Online ordering is about customer convenience. How do you leverage technology and self service to make it easier for your customers to do business with you?
Your business is made up of two kinds of processes: predictable ones and exceptions. A well-run business has codified or systematized the predictable business processes so that the humans working in the business apply all their skills to the exceptions.
Will Morgan, Senior Research Analyst for Aspire CCS, provides some key takeaways from a new report that takes an in-depth look at the state of cloud computing in Customer Communications Management (CCM) and highlights opportunities for enterprises and services providers who are ready to modernize their communications strategies.
Partnering can solve challenges that you don’t feel comfortable taking on initially. A partnership also helps you grow your expertise in an area so that when you do expand, you’ll make much better investment decisions.
More and more, the productivity of your company is based on the ability to efficiently work in the software applications that run your business. Don’t hamstring your mission-critical software applications by starving them of the resources they require.
The most expensive things you do in your printing plant every day involve talking to clients and physically touching their work. You talk to clients to better understand the work they want you to do, and you touch the work, in prepress or at other points in the process to ensure that the client’s intent is rendered on to the substrate. But every conversation and every touch has a financial impact. While you rely on workflow tools to aid the process, in most companies there are also spreadsheets, whiteboards, and sticky notes used to gather and communicate information about the jobs-in-progress. It’s only natural! However, the more you talk and touch, the less money you make on the job.
Getting your customer’s pricing is a critical measure of customer satisfaction. Your customer might not be outwardly complaining, but many print customers are migrating to online solutions that provide immediate pricing. Not every job you produce deserves a manual estimate.
Every business has projects. Every business treats them differently. The range is enormous; from no project methodology to bureaucratic craziness. Print businesses of all sizes would benefit from a simple project methodology because it can quickly eliminate the most common reasons why things just don’t get done.
Evaluating print software is a process that desperately needs to evolve. Step back and look at the business objectives of the evaluation as a starting point to reinventing your approach to purchasing software.
So many trends are being amplified or accelerated by COVID-19; the evolution of the sales process is one of them. Your customers are being asked again to do more with fewer people and less time. They need vendors/partners that can help alleviate the pressure.
COVID-19 economic symptoms include the weakening of the “we’ve always done it this way defense”—which will have some positive impacts on outdated printer workflows and some negative impacts when customers evaluate print spend under new market conditions.
There will be a new, new normal after the height of COVID-19 passes. It will be even more reliant on software technologies to connect your employees, your customers, and your suppliers. The time to evolve to this new reality (often referred to as digital transformation) is now—crisis evolution cuts through a lot of the resistance.
Every type of plant can build a better workflow, one that is efficient and scalable, that helps to save production costs, and adds to operational efficiency. The place to start is with a tour around your plant. Pat McGrew continues her “virtual guided tour” of a plant's workflow, and some key questions to ask at each stop along the way.
Learning is the real work of software optimization. Once you really learn the application you own it. Once you own it, then you have the chance of reaching its full potential inside your organization.
HP's PrintOS is a cloud-based platform with browser-based and mobile apps that connect to and extend the functionality of HP production printers. There are multiple tools that provide robust analytics, mobile monitoring, access to PrintOS anytime and anywhere, and security.
Every type of plant can build a better workflow, one that is efficient and scalable, that helps to save production costs, and adds to operational efficiency. The place to start is with a tour around your plant. Pat McGrew provides a “virtual guided tour” of a plant's workflow, and some key questions to ask at each stop along the way.
Crisis creates an environment for rapid innovation. The digital transformation of all business sectors was in progress before COVID-19, and the crisis will continue to separate the digital haves and have-nots.
Some basic questions—who? what? and most importantly why?—of print software will greatly increase your chances of optimizing your print software investments.
Understanding what the primary objective or challenge that a print software claims to solve is an important factor for shopping for print software solutions. You have challenges, print software vendors have solutions (in the form of products). The better defined the challenge, the better the chance of alignment and return on investment.
We are going to come out of COVID-19 into a different economy and a different print industry. Many of the changes taking place now will persist, even after we’re all vaccinated or have developed widespread herd immunity. Your customers will return with fewer people resources—a competitive advantage will be for vendors who can save customers time.
Adult learning is hard especially when you’re transitioning from a toolset that your people have been comfortably using for years. Do not give the resistance any power and do not try to force the new system to work like the old one—you will pay dearly for that in the form of lost productivity.
First an April fools laugh, then some more insight on how to deploy your best resources during the COVID-19 pause in capitalism.
Documenting your core workflows can be a good strategic use of key resources who might not be fully occupied working from home.
We find ourselves in difficult times, the conditions of which are delivering a window of opportunity to do strategic projects that will accelerate your business when the economic engine starts running at full speed again.
The sales process should extend into the implementation of print software because all humans need to be persuaded of the merits so that they can become enthusiastic about the new toolset.
There are a lot of decisions to be made around print software; it might surprise you which ones I think are the most important.
It's easy to get into a panic when you wake up to the reality that your approach to software in your print business requires a major overall. It probably took you years to get into this state; don’t freak out because it could take years to crawl out of it. The best thing to do is to calmly prioritize and then start making incremental progress.
In an industrial inkjet environment, a lot of pieces go into creating a specialized solution, but it’s the raster image processor (RIP) that does the heavy lifting. Elizabeth Gooding takes a detailed look at all the criteria to keep in mind when selecting RIP software for an industrial printing workflow.
Your software investments deserve big picture, strategic planning. It’s time to step back and assess your core business processes and how software helps, hinders, optimizes, or ideally automates the steps required everyday to deliver on your customer promises.
We have spent decades focusing and optimizing the production floor (where there is no carpet). It is time to focus our energies on the carpeted areas of the business which impact customer’s perceptions of our business.
Describe your business challenges: be specific, be precise. Then let go of any attachment to the “how this business challenge gets solved by print software.” You want your business challenges solved. One of the fastest ways to solve them is to describe them accurately and then to be open to all the possible solutions.
You purchase software to solve business problems. When evaluating software, keep your focus on the challenges you want to solve. This will keep you open-minded about all the possible ways your challenges might be solved, rather than attachment to one specific solution.
Treat software like printing press hardware: assume your people and your processes have to change to optimize the new software rather than staying attached to how you think the software should work.
Technology is invading every corner of the print industry, and many print business owners are novices when it comes to technology. How do you make good business decisions when you are not the subject matter expert? Whom do you listen to? How do you know they are qualified? Run your business like a meritocracy.
People in your organization have to keep learning new things so that you can continue to optimize your business using new tools (mostly software). Leadership’s job is to deliver the “have to” part of the learning equation.
2019 ushered in new levels of interest in improving and automating workflows, but the level of actual implementation was not as high as we would have hoped to see by now. This article explores some of the barriers to workflow automation and offers insight on overcoming them.
What do you provide for your sales team to get the upper hand in the marketplace? Do you have differentiation? Are you investing in something that will not only win new customers but keep existing ones?
A customer narrative documents the experience of doing business with you—from the sales process all the way through invoicing—from the customer’s perspective.
How are the players in the print production process like a group of musicians playing on stage? Idealliance CEO Tim Baechle offers advice for filtering out all the noise we are bombarded with and focusing on “playing in time” with others in the supply chain.
Your print sales people need a different perspective when selling web-to-print solutions. They need to understand short vs long term benefits as well as how the customer’s convenience is driving loyalty.
The merger of software technology stacks and strategy is a key component to any two businesses coming together. It takes time, effort, and patience as technology is uniquely embedded in a business. Be strategic about what you address and when you address it. Not everything should change right away.
Software feels malleable. New features come out. Trade shows are packed full of vendors showing the bright new thing that might lure you into the sales process. Complex software (Print MIS) does not change fast (because it shouldn’t), and the sooner you realize that changing your business is a better strategy, the faster you’ll get to the ROI and business differentiation that a Print MIS can deliver.
The number one thing we hear when we engage with a printer who is having trouble with their print software (Print MIS, Web-to-Print, or Pre-Press automation) is “we didn’t get trained.” Ironically, more training is rarely the solution to this common complaint.
You have a bias for what solutions work; that bias is based on what has worked for you in the past. If you’re a print business owner, buying new stuff feels like a solid way to solve challenges of hiring new employees. Solving print software challenges requires expertise in print software.
