Jane Mugford is a contributor at WhatTheyThink’s Print Softwaresection as well the lead print MIS specialist at Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions.
If you’re on your way to embarking on a Print MIS transition, then you need to sit down and pretend the whole thing was a spectacular failure. Once you’re in that uncomfortable place—work backwards and build a plan to prevent its untimely death.
One of the most common calls we get is from people frustrated about trying to build storefronts for their customers. The questions we get are often along these lines: “I’ve had this software for 6 months and we have only launched one store. Why is it taking so long?”; “Are my people qualified to build these storefronts?”; “I have no idea where to start, where should we start?”
One of the unexpected challenges of a Print MIS system can be lack of adoption, along with the lingering dependency of third party tools. These two factors take away from the data integrity of the system itself. Ease of use is the sure-fire way to build compliance, and will also remove the reliance on external tools.
The data that you rely on from the Print MIS will only be useful and reliable if it is complete and accurate. So, how do you encourage your team to participate completely and consistently in the Print MIS?
Estimating is a core function for Print MIS software, yet many printers fail to implement this part of the system to a trusted level, hence there is a lot of retreating back to Excel. Estimating is a critical function that needs to be part of your integrated and measureable print management information system.
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.
Nobody uses terms like exciting, sexy, or compelling when they talk about their Print MIS solution. Your Print MIS isn’t supposed to be sexy; its job is to serve up the story of your business in the form of data collected in a trusted system of record.
In today’s world of instant gratification, it is really hard to be patient. Rather than walking down the hall to talk to your colleague, you can email them from 20 feet away and then march down the hall 15 minutes later to say “didn’t you get my email?”. In the information age, most of us have forgotten what it’s like to not be instantly connected whether we are on vacation, in a restaurant and now even on planes. It has largely destroyed our ability to be patient.
Making the decision to upgrade a Print MIS or web-to-print system can cause anxiety about the unknown issues that may result. A well-planned out implementation can minimize risk and disruption to both the printer and their customers.
One of the biggest challenges with print software technology today is achieving its full potential. We often get lost in the running of our day-to-day business which prevents us from ongoing process improvement. After the initial implementation, we get distracted and back to the reality of getting customer jobs out the door. We fall into the bad habit of reactive improvement, or if you prefer a more technical term, “Band-Aids”.
Having an integrated web-to-print and print MIS system isn’t just about being able to technically connect the systems. To get the most out of this integration you want to enable communication between systems that makes the two systems truly seem like one in terms of information exchanged
Purchasing new technology is always done with the best of intentions and the desire to implement to a fully utilized state. Often the day-to-day business takes over and erodes the focus of a new technology project. Getting a game-plan together to ensure success and cement the purchase as a worthwhile one is critical.
Graph Expo 2014 was a memorable one. The fire at O’Hare on Friday September 26th had many vendors and attendees scrambling to find their way to Chicago. There were countless stories of planes, trains and automobiles with many people having to find last minute modes of transportation to make it to McCormick. At the very least, people suffered through long delays waiting for planes to take their turn getting air space around Chicago. However, the logistical challenges weren’t the only thing that made Graph Expo 2014 memorable. The footprint of the show was noticeably smaller than in previous years.
Focus is a challenge in our always connected and therefore always interrupted lives. Print software projects like web-to-print and Print MIS require long-term dedicated focus to ensure success. Project success is about getting live sooner and incrementally determining the next most important improvement to the implementation (forever).
When installing and using print technology, you have a lot of resources to rely on: the vendor, your internal team, the internet, user manuals, consultants and so on. However, often the most untapped resource pool is the user community to which you belong.
The fantasy goes like this when implementing software or managing a software project: "this project will be completed on time and under budget". The reality of many is that "the project is late, we didn't deliver on what we said we would, and we went over budget".
Undoubtedly one of the hardest and most stressful parts of configuring and then running your Print MIS is the job costing component. Being in a position to use your Print MIS to accurately compare estimate to actual costs is often given up on in frustration due to the complexity of the setup and configuration. However, when it is done, and done properly it is the ultimate definition of a successful Print MIS system.
If you have ever purchased a heritage home with the vision of renovating it to become a beautifully restored family home for a reasonable budget that you have carefully considered and thought out, you know how foolish that budget may feel once you have actually completed those renovations and uncover all of the hidden heritage wonder. I call our 1908 house the lovely money pit – it’s lovely but it sure proved to be a money pit.
Your business generates a lot of data; your Print MIS should be the system of record for that data. The data should drive your business decisions based on meaningful metrics/key performance indicators (KPIs). Making data a part of your culture will make you a better leader and help your staff understand how their daily actions impact the business.
A Print MIS transition is like a battlefield of sorts. For the person leading the transition it is a time of scrutiny, chaos, incredible intensity and unexpected disruptions. It is, without a doubt, one of the most complex and stress generating events you can face. While it is incredibly rewarding to get through it, you usually don’t come out of it unscathed.
One of the biggest challenges printers face when transitioning to a new Print MIS system is to pick a go-live date. Picking this magical date is a bit like gambling – you really don’t know for sure when the cards are going to line up the way you need them to.
A Print MIS implementation/transition is a massive undertaking. It is usually driven by an extensive technology-focused project plan and/or strategic document. These projects can take anywhere from 6-18 months to implement. So much thought and effort gets put in to so many elements.
There is a hidden pitfall most of us in the position of purchasing print software are very susceptible to. We are all human, and while we have the best of intentions to do thorough evaluations while making a new print software purchase, we quickly fall victim to the ‘feature trap.’
If you are currently functioning on a legacy Print MIS system, you know better than anyone that you are going to have to make a move ‘soon.’ Maybe soon is in the next 2 months or the next 2 years, but you know that your system isn’t going to lead you into the future.
WhatTheyThink is the global printing industry's leading independent media organization with both print and digital offerings, including WhatTheyThink.com, PrintingNews.com and WhatTheyThink magazine versioned with a Printing News and Wide-Format & Signage edition. Our mission is to provide cogent news and analysis about trends, technologies, operations, and events in all the markets that comprise today’s printing and sign industries including commercial, in-plant, mailing, finishing, sign, display, textile, industrial, finishing, labels, packaging, marketing technology, software and workflow.