This week, August 17-18, in San Francisco, PPAI will host the third annual Tech Summit, a gathering of the promotional products industry’s technology leaders to address the challenges facing the field, and the advancement of the industry through the strategic use of technology.
In the promotional products industry, we have quite a few talented and industrious professionals who have made it their mission to change, innovate and, yes, disrupt everything.
In the spirit of The Tech Summit, Dale Denham and Jon Norris have taken it upon themselves to hack this blog and recognize those individuals who are leading the tech charge in our industry.
Every company needs a great CEO and every CEO needs a great IT leader to make things happen. IT is no longer about keeping the systems running (but that has to happen!). Instead, it’s about business strategy and execution utilizing technology. Today’s IT leaders are a different breed as business acumen and the ability to lead people are at least as important as strong technology skills.
The Industry Tech22 is an attempt to recognize our industry technology leaders based on their technology and business skills. This list was the brainchild of Jon Norris, who invited me to be a co-collaborator and together we are responsible for the oversights and omissions—as well as the good things. This list originally was the Tech20 but we both refused to leave the other off the list.
While the list is subjective, it is based on our personal experience and knowledge of those on the list. We debated about a few people at companies who have great technology but decided that an important part of being on this list was industry collaboration. Everyone on this list has been involved in one or more efforts to make the industry better. As with any list, we missed a few and we look forward to releasing this list again in 2017 with new names.
Eric Shonebarger, CIO | Hit Promotional Products
Eric has been and continues to be the leader in system integration for the industry. His leadership and hands-on involvement in every aspect of HIT technology has supported the very rapid growth HIT has experienced. Eric has been one of the driving forces in the PromoStandards effort. If you have discussed integrations at your company, chances are Eric’s name comes up as the first person to call.
Marc Brown, CIO | Polyconcept North America
Michael Conway, I.T. Director, Market Facing Applications | Polyconcept North America
Michael and Marc are incredibly influential because of their ability to see so many different aspects of the technology both in and out of our industry. Acquiring companies and integrating systems is tough and even more so during periods of rapid growth that PCNA has experienced. PCNA, and specifically Michael, has been a longtime proponent and leader of industry electronic standards. From the board room to customers’ offices, Michael and Marc are a driving force in the industry.
Mike Knapic, CIO | Sanmar
Rebekah Ellis, Sr I.T. Manager | Sanmar
Online websites for distributors, real time inventory, order status, electronic data formatted well. SanMar has been ahead of the curve and Beki has been the leader behind the SanMar integrations for years. Mike has brought additional support to Beki’s team driving improvements and even more industry collaboration.
Tim Nale, North American I.T. / Director | BIC Graphic North America
Tim took over BIC IT during the midst of a flawed ERP conversion and managed to turn things around quickly. He has continued his success leading IT at BIC thanks to his ability to see the big picture while also being willing to work on the details.
Dale Moir, SVP I.T. & Asset Management | HALO Branded Solutions
Irwin Goldstein, Director of Application Development | HALO Branded Solutions
Dale and Irwin are true computer scientists to the core (both hold master’s degrees in computer science). Each with more than 12 years of experience at HALO they have successfully navigated the company IT during an aggressive acquisition strategy. Both Dale & Irwin are very actively involved in numerous industry projects to support the health of the industry.
Dan Kroymann, Director of Information Technology | Staples Promotional Products
Dan led Staples through the largest EDI implementation the industry has ever seen. Dan is a strong supporter of PromoStandards and has a strong drive to streamline the order lifecycle.
Dan Rochette, Founder and CTO | Facilis Group
Dan developed one of the first industry web-based ERP platforms. Today that ERP system is in the middle of its second iteration, and The Facilis Group processes over $500,000,000 per year servicing more than 110 distributors. Dan has been a quiet force in technology that has remained largely unknown except to a few despite his large impact on the technology of so many distributors.
Jon Norris, VP of Operations | Starline
A few years ago I asked Jon to work on a simple project with me, expecting it to take a few weeks. The next day, the work was done and enhanced. Jon is a technologist who can and does lead the business side of things but technology is his passion. An engineer by training, Jon loves to solve problems using technology. He has been chair of the PPAI Technology Committee for almost three years and is a strong force in industry technology collaboration. Both PromoStandards and the PPAI Technology Summit are ideas that Jon was instrumental in launching and continuing. Jon deserves to be much higher on this list but since he is a co-collaborator, we agreed on this position.
