Integrating Your Web to Print Platform and MIS
Guide to Connecting Your Print MIS and Web to Print Platform
This is class #4 of a 5 part Web to Print Master Class | 5 min read
- Web to Print and Print MIS (Management Information System) are both experiencing rapid adoption and innovation within the print industry.
- Some printers are experimenting with integrating and connecting data between these solutions in pursuit of greater automation.
- It is important for printers who want to pursue this next-level automation strategy to get a deeper understanding of how these solutions work both separately and in tandem.
The concept of connecting your web to print solution to an MIS system is appealing because it in theory enables a nearly “touch-less” order-to-fulfillment production workflow.
The integration of MIS and W2P (Web to Print) looks like an obvious enhancement to the automating effects that both solutions have independent of one another. Let your web to print solution take the orders in, process and delegate order lines, then hand over the print-ready files to the print MIS system.
This article will breakdown what a workflow that connects web to print with MIS can look like, what the limitations are, and other important considerations on this topic.
3 Essential Questions to Ask Before Integrating Web to Print and MIS
- 1. What essential workflows do you currently handle with your MIS and web to print systems?
- 2. Are you able to adapt your touchpoints and operational workflows to make the most of these two systems?
- 3. Is integrating these two systems the best option for your business?
- 4. AKA: Is your web to print solution modern enough to “do it all”?
#1 Looking at the print workflow and how software fits in (W2P and MIS)
As the world has become more technologically connected, print software has steadily developed an increasingly essential role in the business and operations of print providers. Best in class web to print solutions add much more value than simply enabling customers to order print online. Printers who embrace modern web to print software can see dramatic transformations in what types of products they can offer, the size and types of clients they can attract, and what those business relationships look like.
This transformation is summed up in the concept of the modern Full-Service Marketing Solution Provider. Designations like these are wordy but accurate descriptions of an evolution of the print provider that encompasses more than print. Becoming a long-term, full-service, 24/7 online, high-volume, quick turnaround all-in-one marketing asset solution for an enterprise client is the path that many printers are taking. And it is software like advanced web to print platforms and print MIS that makes this shift possible.
Before we get into the ways in which web to print and MIS can be integrated with each other, let’s quickly breakdown the stages of the typical print workflow that these two types of solutions engage with.
A Typical Print Workflow Using Web to Print and MIS
- Stage 1: Print Personalization – Web to Print
- Stage 2: Order Inception – Web to Print
- Stage 3: Production – MIS
- Stage 4: Fulfillment – MIS
- Stage 5: Order Close – Web to Print
Each of these stages can be broken down further. Within the ordering step in the process there are proofing features, approval workflows, and business rules for brand compliance, which modern web to print can handle much more elegantly than the old methods of email chains and manual file drops.
MIS systems can be highly sophisticated with the workflows they can execute autonomously to get a job created, estimated, and completed.
In the fulfillment stage, web to print systems use robust data intelligence to make sure inventory information is always up to date and accurate and that order communications go out to customers at the right time every time.
What is clear regardless of the detail of how much you zoom in is this: Each stage in the journey of the typical marketing solution provider order is either improved, automated, or assisted by one of these two systems.
Print workflow sandwich
Looking at the stage list above, we can start to see how web to print and MIS come together like a workflow sandwich. Web to print is the bread, the lettuce, the mayo spread, and MIS is the meat in the cheese in the center.
The vital point of contact between the two systems is the hand-off of order data and print-ready files that are generated by the web to print solution after the customer has done their personalization, the artwork is proofed, the order is approved, and the order is submitted.
Then when the order has been produced, procured, and shipped, the MIS alerts the web to print system so that it can close the order
So, to recap, the two critical points of contact where web to print and MIS can form an integration is:
- 1. Order data hand-off
- 2. Order fulfillment update
This flow of data is what it means on a technical level when you talk about web to print and MIS talking to one another.
