Next week in Dallas, Tex., the HP Users Conference convenes its annual Dscoop North America event. It is one of my favorite events in our industry mainly because of the energy/attitude of the attendees. I’m not sure who to give credit for this—the Dscoop organization or the members who show up ready to engage, learn, and create relationships that help them compete in a radically transforming industry. Thank you both for your contribution to this event because it always inspires me. If you haven’t been to a Dscoop—you need to figure out a way to get one.
The tools we use to manage, grow, and innovate our businesses are changing, primarily due to the rapid advancements in technology. Much of Dscoop will be about the advancements in the technology of printing; what I’m bringing to Dscoop is how the technology advancements in software are becoming the most important tool in your business toolbox. Software is a broad category; during the Print Software Bootcamp at Dscoop we’ll be focused on three critical software topics:
- Your Customer’s Experience (web-to-print) 1pm–2pm
- Your Trusted System of Record (Print MIS/ERP) 2pm–3pm
- Integration (making it work together) 3pm–4pm
You can come to all or part of the Print Software Bootcamp. We’ll spend approximately one hour on each of the above topics with plenty of time for engagement with the audience. For those who can’t make it to Dscoop, this article will provide some of the key points to be delivered. The Print Software Bootcamp is on Tuesday, March 27, from 1pm to 4pm.
Your Customer’s Experience
If I had a magic wand that would grant me one wish for the print industry, I would wave it and make every printer see their print business from their customer’s perspective.
Buying print is way too hard on your customers and most printers appear to not care because they aren’t even paying attention. I know you’re busy. I know that key customer service representative just retired, and you can’t hire anyone who knows anything about computers/technology. I know you’re being asked to reinvent your business while you’re running your business. All of that it true and buying print from you is a pain-in-the-ass for your customers. How do I know? I buy print sometimes and more importantly I’m a modern online consumer who has the following expectations: the speed of a Google search, the selection of Amazon, the ease of 1-click shopping from Amazon, and the intuitivness as my iPhone. Your customers are modern online consumers.
Your online experience for your customer (if you have one) probably sucks.
The first step in any process is to admit you have a problem. “Hello, my name is Mike, I’m a printer, my customer experience sucks.” That is where all the magic happens because you can now go on a journey to figure out what is most frustrating to your customers. You cannot and will not make it perfect all at once—it’s a journey to first understand your business from your customer’s experience, then start making it easier on them. The most precious thing you spend every day in your business is your customer’s time (the next most precious thing is your time). At the Dscoop Print Software Bootcamp, we will go through the common challenges to creating a great customer experience.
Your Trusted System of Record (Print MIS/ERP)
I joke with my colleague Jane Mugford all the time that the Print MIS/ERP is the boring part of print software. Over the years that I’ve worked with Jane, my thoughts have changed dramatically. I still think Jane is weird for loving this part of the software puzzle but now it is crystal clear to me that this boring part of print software is the foundation to it all. Much like Apple’s recent dominance can be traced back to the development of a mission-critical operating system that become the foundation of all their later innovations, your Print MIS/ERP is the foundation of your business software stack. When we initially engage with a printer, the state of their trusted system of record determines what is possible.
When printers lack a trusted system of record, they are charting a course without a map. Every day they are making decisions without the right set of trusted data, in the right hands, at the right time. When I ask any group of printers about their MIS/ERP systems, inevitably most of the group displays genuine hostility (I’m not joking). The Print MIS/ERP system happiness scale is measured with all negative numbers; the closest I see to positive could be described as “non-hostile.” In fact, there is so much disdain, I think people have stopped being able to think clearly about what is supposed to be the bedrock of their software stack.
Here’s a radical idea: you (the printer) need to adjust your expectations. I think 90% of the problem with Print MIS/ERP solutions is that printers have the expectation that this software will work exactly how they think it should for their business. It won’t. Stop it. This belief is holding you back. The Print MIS/ERP software space is a group of vendors who are building software to solve specific challenges, such as estimating, order management, job costing, etc. Your job is to take the software and solve the challenge, not be attached to a specific way of solving that challenge, but just get it solved. There is too much attachment to “how things are solved” and not enough attachment to getting it solved in a way that works best with the software.
We need to change this scenario. We need to do some couples counseling between printers and their relationship with their Print MIS/ERP. You must take the dysfunction out of this relationship because you need each other. During the Dscoop Print Software Bootcamp, we will begin this process of changing your perspective about the role of the Print MIS/ERP in your business. I will interview Jane Mugford who was a COO of a large printer. After leading her organization through two Print MIS/ERP transitions, she now does nothing but heal the relationship between printer and their Print MIS while optimizing systems to deliver greater adoption and ROI. More times than I can remember, Jane has called me and referred to herself as a therapist.
Can you integrate this system to that system? I have been asked this question thousands of times. I’ve stopped answering it with anything but more questions. Integrating two products is a potential solution. I don’t know what the problem is yet.
What are you trying to solve?
Lots of times I get this answer. I’m trying to integrate these two products. Nope. That’s a solution. Here’s an example of a problem.
I have a new customer. They want to generate weekly orders into us for print fulfillment. The volume is going to be very large (1,000 of orders per week). We need a way to accept and process these orders efficiently. That’s a problem that might just need integration as a potential solution. You do not have to be technical to describe a problem—in fact, being technical often prevents you from thinking clearly about the problem because you race off to a solution too soon.
Integration is a solution. The best advice we give about integration is to stop thinking about integration and define the freakin problem first. Too many times we’ve seen people spend lots of money, time, and effort integrating two products as a solution to a problem that could have been solved much more cheaply and easily. I like cheap and easy solutions. Big complex solutions are necessary, but not until you’re perfectly clear on the problem you’re trying to solve. When you get perfectly clear about the problem you’re solving, you can also make a lot better business decisions about whether its worth solving at all. We have run into that a lot. You get clear on the exact problem and then you realize that problem is too expensive and will not return enough revenue to justify solving it.
I hope to see many of you at Dscoop in Dallas next week. The Print Software Bootcamp is on Tuesday, March 27, from 1pm to 4pm.