This article is sponsored by SmartSoft, Inc., makers of the PressWise Print MIS solution as part of WhatTheyThink's Print Software Product Spotlight series. In preparing this article, the WhatTheyThink Print Software Section editors conducted original, in-depth research on the company and product. This Product Spotlight describes what the editors feel are the company and product’s strengths in the marketplace. Datatech SmartSoft Inc. reviewed the final article for accuracy but had no editorial control over the content.

The online channel is vital to the future of your print business. The online channel includes all the ways you engage with your customers online. Every new channel you open up with a customer increases the overall loyalty of that customer, creates barriers to entry for your competitors, and has the potential to decrease the customer burden of doing business with you by offering self-service access to your business.

Up until recently the print industry viewed the online channel through the limited scope of web-to-print, narrowly defined as an e-commerce store selling a catalog of static and personalized print products. The challenge with this narrow definition of the online channel is that it supports a very small portion of what customers could potentially do with printers online. Self-service is a growing customer preference, today we can easily look up what we bought from Amazon in 2010, yet for most print customers it’s not possible to see what they bought from their printer last week without picking up the phone.

The PressWise Print MIS solution allows the printer to open up a digital channel with every one of their customers, not just the customers who have a catalog of products. With PressWise your online customer channel doesn’t have to be the same for all customers; you have customers who warrant a higher level of service and you have many “standard” customers who you still want to engage with online but without taking on the burden of creating unique portals for all of them.

PressWise allows you to create one “online portal” for all your standard customers, their views will be filtered based on their logins, but the branding will be the same for all of them (presumably your branding). For your preferred customers, you can create a unique “online portal”, where you can brand it for that specific customer so they have their own private entrance into your business. What can your customers do online with PressWise? Many of the things they have come to expect with online engagement in the rest of their digital lives:

  1. Order History. This isn’t limited to what they have ordered online, this is directly tied into the PressWise Print MIS database. The customer can see their complete order history, something online customers have come to expect.
  2. Upload Files. Of course print customers need a way to transfer files. We aren’t making this easy enough on our customers or on us. Files are uploaded through the same system that is controlling the overall order management of your print shop. This is not an isolated FTP solution.
  3. Online Estimator. The common approach on printer’s websites today is the option to “request a quote”. PressWise takes this a step further and allows you to enable on a customer-by-customer basis if you want to give them the ability to create their own estimates. It’s not for all your customers but for the ones that order often and are savvy, this is a huge convenience for the customer and a huge labor savings for you!
  4. Customer Reports. One of the most common requests from print customers is data about the business they are doing with you. Why not provide this data in a self-service fashion so they can retrieve it when it’s convenient for them and you aren’t spending precious labor dollars generating reports.

In addition to enabling you to open up online channels with your customers, the PressWise Print MIS breaks the mold of legacy Print MIS solutions by not assuming a full-service estimating workflow for all orders. In the pre-digital print era, full-service estimates were the default and many Print MIS systems have held onto the assumption that the universe of print order management begins at the estimate. Because PressWise was built solidly in the digital print era, the system assumes three distinct pricing workflows: 1) self-service / automated pricing via e-commerce, 2) price list pricing, and 3) finally the full-service estimate.

In the PressWise world, full-service estimating is the exception not the rule. This reflects the growing digital dominance of our industry and how most small to medium size shops (PressWise’ target market 5-40 employees) operate today. As order volumes increase and average order sizes decrease, taking labor out of the workflow is required to grow profitably. Hence the recent article on WhatTheyThink, Every Print Job Doesn’t Deserve an Estimate.

The final strength of the PressWise solution is the underlying architectural approach that sets PressWise up to enable your business to thrive in today’s technology integrated ecosystem (both internally and externally). At its core PressWise was architected as a modern web communication hub with various APIs (application programming interfaces) that are connected to a single “ERP” type database core. This database is your system of record for capturing, storing, and presenting the data your business creates every day. As a policy PressWise enables an open/unlimited database (ODBC) access to the printer so any extensions required by the printer maintain the true system of record by seamlessly connecting directly to the “ERP” database core.

The most common integration points for a Print MIS are order entry (independent web-to-print systems) and financial systems (accounting). PressWise has proactively integrated with the common web-to-print and financial systems in our industry via their open API. The strength of an API grows with utilization, because with each use, the developers learn what they did well and what they missed. By using their own API, PressWise is investing their own development time and effort to make sure they continue to get easier to work with as an integration partner.

The PressWise approach to online engagement, estimating/pricing workflows, and the open API approach all make it a strong competitor in the Print MIS market. As a cloud-based software offering PressWise requires no local IT infrastructure and the SaaS (software-as-a-service) business model aligns the partnership between printer and vendor. You pay monthly as you gain value from the use of the system. PressWise earns your business every month.

Your Print MIS has to deliver value by enabling you to create online engagement with your customers, support multiple pricing strategies while applying just the right amount of labor to each one, and integrate seamlessly to all systems so your Print MIS can remain your trusted system of record. PressWise delivers for small to medium sized printers who want a cloud-based system and prefer the ROI alignment of a SaaS business model.