But how does this data connection get established in the first place? The answer is: it depends. To dig deeper, let’s explore some of variables that determine how you can integrate your web to print and MIS software.
#2 How to integrate web to print and MIS
Integrating your web to print system and MIS is a multi-step process that can be broken down into the following steps:
- 1. Determine what the goal of the integration is, including what workflows and touchpoints you want to push through your web to print solution and which you want to handle with MIS.
- 2. Map out what data needs to be shared between your web to print and MIS systems based on your ideal order workflow.
- 3. Engage with your web to print software provider for guidance on the specific procedures and information you need to make this data connection.
- 4. Check if your web to print has a pre-constructed connector that is compatible with your MIS and the data you need.
- 5. If necessary, work with your software provider to create any custom development that may be needed due to limitations or unique features of your MIS.
- 6. Using your software’s APIs, create the data connection between your web to print solution and your MIS software.
- 7. Test your integration with a few test orders.
Exactly what data will be transferred between these two pieces of software varies from case to case. Most of the time, the web to print system will send order data to the MIS and the MIS will send order updates back. Often, the two systems will be updating each other with inventory data and SKU information as well.
As you can see, much of this integration process comes down to highly variable factors. Due to the rapidly evolving nature of print software and automation technology, integrating web to print with MIS is often a case-by-case procedure. The number of steps, difficulty and ultimate success of this integration relies on several vital questions.
7 Questions to Ask Before Integrating Web to Print and MIS
- 1. What MIS are you using?
- 2. What Web to Print solution do you have?
- 3. Are implementing your Web to Print solution for the first time?
- 4. What essential workflows do you currently run through your MIS?
- 5. How is your warehouse and warehousing workforce structured and with what resources?
- 6. How do you currently handle fulfillment workflows?
- 7. How willing and able are you to assess, adjust, and adapt your operational workflows to make the most of these two systems?
That last question, if you couldn’t tell from the italics, is the most pertinent factor for many printers looking to integrate web to print with MIS.
The field of print workflow automation is far from standardized and because of that, the printers who are forward-thinking have an edge over those who are resistant to change. With that being said, let’s touch on one of the biggest reasons why you might decide in the end not to pursue a web to print and MIS integration.
#3 Modern web to print does more than you think
Modern web to print solutions are a far cry from the simplistic online print ordering platforms that preceded them. Leading web to print solutions on the market today can support the entire marketing catalog and enable printers to do more for their clients.
With that said, consider this point: Your web to print solution might have all the tools necessary to support your entire supply chain. This means the question of “how” to connect web to print and MIS becomes irrelevant because with an advanced enough solution, you might be able to do almost everything you currently do with MIS with your web to print solution.
Modern web to print solutions with strong B2B capabilities and robust feature sets often come with all the necessary supply chain management tools, from warehousing to inventory management to procurement and production workflows.
In other words, with the right web to print solution, you can get all the benefits of integrating web to print and MIS without needing to integrate at all. That is why the 3rd essential question we opened this class with is: Is your web to print solution modern enough to “do it all”?
The big picture: Consolidate systems with modern web to print
One big reason this question of web to print and MIS integration does not have a straightforward, one-size-fits-all answer is because some printers will find it more beneficial in the long run to transfer their entire order workflow to their web to print.
Advancements in web to print software have enabled printers to cut down on their overall software spread by handling workflows all the way through the order cycle, from print personalization to inventory management. The best web to print solutions will come packed with sophisticated APIs and flexible integration potential so you can design your ideal tech stack and automate more touchpoints.
In other words, printers can consolidate the work of multiple outdated or limited print software systems with one holistic web to print solution. improvements in speed, accuracy, efficiency, reduction of touchpoints and bottlenecks. Many are finding this outcome not just possible with the right solution, but ultimately the most efficient and cost-effective choice.
If you want to learn more about how your print business can make the most of your web to print solution, check out our guide to maximizing your web to print ROI: The Complete Web-to-Print Handbook: Maximize ROI and Growth.
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