Building a model requires meticulous attention to detail and an abundance of patience. The parts are tiny and have to be assembled in a particular order. Whether building a model car, ship, or train, you glue the pieces together to form a tight bond where one part fuses to the other. Glue gives the right amount of adhesion and is fluid enough to place onto the miniscule pieces.
Duct Tape keeps stuff together too. A roll of this tape is the handy man’s best friend. It’s versatile and can fix almost anything. Contrary to popular belief, Duct Tape is not a permanent fix despite what the driver of that car you just passed on the interstate may think. One would not use Duct Tape to build a model and one would also not use glue to patch the hole in a tent — different application, different results.
Most print shops are taking the Duct Tape approach to using and implementing their business critical software systems. Customers, for numerous reasons, have acquired software to address specific needs in one department with little though to the entire organization. In some cases shops have acquired multiple pieces of the same software that largely functions the same. Web-to-print software is the usual culprit here. Other shops are now faced with the burden of ongoing software development for their custom built solution while an off-the-shelf solution could provide more functionality at a lower total cost of ownership. The result is that the digital plumbing for your shop has many leaks so you try to Duct Tape it. You deal with the redundant data entry points, the workarounds, the incompatible versions, or the lack of one piece of software to communicate with any other.
Your broken digital infrastructure is not entirely your fault. The vendors who write the software have been slow to adopt open architectures probably because they are too focused on their own unified solutions. A recent tweet by Bryan Yeager from this year’s EFI Connect conference mentioned the company’s new push to open up their software through APIs. Hopefully this will be the start of a trend.
Although you probably cannot wipe the slate clean, you can focus on the data exports/imports that may already be a possibility with your existing software. Most packages offer some level of file exchange whether through database queries, XML file, JDF, or similar. You might also find benefit from software that can act as a bridge to link information between other software — Enfocus’ Switch is a good example.
To get the most benefit going forward, from data interchange/integrity to automation, start reaching for the glue instead.
photo credit: puuikibeach