Installing print management software is a lot different from your average software implementation. You don’t just download a program and immediately begin using it. Print MIS and ERP systems are intricate software applications designed to touch every major area of your print operations, from estimating to print production to delivery. When you make the decision to invest in print management software to streamline and grow your print business, you need a reliable partner to guide you along the way.
Most print shops, like many businesses, don’t have the in-house expertise to configure, install, test, train, and support print management software. However, print software partners are available to help ease that burden.
The process of selecting print software is similar to the process of selecting a solution provider. Each decision requires a certain amount of due diligence to ensure you have made the right choice for your business requirements and your goals. But like print software, not all implementation partners have the same capabilities to meet those needs.
At Clients First Print Solutions, we don’t want you to have to choose between project success and project failure. Instead, we want to help you make the right decision the first time around—and have a print software partner with you for the long haul. In this blog post, we’ve provided some insight into the role and risks of selecting a print software partner, as well as 6 helpful tips to follow that will help you choose a long-term partner.
The Role of a Print Software Partner
Your print software partner is the key to successfully implementing and adopting print MIS/ERP software. In reality, most businesses are not regularly exposed to large-scale technology implementations and the business transformation that comes with them. Experienced print software partners, on the other hand, do it as their day job. They manage 6 to 8 projects or more every single year and know the ins and outs of business process improvement and project implementation.
When you take into account all the areas of involvement your partner is required to make, it’s easy to see how important their role is in your software implementation success. Here are some of the major areas where you will need to rely on your partner throughout the project:
- Project management (they are a critical member of your project team!)
- System requirements gathering
- Business needs definition
- Data conversion
- Business process optimization
- Systems testing
- Employee training
- Post-implementation support
Now that you know how essential a trusted, local partner is to your print software implementation, it’s time to consider the business and financial risks of selecting the wrong partner.
Risks of Selecting an Incompatible Software Partner
The partner you place your trust will impact the trajectory of your print software implementation and your overall return on investment. Although you need a software partner to assist you in this transformation of your print shop, it’s important to remember that you’re paying and providing full control to a consulting company. Every company has different quality standards and preferred methods that may or may not be compatible with your people and business. As a result, the business and financial risk is high.
If any of the major areas mentioned in the previous section go awry, the danger of business disruption and budget overage increases dramatically. Here are some of the risks to consider before skipping any of the steps in partner selection:
- Project delays
- Business disruption
- Technical dependence
- Employee turnover
- Misaligned expectations
- Excess costs
- Additional complexities
- Unmet requirements and goals
- Lost customers
How to Properly Vet and Select a Long-Term Print Software Partner
The more time you put into selecting print software and a solution provider, the more money you are going to save during the project’s implementation phase. With better understanding and planning, you will experience fewer surprises and cost overruns while increasing the probability of project success.
As experienced ERP solution providers, we want to make sure you find and select a local print software partner that provides you with the level of support you need to successfully transform your print operations. Knowing the importance of having a reliable partner you can trust in the long-term, we have compiled 6 expert tips for you to follow when you start down your partner selection journey.
- Look for Relevant Industry and Solution Experience
You don’t just want a partner who knows the software inside and out – they need to be able to understand your business pains and industry. Print business processes can be extremely complex, so it’s important to make sure your potential partner has experience working with similar projects like yours.
- Establish Partner Requirements and Company Fit
Before making your print MIS/ERP software choice, you first assessed your business and the functional requirements to make sure it could meet your needs. Next, you need to follow a similar process with partner selection, only this time you’ll be assessing your actual partner requirements and how your team operates. From physical location to communication style, all of these clarifications will help you find a software partner that matches your company’s values and business goals.
- Ask About In-House Knowledge and Services
The print software partner you choose needs to have the ability to handle the software implementation and everything else in between, including testing, customization, and training. During your partner selection process, make sure you learn about who is on their team, what their approach is, and how their experience can help you get the most out of your print software implementation.
- Get an Estimate of Total Project Costs
Cost is always a question when picking a solutions provider. Although we don’t recommend it be your sole criteria, evaluating price in terms of value received is critical in this stage. Some partners charge less on certain items and more on others depending on their experience and resources, so compare the total cost of each solution instead of focusing on the cost of a single item or area. Here are some proposal costs to factor in:
- Hardware/software costs
- Installation fees
- Training and support
- Data migration
- Custom programming
- Determine Additional Costs of Customizations and Out-of-Scope Items
Customizing print MIS/ERP software can be expensive but is often necessary to solve any unique print production problems. While you may not know them at this stage in the game, your prospective partner should be able to give you some insight into the capabilities of the software and if you will require any additional extensions or customizations down the road. This is a good point to find out more about the partner’s development experience, what approaches they have used in the past, and which have been most successful.
- Talk to Happy and Satisfied Customer References
Client references are the perfect opportunity to get an honest opinion of the partner you are vetting. Did the partner deliver the project on time as per the project plan? Did the client get all the functionality they were promised? How quickly did the partner address project and technical support challenges? Ideally, you want to have a list of questions prepared in advance of the interview!
Remember, your first impression of a software partner can tell you a lot. From product demos to on-site visits, these meetings will give you more insight into how the partner communicates and what you can expect when working with them. Here are some additional tips on selecting an ERP partner that fits your business:
Assess Your Print Software Preparedness
As a business technology partner with decades of experience, we have had to right the wrongs of many failed ERP implementations caused by incompatible software and partners. There is a lot on the line as a growing printer in the print industry, and you don’t have time to fail. To help you make the best possible decision based on accurate knowledge and the right tools, we’ve built an in-depth guide to print software selection and a Print MIS/ERP Readiness Scorecard designed to assess your preparedness for print software. This scorecard will show you any risks or gaps in your existing environment and tell you if it makes sense to introduce new technology in your print business at this point.