Heads Up on PrintSmith Vision

Just a quick heads up for those of you considering Vision. If you are currently using Windows computers my recommendation is to stick with the Classic version for now. If you are using the latest Apple computers, you may be forced to upgrade without any opportunity to wait for a more complete version.

Keep in mind that this will not be a quick upgrade like we have had in the past. There are actually fewer features in Vision as compared to Classic and you may be surprised that some of your favorite features are missing (more details in a future post). In addition, you will have to re-create your Invoice and Estimate documents all over again. Bummer if you have additional docs like a Proof Letter, Re-Order Form, and special Unit Pricing estimates.

I would recommend planning at least a week to get Vision setup to a point where you can actually use it.Even more if you have been using Report Writer extensively like me.

Don’t forget that there are also some new hardware requirements that may slow you down also. Bottom line, this upgrade will need some extra planning and extra time before you can go live.

Personally, I am going to wait for a more complete version of Vision.

Excellent Site Council Meeting!

The PrintSmith Site Council meeting went very well in my opinion. We had around 20 users from around the
country (plus about 8 EFI staff) and Chuck Gehman took down extremely detailed notes about our issues and concerns. It was all handled very professionally and I felt that it was a very constructive and positive environment that will result in actually getting things done. I look forward to attending more of these meetings if they have them.

One small side note: I have a whole new respect for the process that the
developers must go through!! I don’t envy their job.

My only wish was that this meeting really should have taken place about 2 years ago.

So the question remains, when will it “work”?
It really depends which features your company needs. They do have a timeline but at this point it is not exactly clear what features will be included and at what dates on the timeline. Of the 20 “major” items on my list about half will make the cut for sure in the next release. Following that, about half of my remaining items will make it in the 2nd release. (Yes, I’m being vague on purpose!)

Think about it, they are partners with Xerox, Adobe, and XmPie. In the long run, they should have the best e-commerce solution out there. Until then, we will have to take a few more “patience” pills.

PrintSmith Site Council Wish List

The PrintSmith Site Council is tomorrow which is a great opportunity for me to post my wish list:

Updated 2006 Site Wish List
(The competition already has many of these features, and I’m not certain which ones have already been addressed)

1.We have several customers who need to see an Automatic Inventory
calculation on their forms from inventory. When they order 50 forms they want to see the inventory reduced by 50 immediately.

2.We have a several customer who need 3rd party approvals on their orders.

3.We want our customers to be able to view their Job Status.

4.Our customers complain about Logins and passwords and us not having the
ability to help them. Need an “As They See it” feature. (This was already mentioned by Bill & Sheila today, but has been on on my list since 2003)

5.Our customers want to make changes to their orders after they were sent.
Very nice for minor mistakes on Composer Business Cards.

6.We need the ability to customize emails sent to our customers.

7.We need to present a 1 Up business card Proof File, but have the
Production PDF file come in to us 4 Up. In other words, there are 2 types of files: 1 for Proofing, and 1 for Production.

8. We need a Drop Down Menu for address locations on Composer Business
Cards. (We have a customer with 14 locations. On Site Composer, we needed 14 Cards.) Does XMPie address this?

9. Browser Based Administration. (I think this one may be fixed in 2.0)

10. Need a “View All” feature that allows the customer to
see All of their forms instead of being forced to go deeper into each Category.

11. Integration of the entire ordering process with the customer’s email
address. Estimating the job, Receiving the order, Viewing the Proof, Notifying the customer of job status, etc.

12. Unit Pricing: I think this one may be fixed but we need to be able to give a price for any qty from 1-50,000.
(Example: The form is already printed, the price is always $.15 each, we just need it to do the math.)

13. We will still need some sort of 3rd party web integration via email and a place to store 3rd party web job numbers that is searchable.

Hope to see everyone in Pittsburgh tomorrow!

More on the PrintSmith Site Council

Here is a partial post I made on the PrintSmith forum that I wanted to post here too:

So, moving forward in a constructive manner, I would like to express my concerns here on the forum to save valuable time at the meeting. (I will be there.) I have to give some background to explain why I and many others have these concerns.

1. History from 2003 – 2006
We dropped Site for Websitesforprinters in 2003. We now have over 400 companies with over 600 people using our website. In addition, we have around 300 products on our site that also have matching PrintSmith templates to ease the re-typing.

