This article is sponsored 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 printIQ’s Print MWS product. This Product Spotlight describes what the editors feel are the product’s strengths in the marketplace. printIQ reviewed the final article for accuracy but had no editorial control over the content.

The Print MIS/ERP system is the foundation to your overall print business technology stack. It is the system that should run your business; while your people run the system. The foundation of your technology stack is a really important decision. When printers specialized by manufacturing; a trend that the print industry lived by for decades was for Print MIS solutions to cater to a specific manufacturing process. There were solutions focused on the unique requirements of web presses, flexography, cut-sheet offset printer market, wide format, and as digital started to really grow, there are solutions that only do digital well.

This trend worked well for the print industry up until now. We are in a different market, with different market demands. There are very few printers who have maintained a single manufacturing focus. Of course; the addition of digital has been the most popular add-on as more and more offset printing work is being pulled over into digital due to personalization, shorter life-spans, and smaller run lengths.

Today printers often have three or four different manufacturing processes in the same building; offset, web, digital, and wide format. Of course, you cannot be expected to run multiple Print MIS solutions just because you’ve diversified your manufacturing processes. Many Print MIS solutions have and continue to expand their support for a diversified printing operation. One of printIQ’s strengths is its approach to and the execution of a modular approach to supporting additional manufacturing processes. In hearing the printIQ story, I was especially impressed with what I’ll call the “camp out until you understand the process” approach. When printIQ goes to add support for an additional manufacturing process, they find a few pilot customers and stick with them until they have learned what makes this manufacturing process unique.

This hands-on approach to learning first, then building in collaboration with the pilot printers is a strength of printIQ. I especially liked their attitude of ignorance; in a good way, they made no assumptions about how this new print manufacturing business process works. They go into the research phase with open minds and ears and closed mouths! Great software is the result of how much you learn before you write any code. Software that fails to meet the mark is dreamed up in a conference room based on a lot of untested assumptions. printIQ currently has modules for design, digital, labels, mail, offset, packaging, signage, and wide format.

Because the Print MIS is your foundation, virtually every piece of technology you buy in addition to it needs to pull information from it, push information into it, or in many cases both (bi-directional integration). Integration is not just a technical challenge, it can be a business challenge as well. First and foremost, your vendor must be “open to integration” with the solutions you want to integrate with. Secondly your vendor needs to have the technical infrastructure in order to talk to various technologies. And thirdly, your vendor needs to understand how to manage a software product that has multiple integrations – so they don’t break stuff when they upgrade!

With printIQ you get the Core, which is made up of 8 modules that create an end-to-end workflow. However you also have the option to add an array of extra modules to the Core to create a specific workflow to suit your business requirements. This includes a range of third party options that fully integrate with printIQ. The existing integrations include popular tools like CHILI Publish, Enfocus Switch, XMPie, and Kodak’s Prinergy, plus a range of web applications.

printIQ also has an integration toolkit so that you can connect other solutions to printIQ, or write your own solution. The team at printIQ has even published some of the printIQ’s APIs to Zapier which shows its openness to integration. The idea is that printIQ doesn’t try to do everything – mainly the print specific stuff, then provides a range of integrations making it technically possible to connect the production workflow, CRM, composition engine, etc. that fits your business best. When a technology is integration-ready and the vendor is open to integration (does not have any business reason to resist it), the only remaining factor to check off is the ability to actual execute on the integration.

For many printers, technical integrations can be done with their existing technical staff, for others there is no technical staff available and they are forced to go out into the consulting market. For printIQ customers they have an additional option, printIQ’s business includes a fully staffed custom development team which specializes in integrations and development of the core product. This won’t be needed by everyone but it’s a great option to have if you want to be assured that printIQ integration and development is being done by devleopers with full context over the solution.

Another major strength of the printIQ system is their customer portal. When you purchase printIQ you get the ability to take your business online, right out of the box. Your customers can quote, pay and submit artwork, plus track order history (among other features). Their portal solution is built using responsive design so customers can view it on any device (mobile, table, or desktop computer). The availability of a portal for all customers is a great feature for printers who don’t have the need for a full storefront for most of their customers.

printIQ brings a solid approach to the diversified print business. The combination of the modular approach of supporting multiple manufacturing processes, a built-in customer portal, and their integration capabilities will make it a competitive player.