Commentary & Analysis
Parenting and Your Print MIS
Parenting and your print MIS have many characteristics in common. They are both long-term investments that essentially never end. There is great potential combined with great frustration and common stages that you will pass through before feeling any sense of accomplishment – always in retrospect.
By Jennifer Matt & Jane Mugford
Published: February 23, 2015
If you planned for parenthood, you probably thought if you were organized you could be successful at it and still maintain a life that included regular sleep and time to continue your social life. If you planned for the acquisition of your new print MIS you probably thought if you’re organized, your business could continue to run smoothly during the implementation and you could continue to get regular sleep and have a life outside of work.
We aren’t saying your print MIS is as important or as potentially rewarding as parenthood. We are saying that they share many common traits; e.g. the exuberance of pure potential, the expectations of what they will become, and then the back to reality of a long-term day to day investment that does pay off but not in immediately obvious ways.
A newborn doesn’t do that much; poop, cry, eat and the common malfunction (bug?) of sleeping during the day and being awake during the night. A new print MIS doesn’t do that much, it costs a lot of money; it doesn’t feel nearly as slick as the sales demo did, and nobody is that keen on spending time with it. After a couple of weeks the newborn and the print MIS seem to be taking shape, you count the firsts of everything for your newborn; sneezes, whole hand in the mouth, whole foot in the mouth, and one billion photos. For the print MIS you see it taking shape to fit your business. You costs are being added, your people are being trained in it, your equipment has been added, and your workflow is taking shape. Both your newborn and your print MIS are showing real potential and you’re also very tired because all the investment you’re making is on top of your already busy life.
When your infant moves to the toddler state, you now have a human of your own creation that talks back and resists your ideas of how they should behave. They seem to have learned two words; “no” and “why?” as the general response to everything you want them to do. Your print MIS is now past its implementation phase – it’s in the “getting real” stage. Your people are starting to actually think you might go through with this massive change to the way they work. They start to see it for what they believe it really is, “big brother” trying to measure and dissect everything they do with the end goal to replace them with computers. The resistance starts, the adult version of the tantrum, passive aggressive resistance, replace the “no” with, “the old system works better, or this system doesn’t work for the way our business works.” The most powerful resistors among your team dive deep into the new system to uncover all its weaknesses and bugs – defer, distract, and counter accuse, the resistors toolset. They are highly motivated to find reasons for this project to stall until you are distracted long enough that this project quietly gets shelved because we have a business to run the way we’ve been running it for decades.
You have to stay with it through this resistance, realize that it is a natural response to changing the way your business runs. For decades we applied skilled labor to business challenges. In the digital age we need to apply digital solutions in the form of print software which are then run by your labor. You cannot remain competitive unless you convert to the mantra, “software runs your business your people run the software.” It’s a classic power struggle.
Guess what, we haven’t hit the best part yet, the teenage years. You survived the toddler stage, you enjoyed the time between toddler and adolescence but now everything seems to be in flux again. The system was working but now your team is challenging you. They want more, they expect more, and they think they know more than you do (if you have a teenager, you know what we mean). If you consider it carefully without ego, you accept that they do have a unique perspective. Teenagers are growing up in a different world than you did. Your people are seeing your business through a different lens than you do. Now your shipping department wants more than just data out of your print MIS, they want insights; they want to push the system to help them do their job better. This is a wonderful thing because it means you’ve empowered your people to innovate at every level of your company – nothing could be more important in the digital age.
A good example of this is when your production manager comes to sales and asks why certain customers don’t have a web-to-print system because their orders would be easier to handle if they came in via a digital channel rather than a labor intensive CSR/sales representative channel. This is when you know you’re heading in the right direction. When your pre-press department starts to ask for automation for recurring work, when your press operators start telling you about patterns they are seeing in the work and how there is an opportunity to gang orders to reduce press operations, you should be smiling.
When you ship your children off to college, you feel like you’ve done your job. They are on their own kind of, you’re still paying their health care, their tuition, their cell phone bill, and they still come home to do their laundry on the weekends. Your print MIS is fully implemented but the conditions of your business keep changing because the market keeps changing; your customers, your competitors, the relevancy of your products and services, etc. Just like parenting never ends, your print MIS investment never ends. We’re not talking about recurring maintenance fees; we’re talking about your investment at all levels of your company in your trusted system of record for your business. Your print MIS is and should be uniquely yours. You are not borrowing it from the vendor; you have invested in it to make it your own. The number one indicator for a successful print MIS is the attitude of ownership. When printers act, talk, and feel that their print MIS is theirs (like their children), they make it successful. When printers act, talk, and feel like their print MIS still belongs to the vendor, success is nearly impossible.