Now, contrast the above information with the internal stats of our shop. We have 18 employees, of which, only 15 use PrintSmith. Of those 15, only 6 actually enter estimates and orders into the system. Think about that for a second. For every 100 people that use our site we have only 1 person inside the shop that enters orders in PrintSmith!

My point is that our web interface has suddenly become more important than our internal software because it touches more people, more often, and it is always available. Changing our web presence is not something to be taken lightly.

2. Fast Forward to the Future
Let’s assume that Site is complete and it has addressed most of the issues and concerns of the majority of users. So we buy it and at that point, there are several very important questions that we have to answer.
Do we switch everybody over to Site?
Do we switch just the Catalog customers?
Do we just add New customers to Site?
How do we handle File transfers, Proof responses, Inventory, and History?
How do we handle having two different Logins and passwords?

3. A Possible Solution
Obviously, there is no way that could possibly switch everybody at the same time. We would have to phase them in one at a time, and that will take time. In addition, I’m not certain that we would be able to switch them all, there are just too many people.

Plus, there are some features like File Transfers, Viewing Proofs, and Inventory Tracking that I’m told Site will never be able to handle as efficiently as we do it now. So, it is my understanding that we will need both solutions.

To help us deal with both solutions, it would be a huge help for us to have some way to integrate our 3rd party website orders into PrintSmith through a very simple text email. Why? Because we are finding that CSR’s make mistakes retyping information into PrintSmith. In particular, the Quantity and Special Instructions get botched or left out.

To conclude, our website has become extremely important to our business and our customers. Our customers need us to make it as easy as possible for them to do business online and we would like to keep them happy by doing that.

PrintSmith Site User Council

PrintSmith jus announced the following yesterday:

The first meetings of the PrintSmith Site User Council will be held on July 25th, 2006, in EFI’s Pittsburgh offices. In addition to giving you a forum to provide input to EFI on your products, members of the Council will also receive advance information about our plans, and insight into our strategy regarding the web-to-print products, integration to PrintSmith and workflow and online VDP initiatives. This is an unparalleled opportunity for you to impact our future development of the web products, and you’ll have access to developers, product managers, professional services people, support people, marketers and EFI executives.

This is good news and I plan on attending, please join us!!

Connect 2006 Starts This Weekend

EFI’s Connect 2006 starts this weekend and I wish could be there to see the latest offerings from PrintSmith and a sneak peek at 7.3. If you have never been to a conference it is well worth it just because of the of the other users you meet and the ideas that you can “borrow”.

On top of that, you get to meet the staff and learn one on one if you want. If you haven’t sent at least one person from your staff since the release of 7.0, then I would highly recommend that you do so.

My 2006 Top Ten Wish List (Ok, Top 54)

It is that time of year again (EFI’s Connect is almost upon us) and I have put together my 4th Annual Wish List of features for PrintSmith. First, I would like to review my list from last year.

My 2005 list had 55 items on it and with the release of 7.2 I was able to eliminate 9 items from my list!! 7.2 is loaded with new features and many of those weren’t on my list. For example, the Estimator’s Checklist and the Delivery Ticket Manager were not on my list, but they were items I had tried to create in Report Writer. A giant kudos to PrintSmith for a great release.

On to my Wish List for 2006. (Scroll down to see the Top 10 and a link to the full list)

This year, I have a total of 54 items, which tends to grow as move closer to the next release. I added 8 more items to the list since the release of 7.2. Obviously, it is very difficult to keep up with the demand for new features!

However, the bad/sad news is that there are still 12 features on my list that Printer’s Plan (chief competitor of PrintSmith) has that PrintSmith does not. Unfortunately, most of those 12 features have been on my list for over 3 years and I haven’t even looked at the latest version of Printer’s Plan in depth.

So, you are probably wondering if you could see the list, well here it is!
Click here for my full 2006 PrintSmith Wish List

For those of you not interested in 54 items here is the Top Ten (11) version:
1 Tracker: Add a way to make it a Scheduler
2 Port Speed: Need a way to keep workstations from “dropping” off
3 Pending List: Add a button for “Release to Production” And Un-Release
4 Tracker: Add button for “Release to Production” to Pending List And Un-Release
5 Report Manager: Add a “Search” or “Find” capability to find reports by name
6 Web Ref #: Need a web job # for 3rd Party programs (like Printer’s Plan)
7 Shipping Address: Add drop down menus for Invoice Addresses
8 Email Control: More control over the email feature (like Printer’s Plan)
9 List Price Schedules: When you Change Prices add ability to Round Pricing
10 List Price Schedules: Change Prices by Selected lists instead of All lists
11 E-Commerce: Like WebsitesForPrinters and KeyCustomers (by Printer’s Plan)

Number eleven really should be number one, but I have been whining about that for 3 years now. And, if you look closely, number 3 and number 4 are the same. Let’s just say it is a pet peeve of mine.

