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Transitioning Your Print MIS System

If you are currently functioning on a legacy Print MIS system, you know better than anyone that you are going to have to make a move ‘soon.’ Maybe soon is in the next 2 months or the next 2 years, but you know that your system isn’t going to lead you into the future.

By Jane Mugford
Published: May 20, 2014

There are many print software systems today still being heavily used that are no longer being supported or developed – hence the term ‘legacy.’ These may have been acquired by another software company or their creators may no longer even exist in terms of being an operating business. As a result, many printers today find themselves trapped in a very frustrating and challenging position when it comes to their legacy Print MIS systems. Software vendors are all too happy to walk in with the perfect new and improved solution. Of course, any sales professional doing their job in this industry space knows that printers with legacy systems are going to be forced to make a move eventually. They are ready to pounce in terms of a new sale. That’s their job. You, on the other hand, might be sticking your head in the proverbial sand, trying to avoid the impending chaos of facing a Print MIS transition.

Here’s the reality: if you are currently functioning on a legacy Print MIS system, you know better than anyone that you are going to have to make a move ‘soon.’ Maybe soon is in the next 2 months or the next 2 years, but you know that your system isn’t going to lead you into the future. You are probably already dragging it kicking and screaming to today – many of the legacy systems are not web-based, can’t handle digital work well/properly, and don’t do a good job of handling integration with other systems, internally or externally. Assuming that you’ve come to terms with an impending transition, what do you need to consider before you let any sales representative in the door?

Assess the brutal truths of your current MIS System

-        What does this mean and why is it important? Over the many years you have had your legacy system; you have undoubtedly injected workarounds and just accepted some of the failures/limitations of the system. To compensate for limitations, you created workarounds that are now formal processes and tools within your organization. You need to consciously assess what processes you have that are a result of current Print MIS limitations. This is so critical because some of these manual processes in legacy Print MIS are automated in the new technologies available today. They should become part of your assessment matrix. In addition, the process of acquiring of a new Print MIS system presents an opportunity to find all of the Band-Aids® created out of necessity and ruthlessly rip them off as a result of the new technology available.

-        Be prepared to consolidate. The reason I say this is that many legacy systems forced the need for a great deal of duplication and cloning of components like product types, SKUs and so on. Many old-school systems couldn’t handle one-to-one relationships in many areas. A new Print MIS system will let you leverage the ability to use ‘one-for-many’ relationships and consolidate – failure to consider this would be a tremendous lost opportunity. Granted, it is a massive amount of work to undertake, but the payoff is powerful and long term. As an example, let’s say a printer has 250 product types. The legacy system does not allow one product type to be tied to multiple customer storefronts. Assume the customer has 30 web-to-print storefronts, the legacy system has 7,500 products created – when there are really 250 base products. This type of scenario can present in other areas like inventory, pricing and so on. Investing the time and pain to go through consolidation will be well worth it at go-live and long into the future. This consolidation will impact all parts of your business, from order entry (web-to-print) to invoicing (accounting systems); the result will be simplification and the ability to more easily add/subtract/modify products and services moving forward.

-        Evaluate how various levels and members of your team keep and access data throughout the day. I’ll bet you will find lots of spreadsheets and possibly other rogue applications that are helping your team keep its world organized. The goal is to look at bringing all of this under the umbrella of the Print MIS -- one system of record where everything is maintained and accessed.

Be prepared to commit

-        To truly implement a new Print MIS system to its full potential, you need to commit – commit to strategic and tactical time, vision, patience and a culture of change management. Yes, I said you need to commit. You do need the assistance of the vendor, but the real commitment is on you. Once you buy the system, adopt it as your own and start optimizing it for your business. This is not something that can be successfully managed with a bit of time here and there. This is not a quick process. Your Print MIS system can become an extremely important tool and asset in improving your profit margins IF you commit the resources to get it done right. Your Print MIS system should be your complete and only system of record. Everything else should talk to it, but it should be the central nervous system of your organization. If you don’t invest the time and resources to do it right, it becomes another piece of “shelfware” to add to the collection. Done right, this can revolutionize your business and take you well in to the future, enabling you to handle growth successfully and profitably.

Don’t forget anybody     

-        Oftentimes when companies start to evaluate Print MIS systems, they evaluate based on a particular element such as estimating or scheduling. However, you really need to take a holistic look at your entire company to assess what you need from order entry to financial reporting. Even if your Print MIS system will be integrated to an accounting system, you need to be mindful of all of the data that your MIS system needs to capture to feed into it. It is critical to conduct your own needs assessment from the perspective of “what do each of my business units need to run their days more efficiently, more strategically and more proactively?” This can also be a great team-building opportunity; giving each group the exercise of defining the tools they need in the toolbox to be successful and empowered working for you.

There are very few times in the course of your business that you get the chance to take a systemic and strategic leap forward in terms of how you operate your entire business as you have when you look at transitioning to a new Print MIS system and finally decommissioning your legacy system. We are living in the information age – the raw material of the information age is DATA, your Print MIS is your primary source of data, don’t shortchange yourself by simply taking data from your legacy system and importing it into your new system, consider this a strategic project to align your systems with where you want to take your company (future focused), not where it has been (historical focus).

Jane Mugford is a contributor at WhatTheyThink’s Print Softwaresection as well the lead print MIS specialist at Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions.

 

Discussion

By carol andersen on May 20, 2014

Jane,
Thanks for a timely article on replacing legacy systems. It is absolutely the best chance a company has to re-evaluate its systems and procedures. I would add one critical item to the mix...a requirements document. Both teh company and the vendors need to understand what the company's requirements are in order to evaluate whether or not a particular application is a good fit. Better yet, take those requirements and create a Request for Proposal, send it out to selected vendors then narrow that list down to 2 or 3 before conducting any in-depth demos. Our best implementations have always had a solid requirements road map to follow.

 

By Jane Mugford on May 20, 2014

Carol you are so right. A requirements or scope document is a must. Oftentimes people get overwhelmed because they think that a requirements document has to be finite. Defined requirements can evolve over time but there is a fine line between that and scope creep which has to be managed very carefully. I agree, the best implementations always have a requirements road map to guide the way and keep everyone on the proverbial "same page".

 

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