We live in a connected world. The artifacts (documents, spreadsheets, etc.) we create for business should be stored centrally with controlled access in the cloud. Isolated artifacts on employees’ computers slow projects down and make research into past projects nearly impossible.
Getting the return on investment for print software takes a lot more work by the people at the printer than you are led to believe in the software sales process.
The dream of an online business that delivers profitable revenue from strangers is a good dream to have. It simply takes a lot of work to be successful at it. I have seen too many printers spend too much time focusing on the software and forgetting that internet traffic is not free or easy to get.
Building good software requires a very desirable skill set in our current economy. Virtually every single company on the planet needs to utilize software in order to increase their efficiency and reach more customers.
Getting outside perspectives into your print business is important, especially when implementing a Print MIS or other print software. You want people who see a wide variety of print businesses to weigh in on best practices.
The best way to look at MIS/ERP systems is holistically, in the context of the bigger picture of managing your business as a whole. Just as you should have a production workflow system, ultimately an MIS system is a workflow system for your business operations.
Ryerson University has just published a detailed study of expanded gamut printing, based on a series of extensive tests using commercial color management systems to process and print test forms containing PANTONE spot colors. The author of the study, Dr. Abhay Sharma, presents some of the top-level findings and conclusions.
Define the challenge you're trying to solve before you jump into a shortcut that borrows from another feature in your Print MIS or web-to-print. If you borrow too much, you’re implementation of the software will get detached from the vendor’s product roadmap—which can be expensive and painful.
The value in the print industry today is migrating from the production floor to the mobile device of your customers. How are you investing in providing your customer access to your business from their phone?
Print software is a pile of features that solve business process challenges. You have to learn how to prioritize what’s the next most important feature in the software by comparing its impact against all the other features.
Don’t let a feature stop you from implementing what works for you today. Don’t let the people in your organization that are good at looking for all the ways something won’t work win. Implement what works and then find ways around the missing features. Waiting is keeping your business in neutral.
Print software gets thrown out by printers primarily because of factors that are 100% in the printer’s control.
Your print business has two kinds of challenges: the challenge of getting jobs out the door (tactical) and the business of continuing to strategically evolve so you maintain relevance and competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Learning is the most important part of software procurement decisions. The vendor needs to learn about you (to assess if you are a good fit for their solution) and you need to learn about the vendor. An RFP doesn’t facilitate any learning.
A learning event vs. a selling event—that is the event the print industry needs. An event where you go to solve your challenges through active collaboration, open-minded because nobody is trying to sell you anything.
Internal communication deserves better tools than email. Real collaboration happens best when more, not fewer, people are involved. Taking internal communication out of email reduces the cognitive overhead of deciding whom to communicate with.
Your print sales team has to evolve to understand and be able to sell the value of the software that enables print demand from business processes. Every printer should have a direct revenue line for their software.
The level of trust you have in the data in your Print MIS impacts all aspects of your business. When printers get their Print MIS to be “trustworthy,” they can move a whole lot faster, with less labor costs, and be more responsive to the never-ending request for more data from all stakeholders in your business.
Everyday, most of us choose the most important thing to work on. The employees in the carpeted area of your print business are making these decisions everyday. Do you know what they are prioritizing? Do you know how they are spending their time? You should measure time just like you measure revenues, profits, and costs.
Being strategic about print software is nearly impossible when you are in a crisis. Too many print software decisions are made under duress. When you have the discipline to plan before the crisis, you are being strategic.
Jennifer Matt reviews Slingshot by Avanti, and feels that its integrated warehouse management, multiple approaches to scheduling, and approach to implementation are its core strengths.
The toolset for solving business workflow challenges has completely changed in the last decade. If the only tool(s) you’re deploying are email, spreadsheets, and/or PDFs, you are using yesterday’s tools to solve today’s challenges.
If today’s online storefronts and web-to-print workflows don’t look anything like they used to, there’s a reason. The software has advanced leaps and bounds from where it was even a few years ago. This interview with founder and CEO of Amazing Print Tech Slava Apel reflects how the technology is changing...and how it is changing those who use it.
All print business owners want more data about their businesses so they can make better decisions. It isn’t about reporting packages or business intelligence tools—it’s really about how your business generates data on a daily basis.
I wish all customers’ top priority was purchasing high-quality print; it isn’t. Your customer’s have upstream problems. The printers who go upstream and solve these problems will be rewarded as manufacturers downstream.
Learning is the experience of trying to do something without parental supervision. It is not watching a trainer do something and shaking your head that you understand. Holding your people accountable for learning activities is the most important part of improving user adoption of new tools in your print business.
Your print business is rich with patterns. By looking at patterns we can find ways to codify those patterns into processes that make us more efficient. You need real human processing for your business—free this up by taking the recurring stuff off their plates.
Automation starts with an understanding of the business process and how it’s done “manually.” Documenting this business process is called a “standard operating procedure” which is where you can begin your journey to some level of automation.
The first platforms appeared over four years ago and have steadily increased their performance, functionality, and partnerships over time. This article explores the characteristics of true print workflow platforms and discusses how platforms can benefit print production.
Your customers want convenience. Printers who prioritize around making it easy to do business with their customers will differentiate themselves. Don’t wait until your best customers demand online ordering and self-service access to the business they do with you—do it proactively and strategically instead of under duress.
Software is like a press; it needs to be staffed. Software is like a press; it needs to be maintained. Software is like your business; it needs to keep evolving. Your most important piece of software is your Print MIS—dedicate the tasks of your Print MIS to one individual.
New software tools are often rejected because the humans feel like their jobs are being replaced by computers. Software does math better, faster, and more accurately than humans—that is not debatable. But new tools augment brainpower—not replace it.
Your print business is being invaded by software tools. These tools require a level of thinking/concentration that requires blocks of uninterrupted time for your employees. Without this uninterrupted time, your software will remain grossly underutilized and lacking measurable ROI.
Think of your go-live date for your Print MIS as a flood. Prepare for it by training everyone how to create sandbags and then monitoring that everyone actually applied the learning and figured out how to do their jobs in the new system BEFORE go-live.
Although printers acknowledge that dealing with a high number of small jobs is a major workflow bottleneck, many have not automated their processes. This article offers some quick tips for getting started with automating processes to aid employees and benefit customers.
User conferences are a great way to change your perspective and get a break from your day-to-day activities. The learning happens when you engage with both the presenters and the participants.
When buying and implementing print software, start with the simple jobs software does well, implement and learn. Do not get stuck in a myriad of “use case exceptions” as an excuse to do nothing. You will never get ROI and you’ll never find software that can do everything.
A lot of crazy things can happen in estimating departments. But estimating is the foundation of your print business. If your estimates are grossly inaccurate, you risk the utilization of your precious resources for the privilege of losing money. If your estimates are right on target, you are able to make very strategic decisions about customer pricing. Essentially, the estimating department is your profit management center.
Leading by example is the most powerful way to approach challenging business environments. When the leadership is engaged in constant learning, the culture of the company is much more likely to be a learning organization. If I could pick only one characteristic of a business, it would be learning because if you’re learning, you’re staying relevant against any future changes.
Technical people are a differentiator in your business—not just the typical geeks, but technical people at every position in your company. When your print business is staffed by technical people, they have a greater potential to deliver profitable growth.
Integrated software is a requirement for an end-to-end workflow. You will be faced with lots of decisions around integration when you’re purchasing new software tools. Never let integration to be a yes/no question—it requires much more exploration and understanding.
Software implementations evoke fear in the minds of your employees—these fears are manifested in a variety of ways. You should be looking for fear, not reacting to the symptoms of fear that cause all kinds of issues with print software implementations.
Your customers expect more than a “print order taker” print sales representative. Successful printers require a sales team that can dig in and learn about their customer’s business processes that involve print. When you understand the business process that print is involved in, you get the opportunity to solve other challenges and create more value for your customers. This is now an expectation of most customers.
The topic of Print MIS software can be a dangerous topic to bring up if you want to keep things low-key or drama-free. Most printers are really frustrated with their MIS. I’ve been working on customer-facing technology (web-to-print) my whole career—the Print MIS is by far the most important software tool you have in your business.