I would love for you to send me (or PrintSmith) your Top Ten list. It will only help make the product better.

Update on 3rd Party Web Integration

Just a quick update: Ron Teller posted a message that PrintSmith is NOT blocked from integratng with a 3rd party e-commerce solution. This is good news. In addition, he said that the costs could be as high as $100K, which relly isn’t that high if you could get one of the big 3 to take it on.

Here is his post:

“We have in the past done custom integrations to PrintSmith for large customers. These have been proprietary to the client as well as confidential so we can not comment on any specifics. In all cases there was custom development and an ongoing fee to support this integration. The cost of building and supporting this integration is significant, often running over $100k. We have seen very little use of this up till now in the couple of cases where it was deployed. If any clients are interested in sponsoring the integration, they should contact us. But once again, they should be prepared for a significant expense and many months of development and testing. If anyone does wish to proceed, email Chuck Gehman at chuck.gehman@efi.com.”

Interesting choice of words “If anyONE wishes to proceed…..”

Like just one company would pursue this, but a group of companies would! Here are few groups that I can think of: WebsitesForPrinters, Printers Presence, MyOrderDesk, franchises, etc.

3rd Party Web Integration with PrintSmith?

Wouldn’t it be great to have PrintSmith integrated with your 3rd party E-Commerce website? If you are using one of the big 3 (WebsitesForPrinters, MyOrderDesk, or PrinterPresence) this would be a dream come true! I have been asking for this ability for 3 Years and I found out today that it is a reality. Unfortunately, it is a reality only for members of 2 Franchises.

Why can’t anyone else have it? I’ll let Ron Teller from PrintSmith answer that one.

“Two of our corporate accounts have asked us to integrate PrintSmith with their ecommerce systems. One is a home grown system and one is a third party. Each party paid us a great deal of money to get these integrations and had the stipulation that it would be an exclusive to their stores, therefore it is not available to non-franchised printing companies.”
-Ron Teller, PrintSmith Forum April 17, 2006

Which causes me to ask, who from EFI would sign that deal? Knowing the failures of Site and the mass exodus of those that tried it (like me) why would EFI “handcuff” themselves to a deal like that?

Think about it, how many independent shops have WebsitesForPrinters, MyOrderDesk, or PrinterPresence? I have heard that between the 3 solutions that there are at least 2,500 shops. How many of those use PrintSmith? I have heard that PrintSmith has about 25-35% of the market which would be around 600 shops. How many of those would be willing to pay $5K for integration? Over 100 shops tried Site, I’m sure at least 100-200 would be willing to pay $5K. That is $500,000.00 minimum!!! Did the Franchises pay that much?

I haven’t even mentioned monthly fees!! There’s another $100,000.00 a year, easy.

Here’s the sad part. Now we know they can do it, but they won’t do it for us.
I can’t believe they admitted this publicly…….

Website Integration with PrintSmith

Web integration was the topic of the day on the PrintSmith listserve so I thought I would record my post here too as this is a very important topic. Why?

The thing about web integration is that our customers get to SEE our
software via our website. They don’t get to see PrintSmith, but they do get
to see whatever we offer up on the web.

In essence, we are more “Married” to our website than we are to our MIS
because our customers are part of the relationship. They want something that
works, that is easy to use, and doesn’t change drastically. (Think of the
shock you get when your significant other shows up with a new haircut!)

We now have around 300 “products” on our WebsitesForPrinters.com website which equals many, many hours of work, not to mention the history each customer has created. The
longer we wait for integration with PrintSmith, the harder it becomes to use whatever PrintSmith has to offer in the fuutre and that is a very real concern for us.

Don’t get me wrong, I love PrintSmith, but integration has become more and more important on daily basis. My hope is that PrintSmith will start giving some serious consideration to integration with 3rd party websites. I welcome your comments!!!

(For those of you who don’t know, we dropped PrintSmith Site in October 2003 for WebsitesForPrinters and PrintSmith still hasn’t caught up.)