(Editor’s note: much to Jon’s objection, I would not allow a technology list to be published without Jon’s inclusion.)
Dale Denham, MAS+, CIO | Geiger
Dale has been the industry’s technology evangelist for over a decade. As past PPAI Technology Committee chair and incoming chair-elect for the PPAI Board of Directors, he delivers a strong voice to the industry for technology. Three years ago, Dale orchestrated the most significant meeting of Technology leaders this industry has ever assembled. Today, Dale is very involved in leading the PPAI Technology Summit as well as being a driving force in PromoStandards. Often the voice of reason and a dose of reality, he balances the business needs with the technology capabilities to deliver results.
(Editor’s note: much to my objection, Jon insisted my name be included as well.)
Eric Alessi, President and CEO | Essent Corporation
Steve Luisser, VP of Research | Essent Corporation
These guys searched for the Holy Grail and delivered the cherished goblet for the industry to sip from. That of course being well formed orders. Both are very involved in the architecture and ongoing development of Essent Business Management system, which is used by both distributors and suppliers.
Brian Carothers, CTO | Proforma
Brian is leading Proforma’s technology advancement and development of a new order entry system. Brian has a computer science background and experience working with Fortune 50 companies. Brian is new to the industry but as the top technologist at a top five company, Brian is already making his presence known.
Armughan Rafat, EVP and CTO | ASI
Armughan runs all technology initiatives, infrastructure and technology strategy for one of the industry’s largest business service providers. He has re-engineered ASI’s technology strategy and is behind ASI recently supporting PromoStandards to support wider adoption of systems integrations.
Catherine Graham, CEO | commonsku
Catherine has shown the industry how great software supported by a loyal community can drive sales with cloud-based commonsku. A trip to their offices in Toronto makes you instantly want to be a part of their amazing culture and team. Catherine has the respect and admiration of the entire technology community as well as the many business users relying on commonsku.
Eric Natinsky, CEO | SAGE Quick Technologies
SAGE was the first “cloud” provider offering online services before most people were online. Combined with strong business skills, Eric is the primary architect and developer of SAGE. His vision has helped position SAGE to continue to dominate the business service landscape.
Jason Nokes, President | Distributor Central
Dave Schultz, VP of Operations | Distributor Central
Jason and David are on the forefront of web, cloud and mobile solutions for companies of all sizes within the industry. The scalable challenges they have faced hosting over 20,000 websites is no easy feat. Early adopters of PromoStandards, they have continued their drive and desire to see industry standardization flourish. For a small distributor, they make it easy.
Rene Whitcraft, CIO | The Magnet Group
Jonas Temple, I.T. Manager/Developer | The Magnet Group
Rene and Jonas have been propelling The Magnet Group to be an industry leader in technology. Their willingness to adopt new technology, drive integrations and work with service providers on end-to-end integrations is an impressive industry technology resume.
Jay Zimmerman, EVP Information Technology | alphabroder
Running the IT for a billion-dollar acquisition hungry company is a demanding position that requires significant effort. Jay just completed integrating multiple acquisitions into a single platform to better serve the industry.
Pranav Dalal, Chief Disruption Officer | Office Beacon
Pranav is the visionary behind Office Beacon. The amount of industry order information that is handled by Office Beacon is significant. Pranav does not rest and is constantly bringing new solutions to the industry, including ecommerce giants.
Frank Wiggins, Vice President I.T. | Gemline
Frank’s quiet style keeps him under the radar but his success in leading IT at Gemline has been felt by clients and staff alike. Gemline innovation keeps Frank busy and his team keeps successfully delivering on internal and external projects.
Chris Lanagan, Vice President, I.T. | Vernon Company
Chris is personally involved in nearly every aspect of IT at Vernon. He runs a lean IT department and most recently had the joy of upgrading a very old ERP system while living to tell the tale.
Sam Hornstein, President | eXtendTech
A NetSuite fanboy, Sam was previously CIO of Jetline and led the successful and rapid implementation of NetSuite. Sam started his own company to focus on NetSuite in the industry and is the industry authority on NetSuite.
Ken Phu, Vice President I.T. | Hub Pen
Ken was an early adopter of NetSuite and now serves on the board of his local NetSuite chapter. Ken has led IT at Hub for more than five years and during that time he integrated Hub systems with several large distributors to speed up production time and reduce costs.