Software is never done. It has to keep moving to stay compatible. It operates in business processes that keep changing. The consumer expectation of how fast and easy software can change is being set by some of the most valuable companies on the planet.
What are you investing in that will result in the true differentiation of your print business? An important question in a market where many commercial printers look alike (same equipment, same sales approach, similar online tools). I think differentiation is about solving additional customer challenges that your competitors don't even know about.
Your Print MIS should be your trusted system of record for your business; the estimating module is the most critical component of your Print MIS. When you implement estimating brilliantly, it provides you a healthy daily dose of ROI forever.
Once you make a print software decision, you have to enforce it by communicating the strategy clearly and then repeatedly. Your people will forget, your business will evolve, sales people will appear from other solutions trying to convince your team of a different path.
If you make decisions about your business based solely on the intuition of you and your staff, you are limiting the growth and the scale of business learning that can take place in your organization.
Although the industry has not yet hit a “flash point” that would result in the significant growth of cloud-based software solutions, there are indications that this spark may not be far away. This article explores the growth potential and lingering challenges associated with cloud software.
Your web-to-print solution is underutilized. Do all functional areas of your company—sales, customer service, technology—understand all the challenges your current web-to-print system solves? Probably not. You can’t be “solution focused” without understanding the challenges your toolset solves.
A print business that learns is one that has a foundation for tracking its business processes and improving on them. From a cultural standpoint, a learning organization has to be able to talk openly about mistakes made from all levels of the organization.
The implementation of print software is as important as the software itself. With every software tool there is a foundational knowledge that will help you be more self-sufficient. Those printers who understand their software tools succeed in spite of lack of support from print software vendors.
In the printing industry, production dashboards provide critical and timely information for owners, managers, and operators so they can control the production chaos. This article provides a brief overview of available production dashboards and explores how they can simplify the production process.
The ability to make data-driven decisions is critical to your business success. The various software systems (Print MIS, web-to-print) are your primary tools for managing this data. When you do integrations make sure you keep the control of right data in the right hands.
Jennifer Matt reviews printQ by CloudLab and its modular approach to web-to-print.
The process of getting your Print MIS into a “trusted state” can be difficult, but the effort is well worth it. Printers who 100% trust the data in their Print MIS move faster and are more profitable than those who are constantly questioning the data.
Print software is a powerful tool to create efficiencies in your business. Your success with print software is dependent upon how well you can make the various technologies work and play together in your overall technology stack.
Buying more software isn’t always the best option. Duplicate solutions that solve the same set of challenges (e.g. multiple web-to-print solutions) have extra costs and require extra understanding by your sales team. Buying software should be at the same strategic level as buying presses is in your print business.
Working smarter is an evolution. Digital tools are providing us ways to work more efficiently, but it comes down to being able to work with other humans. Efficient communication is the key to working smarter and optimizing the digital tools at our disposal.
When sales become more complicated, involving more people on both sides of the equation, you need a team player to facilitate collaboration. A winning sales team is a combination of subject matter expertise and relationship building.
A disruptive market creates the conditions for acquisitions. This has been happening with printers for years and print software vendors are experiencing the same conditions. As a customer of these products, you must understand the conditions of the acquisition in order to prepare for how it will impact you as a customer of the software.
When you invest in software for your print business, it’s like a marriage because you want to have a healthy long-term relationship with the vendor. Changing software is painful and expensive (like divorces).
The recent acquisition of print automation software provider Aleyant by Canada’s Volaris Group raised some eyebrows in the industry. Who is the Volaris Group? What strategy are they pursuing relative to the printing industry? And what does this acquisition mean for Aleyant? These were questions Senior Editor Cary Sherburne investigated.
You work with a team. It’s time to upgrade the tools you use to foster more efficient teamwork and better management of the artifacts that are created in projects. Email with attached files doesn’t cut it anymore. We are creating an isolated mess of artifacts that cannot be effectively found or used in the next project.
Adobe announced Adobe PDF Print Engine 5, their core technology used by many Digital Front Ends driving print production equipment. This release makes PDF 2.0 print-related features available for OEM implementation.
A culture of finding ways to optimize software in your business is something you can control. The successful printers will be the ones who are getting the most of their print software tools—mostly by being open to evolving their own workflows to fit the how the software works best.
The source of our innovation is moving from the production floor to the customer’s mobile device. We are going from the differentiation based on speed, quality, and finishing to differentiation based on solving customer’s data challenges way upstream of the printing press.
Sales is about catering your company’s solutions to the specific challenges that are relevant to their current situation. There is no better way to lose a prospect’s attention then to talk about subjects that aren’t relevant to them.
The transition between sales and implementation of web-to-print systems can be a rough road for the implementation team and the customer. The leadership of the implementation belongs with the printer—all too often the customers take the leadership and run the project off a cliff after spending lots of time and money.
Do your innovation projects take into consideration what would be best for your customers? Your customers want to know that you’re innovating to solve their challenges.
When you lose a sales deal, how does your company react? Do you have a culture of learning from losses or do you have a culture of blaming? A sales loss is a treasure trove of learning—successful companies evaluate and adjust for their next pitch.
Prepress automation, streamlining your customer service department, and reducing the time between inquiry and jobs getting on press – these are common feature requests for web-to-print systems. They are all about you (the printer) – web-to-print isn’t about you! Web-to-print is for your customers!
Every industry is being transformed by a new staffing option for the “jobs to be done” and that staffing option is software. Your business needs to get stuff done—some of that stuff needs to be done by humans and a lot of that stuff needs to be done by software.
Managing color in today’s ever-changing environment has long been a challenge for printers. No two scanners, monitors, or printers will reproduce colors identically, making it necessary to implement specialized color management systems to achieve an exact match across devices. This article explores some of the options that are available for printers.
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.
Smaller print shops face many of the same challenges as larger shops, so the need for a single system of record to manage the business is just as critical. Until recently, the only solution was purchasing an expensive print MIS with integration capabilities and pay for professional services to set up the connectivity to the other software solutions. This article explores how things are beginning to change for the better for small print shops.
There is a conflux of pressures on businesses today: increase speed, personalize products, respond to the market faster, localize the messaging, and do all this with less people on a tighter budget. Read on for tips on how to cope with these challenges.
Our important customers get our attention and our dedicated resources. What happens when customers prefer online tools over dedicated resources? Read on to find out.
A print software application can do certain jobs for your business. Once you’ve proven it works, don’t forget to execute. Deploy the software so it does that job across your entire organization. Read on to find out how.
The meeting is a tool that should be used sparingly. It is expensive. It is for a specific purpose (alignment, understanding, status check-in, etc.). It is overused and the art of running a good meeting is underrated.
Henrik Christiansen of Graphic Robotics writes about the real meaning of productivity and efficiency in the print production process. This two-part article will address the quantitative side of automation in print.
When new software is implemented in your native environment – that’s when the real learning happens. Everything prior to that point was theoretical. Take this time to learn how this software uniquely meets the needs of your business.
Your sales team must do more than sell. They must be good learners (that means less talking, more listening, and more curiosity about how they can help their customers). Your customer’s time is valuable. When they give you their time they are voting on your value.
Your business toolset is changing; software is becoming one of the most important tools for managing, growing, and innovating your business. At Dscoop next week, we are conducting a Print Software Bootcamp to help Dscoop Members learn more about the Print Software toolset.
The most precious thing you spend every day is your customer’s time. Treat it with the respect it deserves or it could be the reason you are replaced.
The definition of a successful printer is changing with the times. The updated definition is forcing printers to solve more than a manufacturing challenge. For printers who refuse to move out of their comfort zone; price will be the primary subject of conversation in every sale.
What is the difference between reactive and proactive customer service? The former waits until the customer has a problem and then makes contact. The latter strives to keep those problems from happening in the first place. Rather than wait for customers to complain, why don’t print software vendors proactively publish helpful best practices to their existing customers on a regular basis?
This software won’t work for our print business—a conclusion that can be the result of weeks', months', even years’ worth of time and money. Nobody wins in this outcome. Yet, it is an all to common result of failed software implementations.
What can your customers do without your parental supervision? Your customer wants to be empowered to interact with your business online. Can they?
A Print MIS transition requires an individual inside your organization to convince all aspects of the business to embrace change. The right leader is a critical decision in making a Print MIS transition less painful.
