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Succeeding in Spite of Print Software’s Weaknesses

A culture of finding ways to optimize software in your business is something you can control. The successful printers will be the ones who are getting the most of their print software tools—mostly by being open to evolving their own workflows to fit the how the software works best.

By Jennifer Matt
Published: July 18, 2018

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Jennifer Matt is the managing editor of WhatTheyThink’s Print Software section as well as President of Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions. You can reach her at jen@whattheythink.com.

 

Discussion

By Jim Rosenthal on Jul 18, 2018

The biggest challenge is to teach an old dog new tricks. In other words, moving someone who has been in the industry a long time even 10 degrees left or right of their comfort zone is a very difficult proposition

 

By Shane Parker on Jul 18, 2018

This is spot on. Guilty of this many times.

 

By Mary Ann Osting on Jul 18, 2018

Very timely.

 

By Jennifer Matt on Jul 18, 2018

We are all faced with the challenge of getting our people (who have become comfortable with the way things are) to move out of their comfort zones to a new way of doing things.

I would be interested to know what have people done that has worked?

 

By Steve Ciesemier on Jul 18, 2018

How timely, Jen!

Yesterday I was in a workflow automation meeting with a very large in-house print services manager. He knew their company had a "too manual, too many touches" problem. But he was very skeptical that our solution could work in their unique environment. That changed when he realized that by adjusting their current workflow process they could take advantage of the automation our software solution provides. The skepticism turned into keen interest. As you say, a willingness to adjust is key.

I have been in the opposite situation as well, where the print service provider knows they have a productivity problem but are unwilling to change anything to address it. Those meeting don't progress very far.

It's natural to look for the weaknesses of any given software solution. Having identified the weaknesses, the next step is often looking for ways to adjust around them, rather than walking away from an 80% or 90% improvement just because because the software does not address every possile issue or scenario.

I often hear the word "unique" used to describe a PSP's customers and printing process. And yet there are many, many thousands of printers worldwide doing the same things they are, using the same equipment to produce the same products.

I think what often makes a PSP unique is the management and their ability to embrace and execute change to take advantage of software that results in less touches, fewer errors, faster turn.

 

By Robert Arena on Jul 18, 2018

I can not agree. I do not believe software should have to be an exact match to an existing work pattern but it should be able to provide an organization with easy to decipher forms, integration with accounting and inventory management, and ease of use by customers. I find this lacking. It seems to me that software developers work in an insular world, largely ignoring the intricacies of the problem to be solved. If so many PSPs are having a problem with adoption, perhaps there is a germ of truth—a problem that actually may exist.

 

By Jennifer Matt on Jul 18, 2018

Robert,

Yes there is imperfect software (and lots of software that is built in isolation - without really understanding the workflows it tries to solve).

Do you want to wait until it gets perfected to make it work for your business?

Its not a binary thing - my point here is that too many printers are doing what Steve said above: forgoing a 70% improvement b/c the software doesn't get them to 100%.

Lets take for example the idea of "automation" - we should stop using that word b/c it assumes (no touch). Printers want automation; but what they need to first get is a reduced number of touches in a defined workflow. When 100% automation is your focus; you might not move at all. But if defining a process shows you touch a job 10 times with 3 different people before it even gets put into production - maybe cutting the number of touches in half could be your goal?

Maybe adding a piece of software that gets quotes out 20% faster is enough of an improvement for software?

Maybe reducing the time between order inquiry and the start of production by 20% is enough of an improvement?

When you take a more incremental approach to improvement with software you also get started and then you get smarter once the software is in actual production. We tend to want to seek perfection from the start vs. launching and continuing to learn and iterate.

I recently fell in love with a tool called Process.st (process street). It allows you to define a process and then create checklists every time you run the process. There was a lot of resistance to this on my team but we now use it to do software deployments. Here's the interesting thing - I make at least one small tweak to the process EVERY SINGLE time we do a deployment? Why? Because we're getting smarter every time we deploy.

Deployments are now very boring (nothing goes wrong), everyone does what they are supposed to do in the order in which they are supposed to do it. But I always do a post mortem (mentally) with each deployment and I usually find one thing to tweak. I like the idea of the team getting smarter each time and most importantly that we have a process for capturing that learning and integrating it into how we work moving forward.

Quite a rant.... (sorry about that)

Software is not perfect; but the success of your business relies on you being able to optimize the software tools available to you to maximize their ROI on your business.

 

By Corry Casler on Jul 18, 2018

One of our clients, a print marketing firm, actually created an internal marketing campaign for their PressWise launch. To me this was a brilliant example of how to properly get staff on board with a new software system.

One of the marketing tools they created was a beautifully crafted launch document that:
1. Reminded employees of the current issues that plagued their day to day processed
2. Broke down the vetting process - how they created a focus group of 7 team members to review 10 different MIS options. Employees saw the decision wasn’t made lightly
3. Explained how it would help them grow in the next 1-5 years
4. Prepared the team for known challenges that come with implementing new software.
5. Defined timelines

This marketing plan truly brought the team together, managed their expectations and made them feel like they were carefully considered in the decision process. So instead of “looking for reasons why it won’t work”, their staff is on board and this company became one of our most successful clients.

On the flip side, on occasion, I’ve heard owners/leadership say “They’ll will use what we tell them to use” which is the first step to failure.

Culture matters.

 

By Jennifer Matt on Jul 18, 2018

Corry,

Thanks for sharing that example; an internal marketing campaign (brilliant idea) to really prioritize winning the hearts and minds of internal staff.

Agreed on your last comment. We'll force them (never works). People are AMAZING at figuring out ways to sabotage projects!

 

By Gina Danner on Jul 23, 2018

I have launched multiple complex print center software platforms over the last 30 years that include everything from MIS tools, print automation tools, and web to print systems for my own business. We have a culture that is focused on "get it done", "no fear", and "we will make it work." That culture is good in delivering for our clients. It is challenging when trying to optimize efficiency.

The challenge comes in the sense that software fixes and process changes take someone that is able to look from the outside in and work through the problem. Often times that problem started much earlier in the chain of production, but is highlighted many steps down the path.

It is a very difficult and complex puzzle to unwind. It takes true commitment from leadership and often times requires that those leaders simply walk multiple projects through every single step of the process to watch for the hiccups that will come. From there it requires those leaders to spend time with staff to teach them how to spot those problems and raise the red flag for help.

That cultural shift is as big of a challenge as launching the new system. My goal is to make things easier and more streamlined. Nothing is worse than death by a thousand cuts that will result from "almost" automation.

 

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