Choosing the right print MIS systems for your business can be a difficult task. Not all print management systems are created equally. Some are capable of handling one style of print manufacturing – whether it be commercial print, wide format, label printing, or flexible packaging – and other systems may be missing some key components that will require you to purchase additional systems to manage your operations fully.
You need to first decide why you need a new print MIS, what functions and capabilities you need, and how these align with your business objectives and operational workflows. Consider the specific challenges and pain points you’re currently facing in your print manufacturing processes. Are you struggling with order processing, job scheduling, inventory management, or communication with clients? Identifying these areas of improvement will guide you in determining the essential features your new print MIS must possess.
Take into account the scalability of the print MIS systems. As your business grows, so will your requirements. A system that can easily adapt and accommodate increased workloads, new product lines, and evolving industry trends is crucial for long-term success. Look for flexibility in customization and integration options that will allow you to tailor the system to fit your unique business needs seamlessly.
Assessing the Need for New Print MIS Systems
Before selecting a new print management information system (MIS), it’s important to take a step back and note the reasons that are driving this decision. Understanding your motivations can influence your choice and lead to a more effective implementation. Here are a few common scenarios that might be driving your search for new print MIS systems:
- Your Current Technology Has Become Obsolete: In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, obsolescence can creep in unexpectedly. Perhaps your existing MIS or ERP system has hit a roadblock, unable to be upgraded, and you find yourself facing compatibility challenges. Instances like the transition away from Windows 7 or the end of support for Microsoft® GP can force companies into reevaluating their technology choices.
- You Have Outgrown Your Old System: As your business flourishes, so do its demands. New customers, diverse product lines, and substantial growth can strain an outdated print MIS. What once sufficed to manage your operations may now feel inadequate, unable to accommodate the complexity and scale of your current endeavors.
- You Have Specialized Needs That Can’t Be Met With Your Current System: Sometimes, the need for a new print MIS is driven by a specific, unmet requirement. You might find yourself in a situation where you need features like a graphical scheduler or lot/serial control, especially when dealing with products intended for food contact. These unique needs can prompt the search for a more tailored solution.
When trying to find the ideal print MIS systems, sit down either individually or as a team and articulate the underlying reasons fueling your search. For those falling under the first category, take this opportunity to envision the potential benefits a new system could bring to your company. Instead of solely focusing on features, think holistically about the overarching needs your business faces. Consider aspects like streamlining estimating processes or diversifying invoicing layouts. Remember to avoid generating feature lists based on your current software’s perceived shortcomings.
Example: Let’s say your current system makes it very hard to purchase. You need to click 10 levels deep to get to screen where you select a material needed on a job.
Evaluating and Prioritizing Your Print MIS Systems Requirements
With your list of identified needs in hand, it’s time to take the next crucial step: scoring and categorizing these needs to determine their priority and budget allocation. This exercise will help you distinguish between the “wish list” and the genuine essentials for your new print management information system (MIS). Imagine you have a budget of $100,000, and allocate a portion of that sum to each need to reflect its significance. This process will guide you in separating the critical from the desirable.
- Assign Budget Allocations: Begin by assigning a portion of your hypothetical $100,000 budget to each identified need. To put it simply, how much would you be willing to invest in each requirement? For instance, if Estimating stands out as a top priority, you might allocate $20,000 towards it. Similarly, if streamlining fulfillment processes follows closely, perhaps earmark $15,000 for that aspect. Proceed to distribute your budget across all your listed needs.
- Categorize by Priority: After allocating budgets, categorize your needs based on their priority. Divide them into high, medium, and low priority tiers. High-priority needs should receive more substantial budget allocations, while low-priority needs may receive a nominal share or even none at all. This exercise empowers you to separate the core functionalities that are indispensable for your operations from the features that would be nice to have but aren’t critical.
- Distinguish Real Needs from Wish List: The purpose of this exercise is to transform your list into a practical roadmap. By associating monetary values with each need, you’ll gain clarity on the most critical components of your new print MIS systems. This approach is advantageous when engaging with potential vendors, as it allows you to communicate your priorities and constraints more effectively. When presenting a categorized list with budget allocations, you can swiftly gauge the feasibility of implementing specific features within your budget constraints.
- Guide Vendor Discussions: When discussing your requirements with potential ERP vendors, this prioritized list will be invaluable. Instead of presenting an extensive wish list that can be overwhelming, you can now provide a focused set of needs with their corresponding budgets. This not only streamlines vendor conversations but also enables them to provide more accurate responses. You can ask, “With a budget of $100,000, how many of these high-priority needs can be addressed?” This level of clarity facilitates efficient vendor evaluation and helps you make an informed decision.
The act of scoring and categorizing your print MIS needs empowers you to navigate through your requirements strategically. By attaching budget allocations and prioritizing your needs, you move beyond a mere wishlist and create a targeted roadmap. This approach streamlines interactions with potential vendors and allows you to make well-informed decisions that align with your budget and business objectives.
