New EPMS Customers
EPMS continues to bring on new clients at a fairly rapid pace. Most of these new companies are replacing many well known legacy systems that are no longer supported. Enterprise has proven to be an exceptionally good replacement system for those products and the number of new inquiries from those users is heavy. Please join us in welcoming the following new companies:
- Utah State University - Logan, UT
- Haney, Inc - Cincinnati, OH
- Consolidated Solutions, Inc - Cleveland, OH
- RJ Graphics, Inc - West Deptford, NJ
- Rapit Printing, Inc. - New Brighton, MN
- American Graphic Systems - Tinley Park, IL
- Phoenix Graphics, Inc - Rochester, NY
- Regal Printing Company - Omaha, NB
- KM Printing, LLC dba Strategic Factory - Owings Mills, MD
- Lovejoy Corporation dba Hip Labels LLC - Greensboro, NC
- The Parks Group - Modesto, CA
- Flower City - Rochester, NY
- Vista Graphic Corp. - Indianapolis, IN
- East Carolina University - Greenville, NC
- Gannet Supply Corporation (on behalf of Action Printing, Inc. - Fon du Lac, WI
- AM Lithography - Chicopee, MA
- Hodgins Engraving Co., Inc. - Batavia, NY
- Rush Index Tabs, Inc. - East Rutherford, NJ
- Democrat Printing & Lithographing - Little Rock, AR
- Campbell Printing Company, Inc - Dalton, Ga
- The First Impression Group - Eagan, MN
SELECTING A PRINT MIS SOLUTION
Whether you are looking for a print management /ERP system for the first time or replacing a legacy system, you had better be ready to embrace change. For some of you, the changes will be subtle, especially if you have used a print management system in the past. For others who have been using home grown spreadsheets or other custom products, the changes will be significant. Before you even start the selection process some “soul searching” will have to happen first. Are YOU ready for a change? Will your staff embrace change? If you answered NO to either of these questions, stop right here. Do not pass "Go” and do not collect your $200.00! You need YES answers to proceed.
Where do you start?
Make a list! Knowing what you want and, more importantly, need is the necessary starting point for anyone looking for a print MIS solution. An MIS search is serious business and understanding and defining your requirements is absolutely necessary. That means that the requirements need to be written down and not stored in your head. They need to be broken into categories – Must Have, Nice to Have – then put into a format that you can send to prospective vendors. Vendors ought to be able to respond with simple answers so that you can ultimately rank those answers and narrow the playing field down to two or three potential candidates. Every vendor will tell you that the most successful implementations have been the by-product of clearly defined requirements that are understood and agreed upon by both parties. It’s not difficult to establish requirements and construct an RFP but if you don’t have the time or don’t feel that you can do it properly then hire one of the industry consultants to help you out. Most of them are experienced in creating RFPs and in actually managing the selection process for you. It will cost money but usually it’s money well spent if it helps you in making the right MIS decision.
Cost is another factor that needs to be considered right up front. You have to have some sort of a budget or cost limit in mind before you start scheduling demos. Otherwise your search will lead you to vendors whose products are not affordable for your company. Vendors want to know that you have a budget as well so that they can assess your needs properly. While a vendor may not know, at first pass, what a system will ultimately cost you, he will be able to give you a good ballpark figure, and you should ask for this right up front. It doesn’t make sense to be scheduling demos for a system that is going to cost $100,000 when you know that you only have $30,000 to spend. And, you won’t know until you ask!
Once you have your requirements and your budget nailed down, you can start taking a serious look at the MIS vendors. If you are a member of a peer group, ask your fellow members what they are using. You might see a pattern emerge that will lead you to a couple of suitable vendor candidates and peer referrals are invaluable. Do an internet search. Use keywords such as “print management systems”, estimating systems, print MIS etc. You’ll be directed to numerous print MIS vendors. Pick 5 or 6 and take a close look at their websites. Make sure they have the products and services that you need. If a vendor looks like a good fit, contact them for information or a conference call but don’t schedule a demo unless you have a good comfort level, and you have the “cost” issue on the table. The next step would be to send them your requirements in the form of a Request for Proposal (RFP). You will want to get responses to that RFP before setting a demo up. If the vendor can’t meet most of your requirements there is no sense in going to the next step. Apart from your RFP queries, here are some important questions to ask yourself and the vendors:
- Does this vendor really understand my business and my customers?