A business is a set of processes that are done over and over, do you have those processes written down? Do you review them? How often do make mistakes due to a human error that just involves “I forgot”? Process improvement starts with defining the process, adhering to them, and then constantly learning and adapting the process to the smarter you.
Technical resources are hard to find. Keeping up with technology requires constant learning. When looking for technical staff; probe for the candidates willingness and ability to learn new things - it is an absolute requirement.
Every industry has different roles, in the software industry there is a role called the “Product Owner” also referred to as the “Product Manager”. First, I’ll explain this unique role in the software industry; then I’ll make a case that as print continues to evolve and become more digitally friendly and software dependent printers are going to have to have this role in their organizations.
What makes your print business unique? This is a question every print business should ponder over the new year. In 2018 how will you guide your company to create differentiation? Will it be based on the past or the reality of our shared future?
Print MIS implementations are complex, they touch every corner of your business. It is critical that you actively looks for ways to simplify the project in order to increase your chances of success.
I’ve been interacting with a lot of customers of web-to-print lately (the people who order from web-to-print, not the printers). In every single interaction I learn something new.
Creating results in your company takes coordinated effort by a group of people – some would call that a “project”. Project management is the art of keeping all the contributors to the project on task “herding the cats.” This skill set and this role is underappreciated in our industry. When you need to get complex things done with a group of people – you need a project manager to drive the project to successful completion.
When you buy print software for your business, it needs to “fit” into the technology stack you already have. This means that it solves challenges you cannot solve with your existing software and it will fit with the other pieces of your technology.
The Print MIS/ERP system is the foundation to your overall print business technology stack. It is the system that should run your business. 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
The solution sale only works if you’re solving the problems that are most important to the customer. The race to find solutions often results in sales teams wasting tremendous effort solving the wrong customer challenges. When you first agree on the challenges and their importance to the customer – solution selling works.
Purchasing new software is exciting; it’s full of potential, the vendors invest a lot in making the sales process enjoyable. This influences our reaction to when our existing technology gets hard or frustration – it can feel easier to quit and buy a different platform thinking that will solve all our challenges.
We are biased towards solutions when the most valuable thing we can do it clearly define the problem first. The tech startup world calls this innovator bias (falling in love with solutions) – there are always many ways to solve something, the more time you spend understanding the problem, the better chances of getting to the optimal solution.
There is no magic innovation button, there is a boring execution button that can differentiate your business. Consistent execution on complex tasks is a path to profitability – checklists are a key tool to help you get there.
There is an educational gap in the print industry, our industry events are still centered around buying and selling equipment rather than preparing printers to compete in the internet age.
Everyone is talking about workflow automation; this article is about our attachment to artifacts of common print workflows. We have failed to upgrade our thinking beyond the “page” metaphor for sharing information and gaining agreement.
Are you interrupting a lot of people to find the few who are in need of your products and services? Or are you working very hard to be found by the customers that are actively seeking out your services?
What can your customers do online with your print business? How easy is it for your customers to do business with you? Are you asking your customers to use their precious time because your ordering process is inefficient and not available online?
Print is an artifact of a business process/workflow. You should get very curious about the overall workflow so that you can provide more value than just the print. This is the path to embedding your services with a customer and increasing the areas where you can add value.
People buy workflows; therefore sales is a discovery process that reveals the challenges in their workflows that you might be in a position to solve. You have to ask more question and make fewer assumptions.
We train on presses, we engage with the press vendors. We make sure operators are competent – why don’t we do the same for software solutions (especially Print MIS, production workflow, and web-to-print)?
Successful print companies have always been re-investing in their business to remain competitors. Up until now, that investment centered around production equipment and systems. Technology in the form of software will be a primary differentiator moving forward.
Software is the toolset that enables you to solve the business challenges required to win the print that results from them. Your sales process is going to look like software as the main dish with print as a side dish.
Every person in your business solves challenges every day with the tools they have at their disposal and the tools they are comfortable deploying. There is a rich set of intellectual property buried there which can be retrieved by listening and understanding how humans looks for ways to build trusted systems.
Evaluating software is not a math problem, please don’t count the number of features and award the deal to the highest score. Print software must solve your challenges, in the order of importance to your business.
Too many online order entry tools are discounted because the printer fails to see the value from their customer’s perspective. Don’t let your competitors use your customer experience to replace you.
Every software tool sets out to solve a set of problems, all too often the problem is never defined because the sales process focuses on solutions, benefits, and features. Take the time to understand the problem print software solves and most importantly whether you have that problem!
Your print business runs on software, more and more of that software is being delivered via the cloud where resources can be precisely controlled and scaling (both up and down) is configurable in real-time. Kodak’s flagship workflow product – PRINERGY Workflow is no exception to taking advantage of what cloud computing can do to a printer’s production workflow.
Buy, implement, build – software is part of your everyday business life now. It is the primary tool of all businesses.
Making good software is like building a nice home, it takes multiple resources who are coordinated to deliver on your needs. The more a printer understands the software process, the better they will be at managing it for internal projects or influencing the software roadmap of their vendors.
We want to be efficient, we want to feel smart. When we hear even the first words of a challenge, we categorize it and start trying to solve it based on our available tool set. This prevents you from a real understanding of the problem.
People don’t like change, they need to be led through change because the transition between “how you’ve always done it” and the “new more tech-focused way to do it” can be a river of misery.
Change management is considered a soft skill (maybe because it can’t be measured easily in a spreadsheet). Change management can cause a lot of hard problems with technology change when it ignored.
A print software strategy is a definition of where you want to end up – an objective, a goal for how you want all the software components in your business to work together.
There is no “one software package” that runs your entire business. Businesses of all sizes have a technology stack (a collection of software). How well your technology stack fits together (like a beautiful puzzle) greatly determines your success in today’s market.
Clear communication is essential when implementing print software. When you don’t ask clarifying questions, you assume that if there were more relevant details about the integration they would have shared them with you. Do not assume. Ask clarifying questions. Be that annoying person who keeps asking questions.
We apply tools from our toolset to solve business challenges, often those tools create silos of data and processes inside our company that prevent us from becoming a truly data-driven organization.
I wish you could just buy the right print software product and it would make you successful. You can’t. Success with software takes your execution. Software doesn’t implement itself, vendors can’t implement it without your active involvement.
You can call it change management, I prefer the wise words of Seth Godin – change requires you to embrace stupid. Our market requires all of us to keep learning, “the pre-learning state is stupidity.”
Selling print online requires knowledge of how to both accept artwork and deliver print assets to the manufacturing facility. Generic ecommerce firms don’t understand this which can cause printers to spend their time and money educating resources about what makes print ecommerce unique.
Mistakes are part of our lives and our businesses. Nobody likes to make them, how you react to your mistakes dictates what kind of business culture you’ll create. Software changes are an excellent environment to create a learning culture and avoid a fear based culture.
Step back and regroup. Stop looking at features and focus on the overall business objectives of your software solutions. All of us (vendors and printers) need to get out of the feature focus so we can make better software decisions AND make the software we have work better for us in spite of the lacking features.
When both parties in the print software sales process make assumptions, poor decisions are made. Money is wasted. Time is squandered. Replace assumptions with clarifying questions so you come to a common understanding of the truth.
User conferences are an incredible opportunity to load up on learning from the speakers, the vendors, and most importantly your peers. With Dscoop next week, this article covers the importance of the well-formed, thought out questions that can help you get the most out of events by preparing and focusing on your learning goals before you arrive!
Retiring software solutions can be overwhelming. Continuing to pay maintenance on legacy software solutions is maddening. Start the process of transition by setting a realistic date – draw the line in the sand, rally your troops around what it takes to get from where you are today to throwing a retirement party for your legacy software.
Your print software strategy is your responsibility. It requires strategic thinking to both define the challenges and the results you want to create (vision). Don’t make the common mistakes with your print software strategy.
There are two major workflows that a job travels through in your print business. The production workflow which results in a printed product and the business workflow which results in an accurate invoice. The job must travel through both workflows; often in parallel and frequently requires some collaboration and/or communication between the workflows to reach both desired results - high-quality print product(s) delivered on-time and an error free invoice.
