Chapter 7. Web2print

7.4 Implementation and Workflow Considerations

Steve Tomljanovic

Implementation and Deployment

By this point, the workflow strategy has been created, the customer has been included in discussions about its goals, and the print company has created some sample products and print items for the customer to test. As well, the print company and customer have completed a pilot period and identified unforeseen workflow issues. What remains is the final step of making the site live.

Making the site live involves ‘turning it on’ to accept orders from the entire user base. If the above steps have been completed properly, there should be very few issues.

Continuous Assessment

Even after a storefront has been launched, it is not considered complete. There should always be a system of continuous assessment in place to respond to customer feedback and correct any errors as the orders start coming in. Even after the site is live, the programmer should navigate the storefront to ensure its usability, and place a test order to ensure no issues arise for the customer during the ordering process. Also of consideration is a post-order assessment, where the internal processes in the printing company are evaluated for completeness and efficiency, as outlined below.

Workflows and Automation

Orders should enter an automated workflow, creating a seamless transition while bypassing several departments. Once an order has been placed, the appropriate staff are notified to fulfill it. If a VDP product was customized, then a print-ready PDF should automatically be uploaded to a hot folder. At this point, either an automated system or a prepress operator reviews the file for print standards and imposes it on the print template. These files can then be automatically produced on a digital press or be sent to the plate setter to be prepared for litho printing. Throughout every step of the process, email notifications should be sent to appropriate staff so they can fulfill the order, and to the customer so they can be kept informed of anything related to the order such as invoices and product shipping.

MIS Integration

It is beneficial to select a storefront suitable for integration into a management information system (MIS) to streamline orders from customization to invoice. Integration is a connection between two systems that enables the exchange of data. The information is automatically entered into an electronic docket, which is a database that collects and maintains customer information, products ordered, shipping information, and billing information automatically. When integrating two systems, it is important to note which system is the master data holder and which is the subscriber to that data. Only one digital system should ‘hold’ the data, whereas all the other systems access the same database. In a print environment with a functioning print MIS system, it is the MIS system that should be considered to be the master in every case. The MIS system collects orders from everywhere, not just the orders placed through storefronts online. The web2print system pushes data into the MIS system and subscribes to the master data stored and managed in that system, such as pricing and job specifications. This can be challenging because the web2print software and the print MIS system are often provided by separate vendors, which can prevent a smooth exchange of data.

Web2print is one of many secondary, or subscriber, connections into a printer’s business and production workflow. Web2print should serve its main purpose, which is to capture orders in the most efficient manner while maintaining a competitive edge for a print company’s sales team. Orders must be transitioned seamlessly and smoothly into the production workflow and MIS system so they can be treated like any other order, whether they were placed online or by traditional means. In this way, web2print is regarded as only one of many business opportunities that bring sales to a print company.

Analyzing the ROI

When making any business decision, investment must be weighed against return. This is known as return on investment, or ROI. Moving a business online to accept orders is a serious business decision. Web2print can be a worthwhile investment and understanding how to measure ROI before investing in a vendor’s software is important.

Typically, in a print company, the estimate for the actual printing process is very well defined. The estimating department can provide detailed analysis of all of the costs associated with printing a specific printed product. Where web2print differs, however, is in the costs of capturing the sale and in streamlining the process in the print shop. For example, there are specific increased costs in running a web2print site online. If the system was paid for as a one-time licence, then the total cost must be amortized over the life of the licence, and each print order shares a small part of that overall cost. Some SaaS systems, on the other hand, charge a piece rate or a monthly fee. These are easier to incorporate into the costs of the job. On the savings side, there are processes within the print company that are made more efficient, so an analysis of cost savings can be made there as well. However, print companies should not fall into the trap of thinking that just because a print job can be completed in a shorter time, it is automatically cheaper to produce. In order to assess the total ROI, only real costs that affect the print product’s profitability should be assessed.

Timing is important when calculating ROI because a printer must determine when to invest money based on an expected return of that investment. Purchasing or building an online system is not automatically going to generate revenue. It is likely that the print company could invest thousands of dollars very quickly before the system provides any value in return. There is a human aspect to this as well. Sales professionals are still critical for driving new customer sales to the web and finding new online opportunities, both of which will help improve the return on the initial investment.

Systems with monthly payments are sometimes better for new online ventures, as they do not require a huge investment upfront. Up-front payments force a print company to give away all monetary leverage in a single transaction, and while they might be more cost-effective when serving large numbers of customers, they can do serious financial damage in the short term.