One of the dirty little secrets about Print MIS systems is inconsistent use of it. Those of us that administer Print MIS systems often deny or don’t talk about the reality of betrayal from our very own team when it comes to use of the system. We try to ignore the existence of those rebellious ones that don’t lovingly adopt the Print MIS system the way we do. They don’t tolerate the flaws the way we do, and they do not have the patience for the “quirks”. They don’t trust that the Print MIS will accurately convey what’s happening. They have secret stashes of Excel spreadsheets, and sticky notes stuck to job tickets and invoices. There is an entire society of data happening that is in no way shared with the Print MIS system. Why can they just not see the opportunity and the success that the rest of us can see? How do we get them to cross over from the dark side?
First of all, it is important to come to terms with the fact that the only two people that will initially truly believe in the power and potential of the Print MIS (other than the vendor) is the person who paid for it and the person in charge of setting it up. Everyone else will have a degree of skepticism. Some will be a little skeptical and some will be betting on its failure. Any degree of doubt or lack of trust leads to lack of compliance. This is usually manifested in tools kept outside of the Print MIS: spreadsheets, post-it notes, internal emails and the “newish” and highly popular free cloud-based tools that print teams get their hands on that you often don’t even know about. All of these tools are compensation for what your team feels is lacking in your Print MIS. If your people feel that they need to keep data and information outside of the Print MIS, there is something to that that needs to be addressed.
Whether your Print MIS is brand new or whether you have had it for a while, the most successful systems are the ones where the data is holistic, accurate and relied upon by everyone. People have to believe in the data. The information has to be accurate and readily available. When people believe in the data, they will be more encouraged and likely to work in the Print MIS. So, how can you encourage and foster compliance in your system?
For All Users of your System:
Ask every user to identify what tools they need and use OUTSIDE of the Print MIS to do their jobs (be clear you are not talking about production tools). A survey is a good way to do this and leading questions like “Do you use Excel Spreadsheets in the course of your day? If so, describe” will help paint the picture. It is critical that you let them know you are not going to take away their tools, but you want to understand where the Print MIS is lacking. If you acknowledge it’s not perfect, they will be more forthcoming with what their challenges are.
Ask them to identify three things that would help make their day and their jobs easier. Don’t make this question about the Print MIS. As an example, two questions we like to ask is “when you come in to work in the morning what data could help you start your day better?” Similarly, “Before you leave work at the end of the day, what would help you end your day better?” The answers to these questions might help you get some quick wins for them with the Print MIS. A shipping manager might say at the end of the day he or she would like to know what jobs are left unshipped that were due to ship that day. You could build a quick report that would give them that real-time information at their fingertips.
Asking them some questions and letting them be open about their challenges will help you to better understand the lack of compliance and what can be done to improve the Print MIS. So often, the Print MIS is more than capable of handling their challenges, but if you don’t know what they are, you can’t evaluate what is possible.
For the division specific groups, here are some ideas that could help encourage and build compliance for the Print MIS:
Customer Service Representatives
The CSR’s are the critical bridge between your customers, production and sales. They need so much data readily available at their fingertips and as a result, they usually have a treasure chest of external tools they rely upon to do their jobs. They usually have lots of notes, files and a wealth of knowledge that is kept in email exchanges – getting this in to the Print MIS become critical to its success. Ways to enable this are:
- Build simple dashboard views that list jobs currently in that are searchable in a variety of ways. It needs to be real-time
- Easy access to customer and contact data that allows for “special instructions” or information pertaining to customers or contacts
- Reports that show “at risk jobs”- showing jobs that are due in the next couple of hours that haven’t yet been completed
- Easy access to look up old jobs for customers and contacts
Salespeople like speed and ease of use. If it’s not quick or not easy, they are not likely to linger in the Print MIS for long. Anything that can give them snapshots of how their month or quarter is will encourage and help them. A couple of ideas for sales:
- Weekly report of “month to date” sales that gets emailed to them automatically
- Daily report of “jobs in” that they can access real-time
- Easy and mobile access to their quotes/estimates
Similar to sales, production has no time to slow down and any time they have to slow down should be used on product Quality Control and not feeding the print MIS. Anything you can do to help speed this up will encourage compliance. Ideas for this are:
- Using barcode readers for job costing functions with “common used codes” affixed to their work stations for easy scanning. Barcoding the job numbers on the job jackets will also help
- Screens in production that tell the story of what is in their division for the day or hour. This is not necessarily the same thing as scheduling
Without a doubt, accounting’s biggest reason for going to third party tools and particularly Excel Spreadsheets is reporting. They usually dump data from the Print MIS but they end up having to “work” that data to make it optimal and formatted for their use. This is a massive time drain (and cost) but the end results are critical to your business. While vendors have done a great job of building a set of canned reports for every system, it is unrealistic to expect that every report your team needs is covered off. To help Accounting:
- Invest in having some custom reports built for them in the Print MIS. This can be everything from complicated financial reports to how the printed/emailed invoice will look
- Reports or inquiries like “month to date” revenue and “unbilled jobs this month” are very useful for the accounting team
You will gain compliance and consistency if you make the Print MIS more user-friendly and relevant for the various teams. Just remember, people aren’t trying to make your life difficult by using third party tools, they are trying to make their life easier. If you can make it easy for them to do their jobs, it will make it easier for you to do yours.