Print Software Execution is the Differentiator
I wish you could just buy the right print software product and it would make you successful. You can’t. Success with software takes your execution. Software doesn’t implement itself, vendors can’t implement it without your active involvement.
We spend a lot of time and effort procuring print software (print MIS/ERP, production workflow, web-to-print). When large investments are in play it’s not hard to justify the effort. I think the other reason we spend so much time buying print software solutions is because the safest and most common place to point the blame for failed print software implementations is “bought wrong solution.” I find this reason to be rare.
In fact, I really don’t see this often at all. There is one that comes to mind; long-run offset printers who buy a web-to-print solution that was really built for short-run digital print-on-demand. The product workflows supported in the web-to-print are totally incongruent with the long-run offset printer. There is essentially no overlap between how the offset printer engages with their customers (sales representatives, complicated estimates, complex pre-press) to the web-to-print (self-service, ad hoc printing, automated preflight, price list pricing). I used to see this more often, luckily I am seeing it less and less.
Choosing the right print software product is important, the product selection is rarely the primary reason for failed print software implementations.
At one point in my career I was involved with a web-to-print solution that we sold to two competing companies. These companies operated in the same market, targeted the same customers, were similar in size, and bought the exact same software from us. We supported both companies with the same team of people. My point here is that everything was similar (technology, support, etc.), the only thing different was the customer.
One company was phenomenally successful with the product, the other company essentially wanted to throw it out because they were experiencing very little success. What was the differentiator? Execution. The company that succeeded was a great executor. They staffed the team appropriately and most importantly their approach to issues was to immediately look for a way to succeed despite the issue (even when the issue was a bug). This does not mean they didn’t hold us accountable for bugs, they were extremely demanding yet they did not stop their progress waiting for our development efforts. Their execution mentality was to find a way to keep moving forward despite challenges. When we are honest with ourselves, there are very few “show stopper bugs”. The other company found just about every reason why the software wouldn’t work. For every issue they uncovered, they found another reason to delay, complain, and prevent adoption.
It was truly an amazing experience to witness in real time. We would often field phone calls about the same issue with two opposite responses. I’ll also tell you, from a morale standpoint it was so much more enjoyable for our team to work with the company that executed. You felt inflated instead of deflated, you naturally were drawn into their success bubble, you wanted to be a part of it. The other company projected just the opposite energy – there was nothing but misery there.
Execution is the differentiator. Execution takes fortitude. Here are some examples
|Lack of Execution||Execution|
|Hurry up and take all the data from your legacy Print MIS and load it into your new MIS management wants this project done and the vendor wants to deliver all the training.||Carefully take this opportunity to look at your business’ data model. Every business has a data model. These are the data objects you want to keep track of (obvious ones: customers, vendors), the relations between the objects, and the details to them. We are living in a data-driven world, businesses who have taken the time (executed) on the often-mind-numbing experience of thinking through their data model get rewarded because your data model is the foundation on which you can build a data-driven organization. What you store, how you store it, how its related is really important. When its messed up it messes up everything, when its clean, you don’t even notice it.|
|Make a gut decision to buy a new web-to-print solution at a tradeshow because you’re not happy with the adoption of the one you have.||Look in the mirror and ask honestly – what did we do (in our control) to make web-to-print work in our company? Does our sales team actually understand the value of installing ATM machines in their accounts? Does the company understand how customer preferences are changing to want to do more online in a self-service manner? Do we actually drive adoption of web-to-print with our customers or do we fall back into our comfort zones of email, phone, and fax?|
|Purchase a feature rich, incredibly powerful CRM solution because you want to know what the heck your sales people are doing every day. Spare no expense because your sales team deserves the best. Speed through the implementation without thinking about what you really want to measure. Mandate that your sales team put everything in the solution, no exceptions. After about 60 days nobody is doing anything with the CRM because it was deemed to painful, too much administration, the team needs to be selling not being admins.||Step back and really think about what problem you want to solve (fewer is actually better). You gather your team together and you brainstorm on the challenges of “managing the sales process” to result in more wins, greater profitable growth.
You pick the top (3) most important problems and decide to just focus on those first using the software you already own.
1) Track prospects (companies and contacts) in a centralized / auditable place.
2) Keep track of where these prospects are in the sales process (start, middle, towards the end)
3) Keep track of conversions (prospect becomes a customer)
Once you have tackled these challenges and they are embedded into the culture of your sales team, then inch by inch, little by little solve a few more challenges. Implement them, cement them in the culture, rinse and repeat. Fortitude can be boring but it produces results.
Execution doesn’t create big fancy dramatic events. Execution is boring. Execution is hard work. Execution is a about making lots of hard decisions and avoiding all the distractions that pretend to be important. Execution delivers results in spite of the limitations of software, vendors, consultants, the market, the weather, and anything else you can point to.