Whether you have recently acquired a new Print MIS system or you’ve been using the same one for a decade, we recommend you assess it as the “trusted system of record” for your print business. This assessment is critical in our increasingly data-driven world; if your Print MIS is truly your system of record, you can continue to move your business forward strategically and efficiently. Everyone from sales to operations to leadership knows where to look for accurate information that better helps them do their job. Quite simply, the Print MIS does the heavy lifting of keeping all the data where it belongs and makes sure that data can be easily served up on demand with real-time results. It should enable you to focus on the more important aspects of your business, such as gaining market share, creating new product categories, and maintaining customer relationships. If your Print MIS is not your trusted system of record, valuable time gets consumed by expensive resources having to consolidate, find, and manage data. In this situation, your Print MIS isn’t doing its job and your labor is being deployed to compensate for your Print MIS.

Now don't get me wrong, properly administering a Print MIS can be a full-time job, at least in larger organizations. However, administering a Print MIS is far different than chasing down data that belongs in a Print MIS. Administering a Print MIS means you are proactively adapting and enhancing the system to better suit the unique needs of your evolving business.

How do you evaluate whether your Print MIS is actually your trusted system of record? Some factors are less obvious than others but here are our favorite ways to evaluate:

1. Is there a dependence on Microsoft Excel in your organization?

Excel is most used business software application on the planet. Business people will dump data from all kinds of systems and sort, add, pivot and do everything to format, manipulate and also combine data sources in order to get them the information in the format they require. Many labor hours are wasted in this activity and usually you can find some reliance on Excel "management and intervention" at every level. One Controller I worked with said she spent 24 hours quarterly on a key report for her executive team, which is three full days per quarter or 12 days per year (that is an expensive report)! Strictly dumping data to Excel does not mean your Print MIS is not your trusted system of record. However if you find yourself or your employees needing to “work” the data, it means you are using extra resources to do a job that your Print MIS should be doing for you.

2. Is the data integrity within the system high?

Is the data integrity within the system high, is it used internally and externally? Do you use the Print MIS to report on customer expenditures, key performance indicators, inventory valuations, financial reporting (if you use accounting within your Print MIS)? Do you look to your Print MIS to figure out where a job is in your plant or do you walk around looking for a paper job ticket or do look at a physical job board? Do you trust the per job costs that your Print MIS is calculating or do you ignore them because you don’t trust the calculations? Do you trust the data in your Print MIS?

If you trust your data and you use it to make data-driven decisions then you are definitely using your Print MIS as your system of record. Is the data complete and is it current? I often encounter situations where people question their own data “we know that certain inventory SKUs are wrong but they’ve been like that from the beginning and we don’t know how to change them….” If the data in the system is incomplete or outdated, then you will never be able to rely on what the Print MIS reports back to you. Quite frankly you will find yourself in a situation where there is some subjectivity with all your data, if you tolerate little discrepancies in your data integrity. This will make it impossible for your Print MIS to be your trusted system of record.

3. Do people trust the system?

This sounds a bit vague and it is not easy to quantify but it is very important. When people trust the system they will use it, add to it and rely on it. Most importantly they will respect the role it plays and they will follow the process of it. As an example, sales people are notorious for not following process when it comes to Print MIS. However, if they rely on monthly reporting from the system that gives them stats on what they need to do their job better, they will continue to improve at adding data. If the organization relies on the system data, then the monthly reports that show facts of on-time reports and quality stats will be trusted by all. Targets and goals can be set and everyone will respect and use the data. When it is relied upon as your system of record, the "watercooler" conversations like "production always messes up my job" can be replaced with "we had an issue reporting of 2.3% last month".

4. Does your leadership rely on the data and the system?

Once your top leader relies on the data and uses it to do his or her job, then you know you have hit the sweet spot of global acceptance and trust of the Print MIS system of record. If he or she questions the data, then the entire organization will too. If he or she doesn’t use the data or worse yet questions the accuracy of it, then the entire organization will too. Adoption from the top and more importantly the support to ensure that the data accuracy is high and current is key. This takes an on-going commitment to the care and feeding of the system.

5. Does your system run the business?

My former colleague Tim Flaman had a line that he would use again and again that I always loved and I think it is a great endorsement of Print MIS systems that are engrained as the system of record. He used to say “let your system run the business and let the people run the system”. To me it sums up in a nutshell what defines a great Print MIS implementation. If your system is “running the business”, then it means it is trusted, highly accurate, and “self-sufficient”. It holds custody of all the corporate data and all the resources in the company turn to it for a shared version of the “truth”.

When your Print MIS is your trusted system of record, you know where you stand; at the individual job level, at the financial period level, at the customer level, at the employee level, and of course at the overall business level. If your Print MIS is partially implemented, partially adopted, has inconsistencies in the data, and has an overall lack of trust by your people – you are in the business of plate spinning. Plate spinning is a never ending fire drill to figure out where you are and how to get out of the next emergency instead of strategically looking to where you need to be in the future. Now more than ever, we all need to have our heads up looking at the future, rather than heads down trying to figure out your present predicament.