Eight Common Web-to-Print Challenges and How to Prepare for Them
The road to implementing Web-to-print (W2P) can be a bumpy one, especially for an in-plant. To help give you a smoother ride, we turned to Vince Tutino, product manager at Rochester Software Associates (RSA) and author of the “Web to Print Best Practices for In-plant Print Centers” e-book. He listed the eight most common barriers in-plants face. We talked with in-plant managers about how they dealt with these challenges and prepared their shops for W2P.
1. Lack of Support
In some in-plant situations, the CFO or upper management might not recognize the value the in-plant brings to the parent organization, says Tutino. “Sometimes they may be easily swayed by outside influence promising cost savings. In a supportive environment, upper management would engage the in-plant manager first when these types of situations come up,” he explains. “Conversely, the in-plant manager should be actively engaging their upper management to communicate their value and be aligned with their organization’s mission.”
This would include bringing new technology and software such as W2P to the attention of management. Lack of support from the higher ups can make it difficult to justify the cost of adding W2P to the in-plant’s mix. Come to the table prepared with a list of the various benefits that can be seen by adding this valuable software to the business. Talk numbers and cost savings. “Supportive upper management can make a huge difference in the in-plant’s ability to not only survive, but thrive,” Tutino adds.
Sherri Broderick, manager of Print/Mail/Sign Services with Frisco Independent School District (Frisco ISD) in Texas, discussed the value of W2P with her Chief Communications Officer by pointing out benefits such as time savings and reduction of errors.
“All points made equaled out to saving at least 40 hours each week,” she says. “This would be a tremendous cost and time saver by implementing this software.” Frisco ISD ended up acquiring RSA’s W2P solution, WebCRD.
2. Reluctant to Change
To paraphrase an old saying, you can’t fix something that isn’t broken. Many times, customers are reluctant to use a new W2P solution because the old way of sending files seems to work just fine.
“However, they don’t always realize the benefits that a new system can do for them and their organizations,” says Tutino.
Broderick faced this situation when her in-plant first implemented W2P.
“In the beginning, there were some teachers who did not want to use it,” she says. The in-plant rolled it out gradually and took time to explain the advantages of W2P.
“We started with our annual secretaries meeting before the new school year and did a presentation on the benefits to utilizing the site,” she says. “We have had an overwhelming increase in volume since the installation of W2P.”
Steve Priesman, manager of Printing and Publications Services at Omaha Public Schools, says he had zero resistance from employees, but did have some pushback from clients initially. The in-plant remedied this by offering quicker turnaround times for orders that were submitted electronically with an accompanying file, slightly longer turnaround for orders that were submitted electronically but with hard copy originals and an even longer turnaround for orders submitted the “old way” with a paper-based printing request and hard copy originals.
“We were using our initial home-grown system for more than two years before we transitioned into [EFI’s] Digital Storefront,” he explains. “Our first goal was to receive orders electronically rather than paper-based requests. The second goal was to receive electronic files rather than hard copy originals.”
Omaha Public Schools’ employees immediately saw the reasons to switch over: higher quality than hard copy originals, less production time and faster turnaround. “When we made the transition to Digital Storefront, we supplemented electronic information — emails and webpage instructions — with a printed booklet,” he notes. “After all, we’re printers.”
3. Installation Woes
The actual task of getting the W2P software up and running can cause mangers to take pause. If the installation and rollout is not managed well, it can take longer than it should.
“Too often, the main contact in charge of the installation is not experienced at leading and managing a software installation or doesn’t have the time to spend,” says Tutino. “W2P vendors and print vendors can supply resources to do this for print shops and it can be very effective.”
In Omaha Public Schools’ implementation of EFI Pace, EFI assigned a member of its professional services group who was responsible for training and assisting with the implementation of the system.
“Some things were simply easier for the EFI staff member to do rather than for us to be trained and then perform,” explains Priesman. “Other things were best done by us so we would have a better understanding and be able to make changes if necessary months, or even years later.”
