Digital Technology to Optimize Print Process

Terry Williams, CIO, Belcan Corporation
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Terry Williams, CIO, Belcan Corporation

Terry Williams, CIO, Belcan Corporation

Print is a significant expense for most organizations, even in today’s digital world. In fact, many spend one to three percent of their revenue on print, according to the Aberdeen Group. Yet with the transition to electronic communication, some organizations have forgotten how to manage print. Technology organizations can help their colleagues in marketing and procurement by leveraging digital platforms and Big Data to manage their company’s print spend and gain control of their brand.

  The system should maintain accurate inventory information on warehoused items on a 24/7 basis. 

The printing method chosen for a particular print piece—electronic, digital or offset—depends on the complexity and quality required for that piece. Savings accrue when print is output in the optimal method for its intended use. Organizations that use enterprise technology platforms to enable employees and channel partners to print “on demand,” using high-color digital presses, find they can drastically reduce obsolescence compared to printing and storing items in a warehouse. They can also provide a measure of customization that better targets the message to its intended audience. Better targeting— through use of personalization, language translation, relevant photos and the like— has proven to boost consumer response.

Leveraging an enterprise technology platform can also make print more secure. When secure web access is shared among a creative team’s pre-press operators and production staff, the organization benefits from more control over job submissions, collaboration, remote proofing and approvals, and progress tracking.

An enterprise technology platform should allow end-users to obtain both static (inventoried) and print-on-demand items from a single portal. The system should maintain accurate inventory information on warehoused items on a 24/7 basis. This eliminates the chaos and rush charges that occur when print inventory is not managed and order fulfillment becomes an emergency.

As websites are set up for printed materials (e.g., brochures, flyers, labels, business forms, etc.), many organizations find it helpful to include branded merchandise (e.g., apparel, trade show giveaways, and other promotional items) in the same process. As end-users begin to learn where to go for frequently needed items, they find that both contract compliance and savings increase. Ideally, your technology platform should support new ad hoc projects for which artwork can be uploaded and output on demand. Examples include:

• Customer letters that are personalized versions of a corporate-approved template, populated with pricing and mailing information from an uploaded list, based on what they had ordered in the past
• Sales presentations, seminar booklets or training manuals that are printed on demand shipped to a hotel or branch office
• Customized one-to-one marketing pieces that select images and text based on business rules
• Branded stationery with variable text and proofed online
• Broker or physician biographies with variable photos and standard disclosures

Your enterprise platform can be the launching pad for marketing campaigns and critical customer communication, too. Salespeople need handy options to deliver relevant content to their customers and prospects. By integrating our SMARTworks e-commerce platform with salesforce.com, provider of the world’s #1 CRM platform, Standard Register has made it possible to leverage data found in the CRM database to send highly personalized direct mail and email messages that adhere to corporate brand standards. This kind of cross-channel flexibility allows end-users to send communication digitally or in print, either as individual messages or as part of a campaign. This type of application allows organizations to collect transactional data to report the most popular content by multiple dimensions, including recency, frequency, method, user, and type.

When evaluating enterprise technology platforms, here’s what to look for in a good user experience:

• Configurable e-commerce portal that reflects your organization’s branding
• Permission-based catalogs so different groups and users throughout your organization see only the items they want and need to order
• Highly graphic and interactive to capture attention and generate excitement and action (i.e., users can see items they want to order quickly)
• Item set-up with “available” dates and “expiration” dates so outdated materials are never ordered (to avoid compliance issues)
• Simplified shopping (e.g., mousing over thumbnails of an item lets you see flyover information such as cost/quantity, item description and specs)
• Item preview and approval before ordering
• Integration with ERP systems, if desired

In addition to enabling end-user ordering, digital technology can make the entire workflow of producing print faster and more reliable. Using Web-to-print technology, print providers can pull digital job information—files and specs—directly into the press configuration. As a result, fewer touches are required to set up the press and produce the output, which saves time.

Finally, technology can help organizations collect and measure data on every print project for later analysis so continuous improvements can be made going forward. By optimizing print management in this manner, they gain full transparency, with auditable and traceable results on spend and savings on print jobs over time.

Applying business intelligence to an organization’s transactional print data can provide new insights into:

• Spend by product type (brochure, flyer, direct mail)
• Spend by supplier, buyer, region, business group or cost center
• Supplier activity (who printed what, when and how much?)
• Buyer activity (who bought what, when and how much?)
• Supplier performance (who consistently delivers on time and on budget)

Digital technology is not the enemy of print. Rather, it’s the way to make print more effective by providing an enhanced user experience, better message targeting, reduced obsolescence and significant cost savings. By harnessing the power of data, your organization can achieve a deeper understanding of efficiencies and trends, draw fresh conclusions and continue to optimize your print processes.

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