This is the second post in our series, "Web to Print Best Practices for In-Plant Print Centers." In my first post, I talked about why we feel this is an important topic and outlined the eight topics we will cover, including: installation, roll out, marketing the system, user adoption (both the print shop and end customers), pricing for users and Web to print systems, production and automation, expanding the print shop’s reach and influence and a summary and considerations. In this post, I'll discuss installation, but first, I would like share a few best practices about purchasing in-plant Web to print software.
A Little Bit about Purchasing Web to Print Software
Before you install, you have to make the decision to purchase a Web to print system. That's an entire article by itself for another time. But, I'll spend a minute on some basics.
- Ask a lot of questions before you buy.
- Talk to customer references of software suppliers.
- Read case studies.
- Price should not be the only consideration; not all systems can deliver the same Return On Investment (ROI). Think of your investment in a Web to print system as a long relationship that can grow with you. The software vendor you choose matters, because over time your printers will need to be replaced, but your Web to print system will continue to evolve and change with technology. Choose a software vendor that you will be confident will be there for you in the future and has a proven track record.
- If you are leasing your equipment and the software is part of the lease, consider having a software buyout option at the end of the lease. See a previous blog post about software license ownership.
7 Installation Best Practices
You've made a decision, and now it's time to start the install. Most print center managers haven't installed multiple Web to print systems and may not know what to expect or how long it will all take.
1. First, take a breath and relax. It's not hard, but it does take time and work on your part. You’re changing the way you’ve done business, likely for years. A change this significant does not happen overnight. But the end goal and benefits are worth the effort.
2. Implementing a Web to print system is a project. Make the installation, configuration, testing and roll out priorities.
- Consider establishing a project plan to manage the implementation process.
- Allocate staff time to work on the installation, roll out and training. Failure to plan and allocate resources for implementation can lead to a longer time to launch and realize savings and benefits - as well as frustration from your upper management when they spend money on a system that is not up and running a year or more later.
- Your print vendor may be able to help with temporary on-site staff that helps you make progress.
- Allocate a resource to handle the day-to-day management of the system post-installation. Many of our customers assign these ongoing duties to someone in their shop and call them the "WebCRD Administrator."
3. Decide who should be on your implementation team. Include someone on your implementation and ongoing team who is detail-oriented and what I call "print shop technical." They don't need a computer science degree, but they should be good with spreadsheets and accessing the printer front-end controllers. They should also know the key contacts in your IT department. This person will be a key contact for you and the Web to print vendor. For example, Villanova University gave a recent presentation about how the decisions made immediately after the software purchase decision can make or break an implementation. Watch the video for great insights, including identifying key project players and their roles.
4. You need the support of IT
- Include IT in the decision process as early as possible so that when IT's help is needed it is not a surprise to them.
- A good relationship with IT can make your installation (on-site or cloud) go more smoothly.
- Even if your system will be cloud hosted, you will need IT support for the installation.
- The amount of IT support you need will vary over the stages of any software project. For instance, more is needed in the upfront planning and implementation stages than when the system is in maintenance mode.
- IT may even be seeking a partnership with your print center. It is in everyone’s best interest in the organization for projects to proceed smoothly.
For example, at the State of Colorado’s Governor’s Office of IT, this organization has published a "playbook" about how to work with IT.
5. You’re implementing a Web to print system to improve your current workflows and processes… so expect to change them.
- It's important to work with the system and use the system the way that it was designed to work, even if it's not intuitive to you yet. Sometimes customers try to make a system conform to their process instead of working with the system to use it as designed, changing their processes and workflows to make them more efficient.
- Be open to changing your workflows. If you configure the system to do things it wasn't intended to do it will almost always backfire-- and you won’t realize all of the potential benefits. **These systems have been developed to optimize the workflow using research and ideas from hundreds, if not thousands of installations.
6. Work with your Web to print vendor as a partner. They want you to be successful as much as you do. They are invested in your future, too.
- When the installation support team suggests a solution to a particular workflow, give it a chance and work in a collaborative way.
- Make sure that you inform the vendor of things that don't work properly and hold them accountable for fixing them.
7. Make product suggestions and take the time to engage in user group meetings and customer forums to be informed of changes and new features.
These seven best practices for installation should put you well on the way to a successful implementation. My next post will discuss best practices for in-plants to launch and roll out Web to print software. If you are attending Graph Expo this year, RSA is sponsoring an expert panel session with In-plant Graphics about Web to print best practices on 9/27 featuring IMG's Howie Fenton, IPG editor, Bob Neubauer and me.