For Tim Hendrix, state printer and program manager for the State of Oregon, implementing a W2P system concurrently with a new MIS created delays. His main takeaway: Don’t implement two systems at the same time.
The IT department can help speed the installation along or get in the way if it is not involved, says Tutino. “Getting them in the loop early can get everyone on the same page.”
Frisco ISD did just that. As the school district started the implementation, it provided IT with a spreadsheet of questions, which was helpful to have on hand as the in-plant moved forward in the process.
“It is important to meet with your IT department and involve them in the beginning so they can give you guidance and help with issues that may arise with the roll out,” explains Broderick. “They play a very important part of any technical assistance throughout the year.”
Hendrix advised making sure you have a good internal staff person who is well-versed in IT and can communicate effectively with outside IT.
“Get them involved as soon as possible during the planning stages. Diagram out all connections, IP addresses and ports that need to be open and firewall rules that need to be addressed.”
5. System Reliability
Tutino says that most shops have someone who is technical enough to be the W2P administrator. The person doesn’t need to be a developer, he says, but someone who understands Excel and knows their way around a computer can save the plant from spending extra money to have other people make simple changes to the system once it’s up and running.
“There are always some changes when a new update is involved, but you make sure all the users are notified of any major issues or changes before they are rolled out,” notes Broderick. “You need a full-time employee who can manage the system once it is implemented. This person is key in the performance of the W2P solution. There are times when you need this person to correct any errors, changes to the system, disk space issues, approval processes, budget coding or active directory issues.”
6. Getting Users Online
Give it a friendly test, advises Tutino. Be sure to test out the new systems with friends first to make sure your larger rollout will go well. Pilot the system and work with customers as they transition.
“Ultimately users didn’t have a choice,” explains Priesman. “We had given users the option of using our online system or using the old paper-based orders for a year or two. When we made the transition from the original Digital Storefront version to the newer one, we began requiring orders be submitted electronically. We had minimal complaints. When this entire process began, the majority of our customers had a mixture of electronic documents for uploading and hard copy originals. However, over the years, the percentage of orders involving hard copy originals has decreased. When we began with our homegrown system, uploaded files made up 60% of the orders. That percentage has increased and is probably 95% now.”
7. Persuading Usage
“Build it and they will come doesn’t work if you don’t tell your users about it or what’s in it for them,” shares Tutino. Make sure you have a marketing and launch plan prior to rolling out the new system.
Broderick reviewed other systems and their launch plans, but ended up following a simple marketing plan to drive users to the in-plant by offering training sessions each year.
“We had a pilot program established to test with a few users at a couple of campuses. Once there was ease of use for our users, we decided to go ahead and launch at a training day during the summer for our campus secretaries. We felt the initial investment of training our staff and the secretaries would assist future teaching by these users.”
8. Keeping Up
When you haven’t updated your smartphone software for a while, apps stop working and the system becomes sluggish. The same can be said for W2P software. To get the most out of W2P, in-plants must keep abreast of installing updates to keep things running smoothly.
“Since our system is cloud based [hosted by EFI], they handle periodic software updates,” explains Priesman. “If an update includes a new feature that we want to take advantage of, it’s up to us to make whatever changes might be necessary to use that new feature. If we need to make a change because of changes in our offerings, we would need to implement.”
For example, the in-plant added thermal binding about a year ago. It needed to make the necessary changes in Digital Storefront to make that an available choice for customers.
“We were able to do so,” says Priesman. “Had we needed help, we would have turned to the Digital Storefront support team to answer any questions we had. If something is more involved and we feel more assistance is needed, we would turn to their professional services team.”
If you get too far behind, making version changes can be difficult at best, notes Hendrix. “Support for the system is also at risk because if you do have an issue, many times the vendor will require you to be up to date with the version to get the support needed. Version upgrades many times include enhancements to the system.” If you don’t keep up with the changes, you will miss out.