By Cassandra Balentine
Part two of two
With the world economy in turmoil, we can’t have much of a technology discussion without considering the COVID-19 effect. In many ways, cloud-based solutions stood out as a key element of business success throughout the pandemic.
Working from Home
The pandemic certainly tested every company’s disaster preparedness and its ability to be flexible.
Therese McGady, marketing manager, points out that many who had W2P and MIS software before the pandemic were in a good position to serve customers. Those who didn’t scrambled to adjust.
“Given the various lockdowns around the country and the effect on the print industry we were surprised at the number of new customers that we were able to bring on board in 2020. Some print shops were taking advantage of slower business to finally get around to take the time to implement a new MIS for their operation,” says Tony Tarpey, COO, Presswise by SmartSoft.
He says feedback from customers during this time was very positive too. “A cloud-based MIS like PressWise lets certain staff work from home. Managers and owners can manage orders and monitor production remotely, back office staff can do their jobs from home, and PressWise web storefronts have allowed customers to order/reorder print from the comfort of their own homes too,” shares Tarpey.
Since one of the biggest changes the world has seen in 2020 is the need to work from home, the modern capabilities of web to print (W2P) technology and responsive web design allow customers to access their storefronts through mobile phones, tablets, and other handheld devices, anytime and anywhere they want. “Most MIS software can integrate with a W2P system. Creating invoices with a button which links to an online payment processing site, makes paying extremely fast and easy for the customer. Customer data, addresses, work orders, order history, and much more can be accessed through the MIS system, while an employee can work from home due to COVID-19,” says Michael Wemhoff, marketing graphic designer, PrintReach.
COVID-19 brought a massive surge in demand from print providers looking to move to the cloud, which Ehsan Elahi, senior consultant, Print Management Information Systems, believes is mainly due to having staff working from home. “Businesses are also demanding an integrated W2P platform so that they can sell online and manage everything with one platform rather than having to use two disjointed systems. Customers that place orders online are actually doing the order entry for printing companies, thus eliminating the need for print providers to manually enter orders one by one.”
As a multi-national company, PrintIQ has an interesting perspective. Rowan notes that the pandemic effect has varied depending on the geographical region. “For instance, the North American market stagnated a little as COVID-19 took hold but as time progressed, we had enormous interest and subsequent sales activity based on the ability for our customers to access their business from remote locations. In the U.K. the demand for cloud solutions was already strong but I’d say COVID-19 made it more immediate. From a feature-set perspective, customers are looking for leaner workflows with less touchpoints and more automation. All very achievable in the printIQ ecosystem.”
Renee Hesseling, product manager, EFI Productivity Software, also sees the growing importance of the cloud during the pandemic. “Non-essential staff are working from home, and that has increased the demand and need for fully featured cloud solutions that provide as much remote management and business information capability as possible from off-site. Our cloud-based offerings have enabled customers to maintain business continuity amidst the changing needs and demands during this last year.”
Hesseling says MIS/ERP activity in general for print has increased in part because of the pandemic. “For many businesses that have seen revenues drop, getting the most out of an MIS/ERP workflow has been critical. We have customers implementing new systems entirely remotely. Customers have also taken advantage of the time to finish implementations they may have delayed or have looked at expanding their solution to better meet customer requirements to drive more revenue,” he offers.
The pandemic has stretched everyone’s resources, including IT resources. Vince Tutino, product management director, Rochester Software Associates (RSA), points out that because cloud systems are much less IT resource intensive, the demand for cloud hosted systems has increased. While IT still needs to be involved to provide certificates, VPN, DNS entries, SSO login access, and security oversight, this is much less than a typical on-site virtual installation. Having a system that allows secure access from home, with proper credentials, can give half or more of the staff the ability to be productive from home while minimizing exposure to COVID. RSA’s software already has features like automated production management that enable remote working and fewer touches to produce and ship jobs. “Many customers were not using these features prior to the pandemic but realized that using them helped them be more productive with fewer touches and limited in-person staff- an essential need during the pandemic,” he shares.
COVID and the Cloud
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the limits of many industries and required the ability for more professionals to work from home. Print providers with cloud-based MIS were at an advantage when it comes to flexibility.
Read part one of this two-part series, Addressing Cloud Concerns.
Mar2021, DPS Magazine