One of the lost opportunities of many Print MIS implementations is relying on the system for performance metrics and tracking against goals. Metrics are also known as Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). Investopedia defines KPI’s as “A set of quantifiable measures that a company or industry uses to gauge or compare performance in terms of meeting their strategic and operational goals. KPIs vary between companies and industries, depending on their priorities or performance criteria.”The richness and the trustworthiness of your Print MIS data is key to accurately measuring your performance against stated goals/metrics.

Most companies continue to rely on manually produced Excel spreadsheets because there is some combination of a lack of trust or completeness in their Print MIS data. When Print MIS systems are properly implemented, the data is more accurate, more readily available (virtually in real-time), and less cumbersome to produce. When data is at your fingertips you tend to dive into it more looking for more clues to the increased profitability every company desires. A trusted system of record makes you less reliant on the “gut feel” of how you and your team think you are doing in certain areas that don’t produce much data. It takes the assumptions out and puts the facts in. It arms you with a toolkit of possibilities of where you can improve your business. It can give you an edge over your competitors that don’t have access to the same pool of critical and rich data for their business. Metrics can help your staff, your customers, and you. KPI’s can help to remove chaos and decrease stress. They empower everyone that has access to the appropriate data to do their jobs better. Quite simply, what you measure and what you do with those measurements drives decisions, changes behaviors and fosters innovation. Metrics done right can make the Print MIS tool the most important tool in your business.

While all of this sounds great, it can be daunting, especially if your company hasn’t historically used reporting other than to report financials. By the way, this isn’t as uncommon as you may think. Trying to figure out what to measure can be challenging and often there is the assumption that the reports that come with the Print MIS are all you need. This assumption is wrong. For sure, they include the general reports that everyone should have (or at least they should), but they don’t include ones that are specific to your business.

The opportunities for what can be measured are endless. What you want to avoid is driving yourself crazy with too much data. Too much data can be just as bad, if not worse, than no data. So how do you figure out what kind of data would be most valuable to help you manage YOUR business? Your business isn’t the same as anyone else’s so what would be valuable reporting to you, might be quite different than what someone else needs or wants to measure. Obviously everyone needs the standard types of financial reports: P&L, balance sheet etc. From a CRM perspective, it is typical for management to want win/loss reports, outstanding opportunities etc. There are a lot of reports that would be considered “standard” that should be expected to be available from your Print MIS. How do you figure out what you should specifically measure to assess the state of your business? These will typically not be found in the canned reports and this is where you will want to have some custom reports built. These will often become just as important if not more so than the included reports. Your vendor won’t be able to tell you what reports you will need, that is your job as the expert at your business. Here are some tips on how to determine what you should get your Print MIS to measure for you:

First of all, there are typically three buckets that reporting can be divided up in to – sales, production/operations, and financial/management. For each of those buckets, do the following:

1. Assess the priority areas of business focus

You don’t have time nor do you want to try and use reporting to assess everything. You’ll go crazy trying to do this especially if you haven’t previously relied on reporting from your Print MIS. Pick the current areas of focus or pain points and your list should not look like a grocery one. Start small – maybe 2-3 for each area. If you have a business or a strategic plan, some of the objectives from those can give you good clues as to what would be helpful for reporting. If you have a goal to increase online sales by x%, you should have a report that reports on the percentages of online orders month-over-month. If you have a goal to reduce waste by x%, you will need a way to track waste in your Print MIS and then report on that month-over-month. If you have a goal to increase sales by x%, you may want a report that helps you target customers that have been inactive for the last 12 months for example.

2. Determining if you have a report that currently handles the information found in step 1.

If you have an Excel spreadsheet that reports on the information already, determine if the current report works for you. If it does, then that simply needs to be translated in to a report that the Print MIS can run. If you have a current report but it’s not ideal, figure out what would make it ideal and mark it up accordingly. That is what you should hand off to your report developer. If you don’t have a report mock one up that would give you the output you desire and hand that to your report developer

3. Getting the reports built and tested

Once you have determined the reports you want to have built in your Print MIS, prioritize those and get them to your report developer. You might not have this skillset in-house which is not at all uncommon. If you don’t, you can look to your vendor or external consultants. Once the reports are built, you will need to run them and test the data. If you have pre-existing reports from other sources (i.e. Excel) you should run them in both systems using the same parameters to validate the data accuracy. Be warned, often if there is a discrepancy, the gut reaction is to say the new reports are wrong. However, I have seen time and time again that the legacy reports can be the ones to show that they were inaccurate (almost every Excel spreadsheet has at least one error in it). I’m not saying this is likely in your case if you have a discrepancy, but just be open to the possibility it might be.

If you want some other ideas or help to determine some good reporting ideas, you can reference an earlier article that focused on specific reporting ideas in the article: Make Data-Driven Business Decisions with Your Print MIS.

Once reports are implemented and put in to use, you will find that the reliance on them grows quickly and the desire for additional reports also increases. Ultimately the goal of your Print Management Information System is to help manage your business performance – a growing set of relevant and rich reports are critical to your success.