Web to Print & MIS – Separate but Equally Important

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Web to Print & MIS – Separate but Equally Important

Software systems are created for a specific business process and targeting a specific end user or group of end users. There are literally thousands of examples of company’s trying to make a piece of software do what it was never intended to do. This leads to frustration on all sides. The customer requests features and functionality that are incongruent with the intended solution and the vendor frequently allows themselves to be convinced of a continuous stream of additions that complicate their solution (especially if they are getting paid for customizations).

When we think about the main software solutions for the print industry, web to print and MIS (Management Information Systems), you can quickly see how these two solutions can have significant overlap in functionality. This is surprising because Web to print is suppose to be all about order entry; MIS is all about the business workflow once the order is in the production process. The solutions primary user targets are very different: customer with potentially little or no print knowledge and the production and business folks at the print shop with in-depth print knowledge.

I believe this has been the core challenge of our industry in adopting web to print – we built it from the production floor forward instead of from the customer’s perspective. How many times have you heard a printer say, we picked a web to print solution that we liked, but our customers didn’t embrace it – exactly the problem! You (the print expert) picked a solution which was suppose to be a self service order entry solution for your customers (low or no print knowledge).

Monolithic software applications are not flexible enough to evolve in this rapidly changing online world, this is why I prefer the separation of order entry (web to print) and MIS. Seamless integration is of course required in this scenario – but it’s better to have the different solutions focus on their particular target user base (printers vs. customers). When the solutions are combined or someone tries to build the entire end to end solution – you either end up with the web to print guys oversimplifying the production workflow or the MIS guys over complicating the order entry workflow. Sound familiar?

The vendor selection should be very different for Web to Print vs. MIS. Don’t let your production people dictate the web to print solution (involve your customers as they are the primary target), don’t let your sales people / customers dictate the MIS system because it’s your production and business folks who are both the key users and beneficiaries of the MIS.

It’s tempting to say, I just want a single solution that does it all – today’s successful software solutions do less and integrate more.

1 Comments

  1. Gina Danner on November 1, 2010 at 9:40 am

    The lesson the print industry must learn, and continues to resist, is that business and technology is about user interaction and user perspective. Web to Print platforms that are not user friendly go under utilized AND MIS systems that don’t give plants real data in a relevant fashion create errors on the production floor. The two can come together, but doing so is not easy.

    Technology over the last five years has evolved from the big monster application do the integration of multiple small apps. A good MIS solution is on that provides the opportunity for integration fo disparet information into a single view. A good MIS solution will connect to virtually any other application through the use of web services, APIs and other technology solutions.

    I’ve personally given up on every finding a single technology solution and am focused on building a sound core that talks to best in class pieces for whatever else i want to do.



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