12 Features of the Ultimate Workflow Product

Written by Howie Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL
Recently, I was asked by a franchise printer in Salt Lake City to describe what the ultimate workflow would look like in terms of features and functionality.
After I answered, the question kept rattling around my head as I kept adding, modifying and deleting features until I came up with this list. If unrestricted by practical limitations (different software packages not communicating), I would want my dream workflows to:
1. Automate the tracking and conversion of customers from inbound marketing campaigns (Google AdWords, online inquires) into the CRM system.
2. Transfer the new customer information from the CRM system into the Print MIS system, create the job ticket, and allow for job floor tracking.
3. Provide an estimating tool that could be used by staff or accessed by a Web to Print solution and transfer the estimating data to job tickets.
4. Allow customers to access a Web to Print solution with pricing, allow them to reorder standard products from thumbnails, order the quantity they want with the multiple shipping options, see a PDF proof, and bill their credit card or send the billing information to the Print MIS system for billing.
5. Make it easy to design templates for standardized products such as business cards.
6. Transfer information from both estimated jobs and online orders to a scheduling person who could test “what-if” scenarios to see how moving work around will impact the rest of the schedule.
7. Gather information from estimated jobs, online orders, FTP sites, and transfer it to the design area with any uploaded graphics, text documents, special notes, etc.
8. Automate the preflight files for most common issues such as lack of fonts, wrong color scheme, transparencies, lower graphics, etc.
9. Transfer information about the status of jobs into the CRM system, alerting staff to progress such as, “we received your file”, “here is a PDF proof”, “your job is ready for pickup or delivery” and ‘here is your tracking number.”
10. Have tools to offload repetitive prepress steps to a server and scripting the process using hot folder strategies for PDF creation, preflight, color correction, imposition, etc.
11. Automatically generate invoices that show actual vs. estimated material and production time, request approval for charges, and transfer this information to the CRM system.
12. Include a mailing, fulfillment and inventory management tools to monitor and manage the back-end of the system.
What features would be on your ‘dream’ workflow product?

Howard Fenton is a Consultant and Business Advisor at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity through workflow management, adding and integrating new digital services, and adding value through customer research.

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  1. Buck Crowley May 26, 2015 -

    Great article Howie!
    The easiest way to make this happen is to automatically draw data from the production (work flow) processes. Then use rules and filters to convert data into information.
    All the print/packaging/mailing/fulfillment automation projects we have designed for the last 30 years use this approach. The market leaders use these techniques to excel.
    Good info Howie, you get it, Thank you for passing it on!

  2. Howie Fenton May 26, 2015 -

    Thanks Buck. You may be surprised to learn that according to our research only about half of the companies use a print MIS system. And those that don’t have created their own do-it-yourself features using spreadsheets for estimating, job ticketing, and billing!

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