Your business should be run by your print software systems; your people should run the systems. These print software systems require attention for both short-term initiatives and long-term strategy.
Finding a niche for your print business (a target market with specific pain points) is not about aiming small, it’s about FOCUS and EXECUTION to build a repeatable product offering and to dive deeper into learning about your customer’s problems.
User group meetings create a space for you to find peers for collaboration. Use these meetings to find your people. Do not proceed in these disruptive market conditions on your own! I invite you to attend the sessions. For those of you who are not planning to attend, I want to provide you with some of the key learnings that will be delivered.
When people get frustrated with software, they are looking for an easy answer to get closure. One of the most common reactions to web-to-print frustration is to shop for a different solution. Before you start shopping, take a long hard look at your investment in really learning the web-to-print solution you already have.
Implementing a Print MIS is challenging, it requires a focus on end results without an attachment to “the way things have always been done”, persistence, and adaptability. Look for these personality traits in the people you assign to lead your Print MIS implementation.
As software takes on a larger and larger role in your print business, your technical leader plays a greater role in all aspects of your business performance. With the right internal technical leader, software can deliver almost everything that was promised in the demo! Without the right technical leader, you’re going to feel like your software investment was a complete waste of money.
Aleyant PrintJobManager™ is a cloud-based entry into the Print MIS market. Most printers will recognize Aleyant as the maker of the popular Aleyant Pressero™ web-to-print solution. Aleyant is entering the Print MIS market with a stand-alone solution PrintJobManage
Your web-to-print needs to solve two core challenges, the challenge of e-commerce and the unique challenge of selling print online. Design ‘N’ Buy took a different strategy for getting to market with a print-enabled e-commerce solution. They left the e-commerce part to the open-source community by proactively integrating with the most popular open source e-commerce platforms.
Scaling your print business requires the removal of bottlenecks from order inquiry to accurate invoice payment. Your Print MIS is the system of record that can drive you to a more efficient business and enable you to scale.
The most important thing you can do to thrive during times of disruption is to learn more about your customer’s problems. What you solved for customers in the past might not be relevant in the future, what you can solve in the future will reinvent may reinvent your business.
Mistakes get made during the print software sales process because there is a lack of common understanding, a pressure on the vendor to say yes to every challenge presented, and a tendency to focus on solutions rather than the problems.
When you buy and sell software by the pound (# of features), you get distracted as a buyer as to what business challenge is actually most important to solve. As a vendor when you build software by the pound you keep adding without going back and refining the core features of your solution.
Implementing Print MIS software is an undertaking that touches every corner of your business. The belief system you go into this process with determines your success more than any other factor.
Inevitably, Cimpress (parent company of VistaPrint) is expanding beyond its roots with the micro business and the business card product. Pixartprinting, a 2014 Cimpress acquisition, targets the creative professional with a 100% upload-and-print model supporting an ever growing collection of product workflows.
Coding is one aspect of software. Making great software takes a team of well-coordinated resources. When we oversimplify software to just a coding event, we get unexpected results
Web-to-Print isn’t for the printer; it is a self-service option for your customers so that ordering from you is more convenient. Customer preference is strongly in favor of self-service options for virtually all business processes, print is no exception.
Going to live industry events is a great opportunity on many levels – get out of working in your business and focus on working on your business. Building relationships with peers and vendors is critical to your future success, live events are where these relationships are cemented.
Printers get frustrated with complex software solutions, this frustration often results in the purchase of additional complex software solutions. Don’t rush to buy your way out of the challenge – it might be more effective to learn your way out of it by doubling down on your commitment to the software you already have.
Customers come to printers to solve communication challenges. Transactional customers get their specific challenges solved. Transaction print is a tough business these days. Printers who inquire about and look to solve bigger picture challenges develop partners with their customers, moving above the transactional level.
The recent move by the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT), to ask for a raise is leading by example for women of all ages. Their performance from top to bottom has been exemplary, on and off the field, and for them, this would be a performance-based raise. As it turns out, simply “asking” requires the courage to work against how we’ve been socialized to behave as females.
Web-to-Print software is sold to printing companies. Yet, the primary users of web-to-print solutions are a printing company's customers. This situation is the cause of many issues with the success of web-to-print programs. We have three perspectives at work (only one really matters).
The biggest mistake in software decisions is relegating the discussion down to the feature level. The feature is a potential solution to an often ill-defined problem which may or may not be relevant to your business.
If sales isn’t involved, your business-to-business (B2B) web-to-print project is going to fail. Web-to-print projects aren’t about features (solutions), they are all about solving the right customer challenges.
User experience is the product. 1,000 features does not necessarily equate to a valuable product. When features are embedded into a confusing an cumbersome user experience – they don’t get adopted.
A Product Workflow is a term I use in web-to-print projects; it defines the different offerings you enable online through self-service user interface. Defining terms is critically important to any project, product workflows is one of the key terms to every web-to-print project.
Print is a communication challenge solution. Typically, the printed product is but one part of a much larger challenge. When your sales people learn to take their “print googles” off and uncover the bigger picture challenge, they embed your company deeper into your customer’s business process and ultimately uncover more opportunities for printed products.
As production inkjet continues to expand its horizons, it can be a challenge for inkjet press manufacturers to have all of the skills internally to take their products to the next level. Global Graphics’ announcement of their Fundamentals service for manufacturers of inkjet presses can help manufacturers overcome some of those hurdles.
Communication is the primary thing we all do for work. This article outlines some of my favorite tools for communicating, tracking how we use our time, capturing our ideas, organizing projects, and improving remote meetings.
The temptation is to roll up your sleeves and work in your business. The only job that you can’t delegate to anyone on your staff is working on the business (future plans, strategy, diversification).
Your print business website should be a living, engaging, and a results delivering part of your business growth plan. For business-to-business printers, this means delivering qualified leads to your sales team.
Growing your business is more about marketing than it is about hiring more sales people today. The sales cycle is moving online where good marketing programs can nurture prospects from initial inquiry to paying customer.
The print industry’s technology is too closed, too proprietary, making it overly difficult for print businesses (the entities that make this whole ecosystem work) to access, use, distribute, and learn from the data their business’ generate every day. If we keep at this, we will choke off the only thing that matters (growing print businesses).
Your customers don’t want to be trained, your customers want you to make them look good in front of their boss, get them promoted, and generally make their lives easier. Don’t try and educate your customers, sell them on what’s in it for them if they adjust their behaviors (e.g. use your web-to-print system, submit print-ready PDF files, etc.)
One workflow for all job types results in wasted labor, unrealized profits, and slower turnaround times. The modern print business has to drive automation by creating different routes for different job types. The approach has to be strategic, because automation in one area can create congestion in another.
Web-to-print is a strategic initiative that creates two service level paths through your organization; self-service and full-service. Your leadership is the key ingredient required for success.
As we move more business online, utilize digital communication channels, and look to diversify – our print business marketing becomes more critical to our overall business success.
At Dscoop this year, we will be presenting a series of Tech Talks in the Dscoop Collaboration Station on the show floor. We are all on a steep learning curve when it comes to technology. Join us to get a dose of technology education across a wide range of topics. Bring your technology leaders to Dscoop; their importance to your business is growing!
Your web-to-print initiatives should be focused on the “jobs-to-be-done” for your customers. What can the customer “hire” your web-to-print system to do for them? Web-to-print ROI comes from a 100% focus from your customer’s perspective.
Customers ask for a lot, they want us to service them but they also need us to apply our expertise to their challenges. The customer can and should be challenged based on your expertise.
This product spotlight focuses on three areas that we see as the most powerful and differentiating features of Pace; PaceStation, Pace Customization Modules, and Pace Item Templates. The unifying concept with all three of these features is that they allow a printer to “configure” Pace to work for their unique business requirements.
Business meetings can be horribly ineffective, yet with a set of small hacks you can unleash the productivity and innovation your company desperately needs. Here’s the good news, all you need is some Post-It Notes and a phone.
As technology continues to change at a rapid rate, collaboration needs to extend into the functional areas of your business. Don’t stop at creating a peer group for print owners, encourage your accounting lead to get into a peer group, each functional area should have multiple sources of knowledge sharing.
