The technology used in the print and mail industry is changing rapidly. Every year, equipment speed and capability is improving. It’s challenging to buy for the present and keep an eye towards the future. So how do we solve today’s issues and prepare for tomorrow’s needs?
There are 4 key principles to follow when buying and planning:
- Recognize uncertainty – Nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow. We certainly don’t know what changes will occur 3 to 5 years from now. It’s difficult for leaders to admit that they can’t predict the future, but they must recognize their limitations in order to prepare for uncertainty. Your plans should include several options for those times when the future doesn’t cooperate, and events turn out differently than projected.
- Clearly state known issues – Enumerate and describe the challenges facing your organization today. Consider the business problems facing your internal and external customers and how you can help alleviate those issues. Make a list of the operational problems impacting your unit. Expand on the list with the reasons for each problem.
- Describe probable future events – Using the latest trends, think through what’s likely to take place in the next 3 to 5 years. Look at the changes in volumes and types of documents your company is sending to its customers, and the methods for sending those documents. Examine the price points for buying or leasing new equipment and software. Review the innovations being introduced by industry leaders. While you can’t guarantee the future, these indicators can help you estimate what’s possible and probable.
- Prioritize – Consider the likelihood of events and the impact on business requirements. For example, will email and e-delivery impact the future delivery of documents? Yes. But by what percentage for which types of documents? Past trends indicate a lower percentage than what many software and service vendors suggest. You also need to consider how your company will react to changes in technology. Do they aggressively adopt new methods, or do they wait until the market has taken a certain direction?
The term “future” can mean several different timeframes beyond “tomorrow”. For some businesses, planning more than 5 months out is considered long-term. But for other companies, long-term means 5 to 10 years. When buying technology, focus on the expected life of the purchase. Most software and equipment in the print-mail industry will be transformed in the next 3 to 5 years. Because of that short timeframe, services with outsourcing providers should be limited to 3 to 5 years as well.
Of course, before you can move forward, you must understand the starting point. There’s an old saying that you can’t get to where you want to go unless you know where you are. What good is a map if you don’t know where you are on that map?
Produce an accurate description of your operation today, including measurements and metrics for the work being produced in your operations. Create process maps that illustrate workflows, identify critical points, and demonstrate what technology is used at each step. That technology may be basic (e.g., mail carts and offline folders) or modern (e.g., scanners and inkjet presses).
The information you collect provides a clear picture of where you are. Knowing where you are allows you to create a bridge to a future state. A future that’s grounded in reality.