women working on a MacAs we have discussed in several recent blogs, four applications―Web-to-print, Prepress PDF, Print MIS, and Variable-Data Printing―all topped the list of workflow software investments over the last three years among more than 325 Commercial and In-Plant printing facilities surveyed in the recent Workflow Investment Survey 2014 from NAPL. The results of the survey are reported in our latest white paper, “Workflow: Where, Why, and What Companies are Investing”, sponsored by Xerox.

“Of the nine software product and service categories studied, both Commercial companies and In-Plants have focused on these four applications, which they consider most worthwhile,” reports my co-author Andy Paparozzi, our Chief Economist. “In fact, over 92% of all organizations surveyed have invested in at least one of these applications and over 61% have invested in at least two over the last three years. Additionally, majorities in every organization size category studied plan to invest in these four over the next three years.”

Nearly 80% of survey respondents were Commercial companies and 20% were In-Plant facilities. As expected, some software investments were equally important for both Commercial and In-Plant facilities, such as Web-to-Print, Print MIS, and Prepress PDF workflow software. Others, meanwhile, were more appropriate for the Commercial shops, such as Variable-Data Printing, Cross-Media Marketing, and Search Engine Optimization.

For In-plants, is ROI or Adding Value more important?

But that brings up some interesting questions:

  • Why do Commercial printers invest more in VDP and Cross-Media marketing than In-Plant printers?
  • Should In-Plant printers invest more in VDP and Cross-Media marketing?
  • Would offering VDP and Cross-Media marketing services increase the value of the In-Plant?

University VDP Case History

The cover story of last month’s In-Plant Graphics Magazine tells an interesting story of the success of VDP at the University of Oklahoma. In the article, John Sarantakos, the In-Plant manager, talks about their struggle at the university to prove the value of VDP. But once proven, their customers can’t get enough of it.

According to Sarantakos, “The recruiting arm of the athletic department loves variable data and personalization for high-quality flashy pieces customized for a specific kid or coach. They’ve gone as far as sending packages that include puzzles depicting [the prospect] playing football or basketball.”

What do you think?

  • Should In-Plants offer VDP and Cross-Media marketing services?
  • Would this increase their value or create an additional cost burden which would be hard to recover?

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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.