In previous blogs and white papers we have talked about the critical success factors (CSF) required for the implementation of Web to print solutions. One CSF is that leading in-plants are more effective at implementing new software. Why are some in-plants better at implementation? Because they make better choices early in the process.
The specification process begins with a detailed needs analysis. The question we are often asked is "How much detail is required to develop the needs analysis?" The simplest answer is that more information is better than less. But this is not an overwhelming task, especially if you follow the three rules.
3 Steps for More Effective Workflow Software Implementations
- Map out the processes and quantify the issues. This is the most time-consuming but most important step of the process. The goal is to identify exactly where your process is unproductive and quantify the loss in time or dollars. This is important in the cost-benefit analysis and prioritizing features.
For example, you may discover that in your in-plant it takes six hours between the time that customer service starts a job until prepress starts working on it. If you know that it takes four hours in other shops, then you could say that other shops are 33% more productive. You could convert this to dollars using budgeted hourly rates for the time spent in customer service and the time when the work sits in piles (also known as bottlenecks or work in progress).
- Prioritize needs. Typically there are several steps in the process that could be improved, which means that you have to prioritize the step or steps you consider most important. After you prioritize your issues, you can compare these issues with the solutions offered by the different software tools.
- Conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Inevitably there will be more than one option. Each option will offer a benefit in terms of productivity and a cost. For example, solution A may cost $12,000 and reduce time in the sales, estimating and customer service processes by four hours a day. Solution B however may cost $4,000 and result in 1.5 hours of savings in the estimating department. In mapping out this workflow, you should identify the steps that are bottlenecks and procedures that are error prone, because that also has a cost and should be considered as part of the cost-benefit analysis. Here is one example: Product A costs $15,000 and allows you to send jobs directly to printers without re-ticketing. Product B costs $6,000 but requires using each printer's print driver to send the jobs to the printer. If you have hundreds or thousands of jobs each week, how much does it cost you to ticket each job? Does the lower cost solution actually cost you more to operate?
If you want to implement software more effectively for your in-plant, start by mapping out processes and identifying the bottlenecks, pain points and quality control issues. This will provide you with a good starting point. If you're more ambitious, try to quantify the issues in terms of time and or cost, then create a cost-benefit analysis for each option.