There are several marriage mistakes that lead to divorce: cheating, dishonesty, addictions, and major changes in priorities (quoted directly from the Internet so it must be true).
What does this have to do with your print management information system (Print MIS)? I am suggesting that your Print MIS is your most important business partner, just as your spouse is your most important life partner, and therefore, you need to stop the behavior that leads to Print MIS divorce, which—much like human divorce—can be very painful and expensive.
Most printers aren’t using their Print MIS to its fullest capabilities; they have lots of workarounds and many features that have not been implemented. There are many activities that happen every day in your business that are required for the business to run but are being conducted “offline or outside your primary system of record” as a patch to a broken process. You’re cheating on your Print MIS and that can be grounds for divorce! For your relationship to be optimal, you need to be monogamous – meaning your Print MIS has to be THE SYSTEM OF RECORD for EVERYTHING that happens in your business.
Many printers go even further and actually buy a second Print MIS, running them concurrently (yes, this is like having a mistress). So now you have two supposed “systems of record” which is a misnomer; you can only have one if it’s a true system of record. This makes your business life more complicated than it needs to be. You can’t get a complete view of your business in one place; you are constantly working hard to bring data together in a manual way to understand what’s happening in your business.
I know what you’re saying to yourself as you read this: “My existing Print MIS doesn’t fulfill all my needs.” (not going to go any further with the marriage analogy in this case for obvious reasons). I can’t run my digital business through the Print MIS I’m using today because it hasn’t been upgraded in more than a decade.”
What’s wrong with this picture? Why are you trying to run your modern print business on a platform that doesn’t support where print is today, or even where print is going, but rather, where it was years ago!
We don’t like to admit how we’re underutilizing our Print MIS. We pretend the data is accurate; we fool ourselves into thinking its close enough. We aren’t fooling anyone. We justify these “white lies” because we know the potential horror stories of replacing our Print MIS – months and months of implementation, unpredictable costs, and lots of frustration, with no guarantee of success. We want to avoid that so we keep telling ourselves that it isn’t that bad to run on a computer system that looks like it was built in the 1980s. We live in the information age, data is the raw material of this age – you need easy access to relevant and timely data about your business in order to remain competitive.
The alternative is that you keep developing more and more elaborate workarounds – you ask your people to become data consolidators, manipulators, and general purpose acrobats so that they can provide you accurate data. You are spending the money on labor that you should be using to invest in new software. Software is the primary tool of efficiency in the information age. Successful printers know how to leverage and utilize software to replace as much labor as possible – throwing more people at a problem is no longer a viable option.
We are addicted to blaming the software – because software is an easy target. Here’s the reality we should all get used to: software isn’t perfect and it doesn’t move very fast. Does this sound painfully familiar? We see all our challenges from the perspective of how the software fails us. We don’t take any responsibility for our part in the equation. Wow, that sounds like the proceedings from a divorce court! There are marriages that succeed; there are marriages that fail. Print MIS software solutions are sold to many printers. Some are very successful with them, and others fail miserably. This is the same software; the only difference between success and failure is what the printer brings to the partnership.
The key is to focus on what you have control over. Are you looking at the software trying to find things that won’t work in your current setting? Software, like humans, is a target rich environment for flaws and weaknesses. If you go looking for everything that’s wrong, you will be successful in finding flaws. Too many printers get stuck in a rut there and then only see the Print MIS through the lens of “if it only did this or that then I could be happy with it.” Don’t waste your valuable labor hours trying to discover everything wrong; instead, figure out how to optimally utilize what the software does well to your greatest advantage. Succeed in spite of its obvious weaknesses!
We also want to break the habit of marry – divorce – marry again – rinse and repeat. Buying another Print MIS and not changing your side of the equation will lead to the same outcome. Because you and the software solution are in a relationship, you co-create both success and failure. Its time to make sure you’re taking care of your side of the fence before you throw out the technology and bring in the next bright, shiny, perfect software as described by the latest software sales representative. Eventually you live with that new software and realize it has its own unique set of weaknesses, quirks, bugs, and blemishes that you’ll need to learn to accept because you love its strengths and how it improves your overall business.
Change in Priorities.
Lots of printers say, we’ll get around to fixing our Print MIS problem once we’re done with the this list of other more important business items. There are always competing priorities; there just seems to be a collective avoidance of the Print MIS issue because it isn’t a project that anybody wants to take on. Sort of like filing your taxes. Data is critically important to your business in the information age. Your Print MIS should be your system of record for the data of your business. When you think about it that way, how can you really run your business without a loving, trusting, and long-term committed relationship with your Print MIS? Every other decision you make about your business should be based on data coming from your Print MIS.
The Dream Relationship.
In the glory days of print, your printing equipment was your primary differentiator. Now, though, more and more of your differentiation will be determined by how you utilize technology in your go-to-market strategy and your operational strategy. Your Print MIS is the foundation of your business software. All technology decisions should be made with Print MIS integration in mind. Isolated point solutions (non-integrated) should be avoided at all costs.
The dream isn’t realized in one step, and it surely isn’t realized with one purchase order. The “implementation” of your Print MIS never ends because your business should be in a constant state of evolution, and your utilization of the platform should be incrementally increasing over time. Think long-term, think like it’s a marriage, and if you want it to work you need to keep working on it. The real work starts after the honeymoon (otherwise known as the sales process). A true system of record is a differentiator in the marketplace because it will enable you to make data-driven decisions at almost every level of your organization and operate your business more effectively and profitably.