Engaging Vendors: Communicating Your Print MIS Systems Needs
With your carefully prioritized list of print management information system (MIS) needs in hand, the next step involves reaching out to a select group of vendors. To streamline this process effectively, follow these steps to ensure fruitful vendor engagement and insightful discussions:
- Craft a Succinct Introduction: Begin your communication by providing a concise introduction to your business. Share essential details, such as your company’s size, existing software solutions, and staff strength. Briefly mention your sales volume as well, as this context will help vendors tailor their responses more accurately to your unique needs.
- Ensure Confidentiality: Request all potential vendors to sign confidentiality agreements before sharing sensitive information about your business processes and requirements. This step safeguards your proprietary data and establishes a foundation of trust for further discussions.
- Present Your Prioritized Needs: Share the list of your prioritized needs with vendors, emphasizing their importance by using a simplified scale of 1 to 5 for priority classification. This approach conveys the significance of each requirement without divulging specific budget allocations. Remember to omit the dollar values assigned during the scoring process.
- Facilitate Comments and Feedback: Include a section for vendors to provide comments or feedback on each need. Encourage vendors to share their insights, potential solutions, and thoughts about addressing your requirements. This interactive element encourages a two-way dialogue and demonstrates the vendors’ understanding of your needs.
- Request Vendor Responses: Explicitly ask vendors to respond to the list of needs you’ve provided. This initiates their engagement and gives them a clear framework to address your specific requirements.
- Vendor Interviews: After receiving responses from the vendors, select a limited number (around 6 or 7) for further consideration. Conduct interviews with these chosen vendors to delve deeper into their proposed solutions. During these interviews, focus on discussing how each vendor plans to handle the needs list you sent.
In these conversations, inquire about their strategies, capabilities, and potential customizations to fulfill your requirements effectively. A robust vendor interview should encompass:
- Solution Approach: Ask vendors to outline their approach to addressing your prioritized needs. How do they plan to integrate these functionalities into their system?
- Customization Options: Discuss the potential for customizing the system to suit your unique business processes. Can the vendor tailor the solution to your specific needs?
- Timeline and Implementation: Inquire about the estimated timeline for implementing the proposed features. How will the vendor manage the transition and ensure minimal disruptions to your operations?
- Support and Training: Seek information on the vendor’s support services and training resources. How will they assist your team in adapting to the new system?
- By conducting comprehensive interviews, you gain deeper insights into each vendor’s capabilities, approach, and compatibility with your requirements. These discussions serve as a critical step toward making an informed decision regarding the most suitable print MIS system for your business.
How To Pick 3 Print MIS Vendors To Work With
The pivotal phase of choosing your print management information system (MIS) vendors demands a well-thought-out strategy. This is where many businesses falter, but with careful consideration, you can set yourself up for success. Here’s a practical roadmap to guide you through this critical selection process:
- Experience Speaks Volumes: Begin by seeking vendors who boast experience catering to businesses similar to yours. A vendor with a proven track record in your industry is better equipped to understand your unique requirements and streamline the implementation process.
- Embrace the Future with Modern Solutions: Prioritize vendors offering contemporary products. Ensure their systems are fully adaptable to cloud technology, which ensures long-term relevance and scalability. If navigating the technical landscape isn’t your forte, consulting with an IT professional can provide valuable insights and verification.
- Customization: Evaluate the system’s customization capabilities. While minimizing customization is ideal, having the option to tailor the MIS to your specific needs is crucial. Ensure customization, if necessary, is straightforward and doesn’t impose unnecessary constraints or costs.
- Billing Innovation: Consider vendors who offer modern billing practices. Monthly subscription-based models often indicate up-to-date software solutions, offering the advantage of flexibility and cost-effectiveness over traditional “buy it once” approaches.
- Seek Budget Insights: Engage vendors by requesting rough budget estimates. Make it clear that these are preliminary and non-binding. This initial glimpse helps gauge alignment with your financial parameters, paving the way for transparent negotiations.
- The Power of Fixed Fees: Strive to secure a fixed fee or a “not to exceed” arrangement. This provides financial predictability and guards against unforeseen expenses, enhancing the clarity of your vendor partnership. NOTE: This is how we conduct business at Sabre Limited.
Remember to look for Google Reviews, blogs, YouTube, or any other source to validate what the vendors say. If something seems too good to be true, the truth is probably on the internet.
Closing The Deal
Now you’ll have selected 3 vendors to work with, ask them to do a demo for you. Offer to let them meet with the team before the demo for a couple of hours if they need. If you have selected a vendor that knows your business, that is all they really need. Very few small or medium businesses (under 100 computers) are as complicated as they think.
When you have held your long form demos and interviewed the vendors, you’ll establish a favorite pretty quickly. I recommend calling references at this point. If you have two that feel tied, you can call both. No vendor is going to give you a reference that is bad. There are two “tells” that a reference might not be the best.
- They are really new. Someone who purchased the product in the last 3 months is not a good reference. They should be “Live” or very close.
- They are really old. A reference that’s 10+ years old is not running the current system (and maybe didn’t work with the current staff).