In studying the Propago product, a consistent theme reverberated throughout the product; this product was built based on real-time feedback from live users in a large scale deployment. The approach to solving the business challenges of web-to-print are rooted in data-driven decisions rather than theoretical solutions to ill-defined challenges. Propago came out of a large commercial printing organization that consisted of twenty-five companies across the nation.
It’s time to stop talking about what we should become (marketing services providers) and actually take the steps that move us in that direction. Think through a go-to-market strategy for offering digital products, execute on that plan on your print business’ marketing, enable your sales team, and start diversifying your revenue streams for the digital age.
In Print MIS implementations, your business data entered into the Print MIS database structure creates the data model of your business. Your attention to detail at this critical juncture of Print MIS implementations can set you up for success.
Cimpress (parent company of VistaPrint) is expanding into the core of the print market; “upload-and-print”. They are buying demand generators and no doubt investing in user experiences that will enable self-service online purchasing of print for the largest segment of the print industry (manufacturing of the customer’s design/file).
Last week I attended Singularity University’s Executive Program in Silicon Valley. The best way to describe what happened to me after a week of hearing some of the brightest people in tech talk about the future is that they dramatically changed my perspective. Come to find out, I had a very narrow lens through which I viewed the world; they replaced it with a wide angle lens that goes beyond our planet and looks far into the future.
Rather than face the reality that all print businesses need to evolve, many print owners default to staying “busy” running the business the way it’s been run for years. Don’t be tempted to “numb yourself” by keeping busy, the market conditions are indisputable, the past performance of your print business is not indicative of future results. We are operating in a different reality with very compelling digital alternatives to print communication.
Most printers are business to business (B2B), they do business with other businesses that they have a working relationship with. Business-to-consumer (B2C) is the term used for online businesses that serve anyone who shows up on the website (not necessarily just consumers). As printers consider B2C, they need to understand what it takes to build a successful online business.
Integration projects span a wide spectrum, from cheap and easy to complex and very expensive. Focus all your attention about print software integration from one place – your business objectives.
Your Print MIS or Print ERP is the most important print software in your business. The process for purchasing a Print MIS is dysfunctional; avoid these five common mistakes in your Print MIS sales process.
Web-to-print is a critical piece of your online presence. The ability for your customers to easily transact with you online is no longer a differentiator, it’s an expectation.
This pace of change is outrunning your print business’ technology decisions. A web-to-print platform decision you made two years ago could be completely out of date with the mobile-first world we live in today. Your aging ERP/Print MIS system has no way of understanding a product that exits your building via an Ethernet cable rather than a shipping truck.
All printers should be thinking about “workflow automation” as a strategic initiative; produce more with less labor, less waste, in less time as a way to remain competitive. Time savings should be strategically invested in diversification, new skills acquisition, and cross-training.
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?”
A sales focus is external. A production focus is internal. A sales focused print business leader is constantly asking the question, “How does this activity/investment improve my customer’s experience or business?” A sales focused print leader escorts the external rate of change into the business at a rate that often makes their employees uncomfortable.
A web-to-print demo is your chance to demonstrate how your print software technology solves the relevant challenges of a specific customer. The key words are “relevant challenges” and “specific customer”. Do your homework so your demonstration addresses what the customer actually cares about.
Print software is eating your budget because software is becoming the tool of choice for industry leaders to create differentiation in the marketplace.
Maintaining and paying for multiple web-to-print solutions is more expensive than you think. Transitioning off legacy systems has positive repercussions for your technical resources and your customers.
The richness of the data your Print MIS can give you can be the stuff you dream about when you wait for your next untimely delivery of manually-produced Excel spreadsheets.
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?
Adobe is taking mobile app creation to a brand-new level with the launch of Adobe Digital Publishing Solution 2015. Senior Editor Cary Sherburne spoke with Adobe’s Bridget Roman and Colin Fleming to learn more.
Launching any new print software technology can feel risky. With the rate of change in both our businesses and software technology, we have to create a culture that is comfortable with launching early and iterating through issues. It is impossible to predict every possible scenario; it is liberating to accept that finding issues post-launch is part of the plan.
Print software is an infrastructure investment in our increasing online and digital economy. Adopting a strategic infrastructure approach to investing in and implementing print software will be a key differentiator for print businesses moving forward.
Yesterday, EFI and FedEx Office announced that FedEx Office is using EFI products for a more cost-effective and streamlined delivery of professional print services. I spoke to Udi Arieli, EFI’s Director, High End Market Business Development, EFI Productivity Software, to get the scoop for this WhatTheyThink exclusive.
Staffing your technology is as important as staffing your presses. The top characteristics for good technical resources: understand the limits of your knowledge, resist making assumptions, and see opportunities rather than roadblocks.
As the online world continues to expand, your prospects and customers can become more educated buyers. Your response to this is to invest in your online presence so that first impressions count.
Software is mission critical to your business, like other infrastructure investments it takes time and effort to make the best decisions, plan to get the most ROI, and continue to build differentiation in the marketplace. Optimizing your print software investments comes with challenges which every printer faces in order to compete in an increasingly online, digital world.
InfoTrends’ research has uncovered some key differences in web-to-print adoption among commercial printers versus corporate in-plants. This article leverages recent research to explore some of the differences in how these two groups use web-to-print technology.
Inbound marketing is the strategy of choice for online marketing, content is the main ingredient to any successful inbound marketing strategy. Your content has to be optimized for two audiences; your target customers and the search engines.
Web-to-print is our term for moving customer engagement online. This represents a big change for most traditional business-to-business printers. This article describes the top five mistakes I see when working with printers through this transition from an offline business to an online / self-service customer interaction model.
When you need a custom software solution, think about assembling a puzzle rather than building from scratch. The software landscape is full of integrate-able pieces that can give you ‘expected’ functionality so you can focus your custom development on what makes you ‘unique’.
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.
Looking backwards won’t help you navigate the uncharted waters of the future. The print businesses of the future will adapt to remain relevant in a digital, online, and data-driven world.
The internet search engines do not like duplicate content; in fact they rank your site lower if you are duplicating content from a site that clearly has the authority to that content.
Your marketing should talk more about your customers than about you. Compelling marketing content is about telling customer success stories to teach and attract more customers who find your content relevant to their current challenges.
This article is a part of a series of articles by David L. Zwang that focuses on the processes and products that can lead to the transformation of your current workflows and business to prepare you for the new challenges ahead. In this article, Zwang looks at the release of PRINERGY 7, in the context of Kodak’s reinvention.
We recently learned that Kodak has hired a new workflow chief. Allan Brown, formerly with HP and Xerox, joined the company as General Manager of its Unified Workflow Solutions business. Read what Brown has to say about workflow and Kodak strategies moving forward.
What’s more costly, opening up a new successful retail location or a new successful online brand/store? The answer is “it depends”. Just because making a new e-commerce site is “cheap” doesn’t take into consideration all the costs of driving traffic and getting conversions.
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.
Self-service is a growing preference among customers, pricing transparency is a feature of our online world, and speed is a growing differentiator in all aspects of our business. arifiQ has focused on a pivotal function of print – estimating/quoting; enabling printers to adapt to the new realities of our increasingly digital, online, and fast-paced business environment.
MarTech – the Marketing Technology Conference took place March 31, 2015 in San Francisco. I attended to see how print is being represented within the modern marketing mix.
You haven’t updated your website in over two years. You don’t remember if you have a LinkedIn page, you thought someone once tweeted something, and you recently had a customer complain about not being able to find you online.
We’ve written a fair amount about digital publishing in this space since we believe it presents a good opportunity for new revenue streams for printing firms – not only for traditional publishing applications but increasingly for sales enablement and other enterprise dissemination of information. Adobe is about to take this to the next level with its summer launch of Adobe Publish.
A data-driven print business starts with a trusted system of record and then as selected meaningful metrics that influence your business decisions and your staff’s daily behavior.
The online channel is in the language of the customer and you have to compete to be found. These fundamental characteristics of this channel should drive your online presence at every level.
Expand your thinking in many directions, beyond the four walls of your manufacturing operations, beyond your business into your customer’s business, and beyond print to the other communication methods that are complimentary to print.
Marketing is about delivering qualified leads to your sales team. The online world has converted marketing into a role that can be precisely measured. Start thinking of marketing as a role with a quote (# of qualified leads delivered), stop thinking of marketing as your brand colors or business card design.
