Hitachi Consulting’s Angie Lintott, who spoke on prioritizing the right organizational culture and empowering employees to put agile development processes in place.

“Firms of all sizes were represented at Tech Summit, as were roles within companies including several chief executives of firms to keep their pulse on what is happening,” says Denham. “No other event allows industry technologists to learn about technology challenges and opportunities specific to our industry while also sharing valuable learning of technology in general. No matter how great the content, the networking remains one of the most valuable assets as connections forged have allowed firms to collaborate year-round to reduce the cost of doing business through better communication.”

Day two continued the expanded education choices, with a series of breakout sessions throughout the morning and afternoon. Attendees could choose panel discussions on managing remote employees and contractors, cloud deployment and creating a technology road map; and presentations on practical security practices, using SAGE’s Supplier Integration Toolkit to share information with distributors, developing talent, the PromoStandards services and security tools.

“The Tech Summit really delivered this year with great sessions on security, privacy and AI, along with a spirited debate over different technology platforms and tools,” says Catherine Graham, CEO of commonsku and a panelist at Tech Summit. “There was a continued focus on how we as an industry need to work together more closely from a technology perspective.”

David Shultz, vice president of operations at industry technology provider DistributorCentral, says, “We do a lot of work collaborating with our supplier and distributor customers on integrations and other things, so it’s an opportunity to come here and see them all face-to-face at one place, and have them together talking about the same problems they’re facing and ways to address them and make their lives easier. This event is unique in the industry in that it has all of us here in one place and time. It also gives us the opportunity to bring some of our newer members down who are working on some of the integrations in the industry, so in that respect it provides a ton of value as well.”

Tech Summit drew a number of first-time attendees, including Ty Combs, lead software engineer at Antera Software. “The value for me is in the collaboration and seeing these larger guys who have become very successful, and how I can apply to my company what I learn here to follow what they’re doing.”

Byron Reece, principal at Gigaom, an Austin-based technology research and analysis firm, wrapped Tech Summit’s programming with a look at AI and the future of work. Rather than presenting a pessimistic outlook, Reece sees much to be excited about in the coming years, noting the future is “one in which the things that makes us human become incredibly valuable. We are entering a world of more choice and more opportunity than ever before. The best response is to expand our dreams and expectations, not our fears and concerns.”

Next year’s Tech Summit will be held in Washington, D.C., in August 2018. Watch for more information to come soon at; registration will open in the coming months.