- Does this vendor have a good sense of where the pain points might be in my type of printing company?
- Does this vendor install the software locally, on my server, or do I access it “in the cloud”?
- Will this software interface easily with my other business applications such as workflow products or on-line ordering systems?
- What is a usual time frame for implementation in a shop like mine?
- Will this system be able to import any of my old data?
- Do I need an ERP type system with full accounting or a print management system that will interface with my existing accounting system?
- Does this vendor support JDF/JMF integrations?
Product offering is one half of the selection equation. The other half is the vendor company itself. With all the consolidation that has been going on, there are fewer viable print MIS vendors today than there were just a year or two ago. Some vendors have been acquired and have had their products left intact. Others have suffered “death by acquisition”. All of the remaining print MIS vendors have been in business for twenty years or more, even those that have been left intact within an acquisition. Some specialize in certain market segments while others offer products that span the entire spectrum of the industry. Some are focused more on larger printing companies (200 + employees) some target the mid-range (50-199 employees) and some are ideally suited to the smaller companies (under 50 employees). A few vendors can service all of these sectors well, based upon the way their products have been designed. Your job will be to seek the ones that suit your company best. Speaking of companies – it is immensely important that the vendor company you choose will be a good partner for you, because once you purchase a print MIS, you are in a long term partnership and you need to like each other. Here are some key considerations when selecting an MIS vendor partner:
- What do their users say about the quality of support services?
- How does this vendor interact with its client base?
- Does this vendor have an active User group with annual User Group meetings?
- Is this vendor willing to partner or integrate with other vendors that you currently use?
- Will this vendor think of YOU as a partner?
Scheduling demos – what to look for
Most preliminary print management software demos are done on-line these days, which is a cost effective and efficient way for you to sort out the ones that will be a good fit for you. Initially, you should ask for a high level overview demo of the system – something that will highlight the most salient features. Some of these demos may be conducted using “canned” material and others will be done in a more “live” environment. In either case, you are not getting a chance, at this point, to take a good look under the hood. If you like what you see on the first pass, schedule another, more in-depth demo and provide some job detail from your shop that the vendor can set up and demonstrate. This is the only way you’ll get to see how it handles your work. Along with this, it’s always a good idea to insist that the vendor demonstrate, from “scratch” and on the fly, how one of your jobs would be handled. If you REALLY want to check under the hood, doing this will give you the best view.
Most vendors are agreeable to coming on site to do a demo but a site visit should only be scheduled after you’ve seen the system demonstrated at least twice on-line. Site visits can be very intrusive on your business as they will typically take up a full day for you and your staff. In most cases, the same results can be accomplished by just conducting a series of one hour focused demos, on-line.
Speaking of site visits…you may think that you need to visit a vendor client in person before making a decision on a system. On rare occasions, that may be necessary but in most cases you will get more and better information by calling and e-mailing vendor references. Site visits are intrusive, and often counter-productive. A host company may graciously agree to have you visit, but you will never see the system operate in the same way that you will use it, nor will you get the host’s undivided attention because he/she is most likely trying to run a business while also trying to show you around. The host will also be reluctant to show you too much because his/her sensitive business data is in the system database, and while you may not be a competitor, there is still information that an outsider should not be privy to.
You’ve made the selection, you have your project manager in place, now you have to go through the contract process. Generally this is pretty painless. Print MIS companies use fairly standard license agreements and contracts, so there shouldn’t be any real surprises there. However, you should ask if the vendor you’ve selected has a source code escrow arrangement with an escrow company. If they do, you should definitely participate in the source code escrow trust. A source code escrow trust will protect you if the software company goes out of business, goes into receivership or experiences some other disastrous event. You would have access to the software source code and theoretically could hire a developer to continue to enhance it or maintain it. This probably won’t work if the vendor is acquired and the product is discontinued but it is an area well worth investigating.
Selecting a new print MIS solution takes time and effort, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you do it right. Upfront planning, a solid RFP process, and performing a thorough due diligence with the vendors are all critical steps in the process. The end result will be a good decision on a system that not only ideally suits your company now but will also suit your needs as your company grows.