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Full-company MIS Essential for Long-Term Survival

Last week&

By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: February 25, 2008

Last week's audio chart of the week offered the results of our December survey about what investment areas were deemed to be most important to commercial printers. "Full company" management information systems are a big step forward for most small business, not just printing companies.
There is a tendency to have "task automation islands" where computerization is directed to a particular activity, but not a full view that to managers need. It's not a surprise that "no one needs" a full-company MIS. We're in an environment for many years where unless it generates sales or an obvious profit it never gets bought. Our industry is full of situations with well-run pressrooms with superior costs, only to lose them in inefficiencies in the rest of the business.
What are these inefficiencies? Sending invoices out late, mistakes in inventory management, inability to get information to the right person at the right time, scheduling hiccups, sales leads not followed up, calls not returned, customer contacts mishandled, and almost anything that you can think of.
A serious problem is that shop owners are often not familiar with the kinds of technologies available, and also are concerned that their employees will lose lots of time trying to learn these systems.
Until these are addressed, these "task islands" will be islands, with mismatched systems, mismatched formats, and only one person who knows that exact procedure to make that system work. In the long run that is deadly to any business.
The bridge between a new system and an old way of doing things is always difficult to construct. Before purchasing any MIS system be sure that preparations are made for the transition. We're used to getting buildings ready for a new press installation because what is needed is obvious. Software installations, however, can be quite different because the issues are far more abstract.
When purchasing a system, be sure to query the vendor on the kinds of experience necessary to make it successful. Ask to speak to other clients of the company, and ask them "If you had to do it all over again, how would you prepare for it? What problems did you anticipate that you did not have? What problems were worse than expected?"
The print market is faced with declining demand and an inability to raise prices, even as general inflation becomes more evident. The only thing that managers can know for certain is their costs, and full-company MIS that ranges from all aspects of customer interaction through to their satisfaction of their orders, will be essential, and will be understood as essential for survival in this market.

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



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