PDF Days 2018 – The Lowdown with Justin Durkan

As a member of The PDF Assocation, not only does Nitro get to avail of the many associated benefits, but we also have the pleasure of surrounding ourselves with fellow industry experts at their annual events. This year, Nitro’s Director of Desktop Engineering and PDFA Board member Justin Durkan attended PDF Days in Berlin, and has sat down with us to shed some light on the event, its highlights and how document management providers are playing a part in Digital Transformation

Hi Justin, thanks for speaking with us today! Firstly, let’s talk about PDF – a portable document. Why do you think it’s such a key factor in Enterprise success that they dedicate an entire conference to it? 

It’s all about sharing. Every business runs on documents in one form or another.  And each one of these businesses need the ability to collaborate and share these documents with other employees, outside businesses and most importantly, their customers.   To support these workflows, the organization must agree on a standard means of performing that interchange. While traditionally these business processes relied on paper and printing, with the advent of modern digital communications, a more sustainable option became available . With the demand to exchange digital documents exploding, the two familiar candidates, created to support such demands became ubiquitous: HTML and PDF. While HTML dominates as the language of the Web, it is all about the dynamic experience of content. The PDF, on the other hand, is the portable format that remains a faithful and long-lived embodiment of the document itself.

PDF is about documents, in all their flavors, and this is why it is so important.

One of the remits of the PDF Association, which it does through its events and communications, is to evangelise PDF technology. Another equally important role, which it does over longer timeframes, is to ensure that the PDF standard evolves to keep pace with the needs of industry and business.

Document management and productivity have found their seat at the Digital Transformation table. Why is it important now more than ever for an organization to evaluate their legacy systems?  

Again, it comes back to the vital concept of sharing. An organization may have the most valuable or important documents inside their walls, but without the ability to share these with others in an efficient way, something that PDF excels at, that organization is severely disadvantaged. Even for those organizations whose legacy systems have the means to convert to and from PDF, the costs of such constant conversion can be excessive.

When it comes to documents, those long-lived records of business activity, there is no proven PDF alternative today.

PDF is ubiquitous and costs nothing to view. It is the lingua franca for Internet documents and is the only format that makes any sense in the modern world.

What are the three things you as a member of Nitro, a Document Management provider, taking back to your leadership team in terms of innovative ideas from this event?

The world of PDF and document management is growing at a phenomenal rate. Serving our customers’ needs is our primary focus in Nitro. We want to support our customers digital transformation objectives. In order to support our customers digital transformation objectives, we need to stay on top of the latest trends, and that is why being involved in an event like PDF Days is so important to us. What stood out for me in particular this year were elements in relation to PDF 2.0 like latest digital signature standards, document security through encryption and the ability to include interactive 3D models in a PDF page.

All of these features of PDF 2.0 are innovative at this point in time. Nitro will provide capabilities like these in the months and years ahead to further delight and aid our customers.

Finally, I have heard that PDF is a black hole for data, that once data is used to create a PDF, that that data is effectively inaccessible to the document recipient. What can you say to businesses and end-users to change their minds?

The PDF specification defines many ways for the providers to enrich a PDF with embedded data. When such a facility is used, PDF is a very good carrier of data directly to the document recipient. As an example, the German government introduced the  ZugFERD  specification for digital invoicing back in 2014. This specification, which has the legal backing to allow electronic invoicing have equal status as paper invoices, utilises PDF as a visual component and a machine readable embedded attachment containing the invoice details as structured data

I first heard from an engineer at Adobe Systems the phrase “PDF is the place that data goes to die”. It is a common concern for many PDF users primarily because of very bad work practises. In most cases everyone uses the ‘Print to PDF’ model. This is a common myth surrounding the arena of productivity and digital-based workflows.  The truth is that organizations simply need a far better alternative.  They need tools that understand the source of the document and can, therefore, extract useful information about the document’s structure and semantic content. This extracted data enriches the PDF and, thereby, provides a means for the end-user to use the information inside the PDF in a meaningful way.

Interested in learning how Nitro can bring modern utility to your organization? We’re here to talk.