If your focus is all internal, you are missing the broader context of how your products and services are utilized within your customer’s business. Loyal customers are created when you help them achieve their business results, that means engaging with customers in the broader context of their business.
The first impressions of your business will be online. How does your online presence compare to you offline presence? Can prospects understand your business and what you can do for them from your website, your blog, and your social media channels? Your online presence sets up your sales team for success.
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.
Parenting and your print MIS have many characteristics in common. They are both long-term investments that essentially never end. There is great potential combined with great frustration and common stages that you will pass through before feeling any sense of accomplishment – always in retrospect.
Do you approach change as an incremental, keep everyone comfortable manner? Or do you see how much the external conditions have changed while your company has stayed still? Is your print software able to support your current and future business needs?
Let’s get one thing perfectly clear, you DO NOT invest in print software to run your business as it is today. The whole point of software is to enable you to run your business differently - creating more efficiency.
Twenty years ago when we described the function of marketing we would have started with terms like “creative” and “messaging.” Then we would have talked about distribution channels for getting these creative assets and messages out to the target audiences, primarily consisting of print, TV, and radio.
When local businesses moved from “getting found” via the yellow pages to internet search so much changed.
Every business owner has ideas, plans, and a vision for what they want their company to become. There is never a shortage of ideas; there is a severe lack of execution. Good project management can convert more of your ideas to reality through a disciplined execution process that annoys most people involved (especially impatient, attention deficit prone business owners).
The dining experience at fast food restaurants isn’t about the dining experience at all. It’s about the price, the availability, and the consistency no matter where you are in the world. The value proposition is clear, you serve yourself, you’re encouraged to clean up after yourself, and clearly by the comfort of the seats, you aren’t encouraged to linger.
Frustration happens, especially with print software projects like Print MIS and web-to-print. When frustration happens do you flex, adjust, look for a solution or do you stay in that frustrated state? Find evidence of the behavior you want more of and reward that behavior, in your people, in your vendors, in your partners – that will accomplish more than yelling, escalating, and threatening will ever do.
EFI Connect, Dscoop X, AMPS Executive Leadership, NPOA, and PODI, the upcoming industry events where you have an excellent opportunity to connect and collaborate with peers. Do you want to do everything in your power to assure your next print software decision is a good one? Get the whole story from a peer who has already implemented the solution.
The checklist RFP (Request For Proposal) fails to deliver the best purchasing decision. Your peers (the voice of current customers) are your most trusted source of information about how print software products perform in live environments and how print software companies support their customers after the sales process.
The PrintVis MIS solution has a phenomenal product span, meaning the ability to “flex” in both directions, respond to growth and decline. In this Product Spotlight, Jen Matt reviews the PrintVis MIS solution.
Change is viewed as risky because we want to believe that past success guarantees our future success. Your customers are changing, technology is changing, and your competitors are changing, why would you think that maintaining the status quo is anything but the riskiest thing you can do? Standing still is the only way to assure your business’ decline
As our readers will know, we have been following developments with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, both in terms of how it is helping publishers tackle the “dollars to digital dimes” conundrum of digital publishing as well as some interesting views into how enterprises are adopting DPS for sales enablement. Today’s story takes us to Maxim Integrated, a designer and manufacturer of semiconductors, who has benefited from the integration of DPS with Adobe Experience Manager for increased sales power.
The online channel is vital to the future of your print business. The online channel includes all the ways you engage with your customers online. Every new channel you open up with a customer increases the overall loyalty of that customer, creates barriers to entry for your competitors, and has the potential to decrease the customer burden of doing business with you by offering self-service access to your business.
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.
Your people have the power to resist print software technology changes by focusing on the challenges instead of finding solutions. Your job as a leader is to portray technology as a complimentary tool for your people to work more effectively.
Web-to-print technology and the customer facing resources working in print today need to evolve together so we can support online “collaborative commerce”: a procurement process that requires collaboration between the buyer and the seller.
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”.
CoreBridge is a cloud based, multi-tenant software solution whose business model is subscription based. Like pure technology startups, CoreBridge’s pricing model is easy to understand, available on their website, and allows you to start small and grow with CoreBridge through volume and/or functionality.
First impressions of your business matter, especially to new prospects. More and more first impressions are online. How does your online presence compare to your offline one?
Unless you are a large public company who needs to “protect their brand” and produce appropriate messaging for Wall Street (otherwise known as corporate marketing), the primary role of marketing in your organization should be lead generation.
The raw potential of what technology can do for our business is unlimited, like a book a matches there is great possibility. Execution is about determining which match (project, goal, objective) you are going to put your energy into to ignite and then sustain your focus to create real change. Dreaming helps you think big, executing forces you to act within the constraints of your environment (resources, market, customers, and budget).
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
I am involved in a lot of conversations where companies and people are trying to solve a business challenge with software. Communication is so compressed nowadays, people’s time is limited, and we are almost always communicating across multiple time zones and frequently across cultures. This makes a common understanding difficult and opens up lots of opportunity for confusion.
Online search has replaced the Yellow Pages as the primary way local businesses get found. This change requires a very different approach by businesses and a steep learning curve. The online world requires you to compete to be “found” for a lion share of the search traffic. The competition is constantly changing, therefore local businesses need to make a sustained investment.
Change evokes fear in some, excitement in others, and dread in many. What we can all agree on, change is picking up the pace.
Efficiency requires the segmentation of your workflow into at least three different workflows: self-service, light-service, and full-service. Each workflow applies the appropriate amount of labor and technology to deliver on the promise to the customer in the most efficient manner possible.
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.
Change is difficult for most people; everyone travels at their own pace through a process that starts with resistance and for most finishes in acceptance. You can improve your chances of success by communicating a lot in the beginning, providing emotional support in the middle and then becoming more of a coach once people are starting to accept there is really only one option – adapt or leave.
Web-to-Print and Print MIS vendors have always been represented at Graph Expo mostly hidden amongst the presses, wide format devices, and finishing gear. The trend we are seeing is less heavy equipment at the show, hence more room for software solutions to get the air time they deserve.
This product spotlight focuses on three areas of the PageDNA offering: the store building wizard and project management approach to configuring new storefronts, their open approach to integrations, and the flexibility of their services model.
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.
Adapting to the new realities of our digital world is a challenge for all industries. Digital Darwinism impacts all of us because the rate of change in technology and society is outpacing our organizations. Change is inevitable; the pace of change has to accelerate if you’re going to be on the survivor side of Digital Darwinism.
This product spotlight focuses on three areas of the EPMS Print MIS offering: the continuous expansion of Print MIS direct users, the support for an industry that is aggressively diversifying, and the ability to make EPMS work uniquely for your business through customization and integration.
The three top reasons web-to-print projects fail; the lack of business leadership, the sales team fails to sell the solution, and the customer fails to adopt the solution.
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".
We confuse tools for solutions. Print software is a required tool that is part of an overall investment in making your business more productive, profitable, and competitive. The business results come from your vision, your plan, and the deployment of your labor who utilize the tool to deliver the business results you desire.
Lots of Print MIS systems have added CRM modules to their offering. This makes sense, the Print MIS should be your system of record for all the interactions you have with current customers, adding a layer on top of your Print MIS would give you access to all the business the customer transacts with you.
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.
Would you put your Sales department in charge of your next IT project? Heck no! So why do you put your IT department in charge of your web-to-print projects?
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.
Customers expect more from their vendor partners than simply delivering the product on time and at a fair price. As the print industry continues to contract, differentiation is required to remain competitive. Printers are at risk from print-manufacturing independent service providers because customers are looking to reduce the number of vendors and engage with vendor partners who make doing business with them very easy.
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.
Customer preference is trending towards self-service, yet most printers continue to offer only one way to do business with them – a full-service order entry process that involves multiple back and forth communications between customer and printer via e-mail/FTP.
In one of our recent active discussions on the new Print Software section, a WhatTheyThink reader asked “in your support for mobile do you recommend looking for just the sites being "responsive" or applications to be "native" or just plain "compatible", i.e. no Flash?” After my third paragraph response to this question I decided this warranted a full length feature article to describe and comment on the varying degrees of mobile support in web software.
