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Systemize the Predictable in Your Print Business

Your business is made up of two kinds of processes: predictable ones and exceptions. A well-run business has codified or systematized the predictable business processes so that the humans working in the business apply all their skills to the exceptions.


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About Jennifer Matt

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.


By Cliff Hollingsworth on Jul 29, 2020

How can we become best friends?? This is so spot on I have no comments other than this.


By Eric Vessels on Jul 30, 2020

@Cliff I think there's a waiting list! LOL


By Jennifer Matt on Jul 30, 2020

Social distanced line please (with masks) Eric and Cliff.

Seriously. This pandemic is an opportunity to really look at our print businesses in a brand new way. I'll tell you, systemizing processes can feel like a complete pain in the butt. Once its done it is such a relief. Your business basically runs predictability and your time is open up to deal with the exceptions (and systemize more).

There is no easy button, it can test your patience. One thing I've learned the hard way in implementing this approach in my business and helping other businesses do it is that there are people who are good at creating processes and there are people who are good at following processes. Don't assume everyone can do everything. Too often we ask people to do things they aren't capable of doing.

There is a BIG difference between the "design of a process" vs following a process. They required very different skill sets.


By Eric Vessels on Jul 30, 2020

Line? I'm not in no line! We're already best friends! ;-)


By Wayne Lynn on Aug 03, 2020

Very well said Jennifer...and, the designer types are not always easy to find or identify. If you want a rule of thumb, 85% of people in an organization are "built" to follow processes. The hard part is finding the other 15% and hanging on to them.


By Robert Godwin on Aug 03, 2020

On point Jennifer, as we have come to expect...
"...because they are going to “systemize the predictable” by implementing an online order entry system".
The predictable has been the point of greatest resistance due to the least understanding. Most printers, specifically the CSRs, recognize that from a given client, much of the work is nearly identical in regard to file prep requirements. These 'predictable' jobs are the fodder for online print orders. However, resistance comes from two influencer camps: 1. the client who believes every job of theirs is special, and 2. the sales staff who wants the client to think their job is special and thereby worth more. For online ordering, many efficiencies can be introduced through templates and automation. But those efficiencies may send a signal to the client that their work is simply a commodity.
Ok, so we sophisticates know where cost saving practices can be deployed, but there is no need to make the client feel like their work is just so much ink on paper. It is the salesperson’s task to explain the value of automation in regard to fewer errors (too many hands, etc.) and faster turnaround, selling the 'smarts' the printer is bringing to their work. It all boils down to managing client expectations in regard to respecting the quality threshold and the need for profitability for the printer.


By Cliff Hollingsworth on Aug 03, 2020

Gosh, I believe and have tried to put your collective thoughts into my own words for 20 years. I am so glad to be on this thread with you smart people!!


By Catherine McGavin on Aug 05, 2020

In my experience, although our clients believe their projects are special, they LOVE it when their printer's performance is predictable. Systematizing must first be about following standard work processes, in order to make ALL of our work more predictable. Even complex project management can follow a playbook. Ask any firefighter if standard playbooks help them respond to uncertain events.
Aside to Cliff Hollingsworth: You are one of the smartest, in my book.


By Cliff Hollingsworth on Aug 05, 2020

Catherine -- you are WAY too kind!! You taught me more than I ever taught you I'm pretty sure.



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