It is so easy in your very busy world to not sit back and take a look in the rearview mirror at how things are going in terms of processes, applications and projects underway in your company. One area where this effort can pay off tremendously is in terms of your Print MIS system. Making a conscious effort to do an annual Print MIS checkup can help keep your system fresh, moving forward and also tune-up any areas that may not be performing as they should.
Print technology of all kinds; presses, production software, Print MIS software, and web-to-print technologies have one thing in common – they are constantly changing. This one factor probably causes the most pain in the purchasing process. As a buyer you want to feel confident with your purchasing decision, yet the very thing you’re investing in is in a constant state of change.
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.
A printer e-mailed me recently and said, “the Vice President of Procurement at our biggest customer is open to a meeting but she wants to know what I can do to save her money.” Of course she does, she’s always wanted her vendors to engage with her in a way that solves her business challenges and makes her look good.
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.
Your sales team creates customer demand for your products and services, your production team fulfills that demand by manufacturing quality printed products on-time. Both your sales team and your production team need to be SOLD on the strategic, long-term importance of creating digital connections to your existing customers and using digital connections to win new customers.
Customers have challenges; the best way to increase your sales is to provide your products and services wrapped into solutions to your customer’s challenges. Solution selling is an easier topic to write about then it is to execute on. Too many people write about the idea without providing guidance on how to get from where you are today (selling print jobs) to selling print programs or solutions.
Last week I was in Bali, Indonesia, speaking at Dscoop Asia. The event, the travel, and the reading I did along the way came together with a common theme which can best be summed up by a quote from the book I read on the way home.
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.
When you are the customer, you’re always right – correct? Maybe not always but the relationship between customer and vendor is a tricky one.
A web-to-print site is all about customer convenience, enabling your customers to order from you in a self-service fashion. One thing to understand about your customers is whether they are ordering or shopping.
There is an assumption that as service provider there are very specific, almost predetermined ways that a workflow to support your business operations should be developed and deployed. However, sometimes, to use a somewhat overused term, you need to think out of the box. In Part 2 of this article we continue to look at some other ways to approach offerings, and workflows.
We think we know our customers, we think we know our market; we think we can predict the future, we can’t and we shouldn’t invest lots of money without building in the ability to test our assumptions with data rather than opinions and theories.
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.
Web-to-Print is a sales and marketing project that happens to involve technology, yet most printers delegate the leadership of web-to-print projects to their technical resources. We are collectively as an industry putting too much emphasis on the technology and not enough emphasis on the sales and marketing aspects.
There are several marriage mistakes that lead to divorce: cheating, dishonesty, addictions, and major changes in priorities. What does this have to do with your print management information system (Print MIS)? I am suggesting that your Print MIS is your most important business partner.
The sales process sets up the critical transition period from lead to customer. Customers remember what was said in the sales process and they often use this to guide their approach to implementation. Don’t inadvertently focus your soon to be customers in the wrong direction.
Activity does not equal results. You can be really busy, work really hard and fail miserable because you were busy doing the wrong thing.
In preparation for this article, David spoke with a wide format print service provider with a portfolio of disparate equipment that implemented the first phase of a production workflow system to automate and optimize some of his processes. The results were quite impressive.
David speaks with a print service provider with a variety of disparate equipment that implemented a business and production workflow system to handle it all, and his only complaint is that he wishes he had done it sooner.
In Part two of this two part article, David looks at some of the current solution offerings that are designed to bring your client’s jobs into your plant to see if and how they are meeting the challenges of today’s service provider.
In Part one of this two part article, David looks at Some history of, and some of the solution types for getting work into your plant.
Technology promises great potential to create leverage in our business. Leverage isn’t created in the purchase of technology; real leverage comes from how the use of the technology changes the behavior of the people who use it.
David looks at how you get the work from your customer into your plant. What does web to print mean to you; and is it the answer to getting work into your plant, or are there multiple answers?
Transitioning your Print MIS system is a mission-critical project and also a great opportunity to re-think your business operations and optimize the functionality of the new system.
David looks at Marketing Campaign process automation. This is a new and interesting area that can help support a Print Service Provider transformation into a Marketing Services Provider business model, and potentially integrate into an automated print production workflow.
When I interview print sales representatives and ask them why their customers do business with them, they almost always say because we have a great relationship, our service is great, and our people are great. Relationship selling is a very common way to sell.
In part two of this article, David looks at new and updated MIS/ERP business management systems that were introduced at Print13 in Chicago.
In this article, David looks at many new production workflows solutions that were introduced at Print13 in Chicago. Due to the sheer volume of new announcements, this is Part One of two articles covering this new product review.
In this article, David looks at cloud-based production management systems, a relatively new concept and product category, what they look like and how they compare to the more conventional workflow management offerings.
We collectively make a lot of poor software decisions, according to my very bias and unscientific research we make way more mistakes in this area than we do with other business decisions. What is it about technology that causes a collective brain freeze when it comes to making good decisions?
A couple weeks ago, a source informed Senior Editor Cary Sherburne that HP was in the process of pulling the plug on its Hiflex MIS and web-to-print offerings. While there has been no official public announcement from HP, this article summarizes what customers are being told and includes an official statement from HP.
In this article, David looks at how the existing solution offerings can be used in disparate workflow systems both inside the plant and bridging client workflow systems
David looks at some of the packaged workflow systems that are now being offered, either with hardware products or as standalone solutions. He will look at them as primary support for a device as well as how they work in the context of a broader plant workflow.
This series of articles by David L. Zwang focuses on the processes and products that can lead to the transformation of your current workflows and business, to prepare you for the new challenges ahead. In this article, David moves the discussion forward, now focusing on ‘workflow systems,’ what that encompasses, and some of the things you need to pay attention to as you review them. All of this done with an eye toward building a flexible platform upon which to grow.
Technology alone does not create value, differentiation, or competitive advantage. It has to be combined with strategy and execution (by your people) – that’s where real differentiation happens.
In this article, David continues the infrastructure discussion, now focusing on the current state of the DFE (Digital Front End, aka RIPs) in the market, covering Digital Print DFEs as well as CTP DFEs, and the beginning of the plant production workflow. All of this done with an eye toward building a flexible platform upon which to grow.
David continues the discussion, now focusing on the production infrastructure by looking at the role of the DFE (Digital Front End, aka RIP), and how that has changed as a result of digital press technology and the changing demands of the marketplace. In keeping with the series theme, he looks at it with an eye toward building a flexible platform upon which to grow.
Web-to-print is a product that should do a “job” for you and/or your customers. When you look at technology purchases through the lens of “jobs” you focus on what’s really important.
In this article, David continues the discussion of the business infrastructure by looking at some of the packaged MIS and ERP systems, and how they are structured, with an eye toward building a flexible platform with which to grow.
Too many mistakes (big ones) are being made in our industry around software purchases at a time when nobody can afford expensive mistakes. Virtually all of these mistakes are preventable.
Industry pundits have long been discussing the value of Web-to-Print. Firms that have developed easy-to-use Web-based services are successful because customers of all sizes are seeking convenience. This article uses data from a recent InfoTrends study to show how Web-to-print has become an essential ingredient when serving the enterprise market.
This new series by David L. Zwang focuses on the processes and products that can lead to the transformation of your current workflows and business, to prepare you for the new challenges ahead. This series runs once a month over the course of the year, with the first article appearing in January 2013. Zwang looks at process transformation and automation, and the steps you need to take to be successful. He will also look at some of the current product offerings and how they are being, or could be, used to help you transform your business and strengthen your customer relationships.
There is no shortage of talk about web-to-print technologies; there is too little talk about printer’s online strategies. Printers can talk for hours about how this or that web technology has failed them or this or that technology is what made all the difference.
In this article, David lays out the key steps necessary to prepare for a successful transformation. While it is important to look toward the final destination goal, without a map delineating the best path to achieve that goal, there are many more pitfalls along the way and unseen problems in the future.
This new series by David L. Zwang focuses on the processes and products that can lead to the transformation of your current workflows and business to prepare you for the new challenges ahead. With this introductory article, David lays out the business drivers and some of the series topics. As the print industry and the marketplace as a whole continue their digital evolution, business process transformation becomes an increasingly critical success factor.