– By Todd Bigger, VP of Print, Eastman Kodak Company.
When was the last time you reviewed your workflow? Not only a look at the modules and features, but the integration points that make it possible to share data and update business systems. Even a cursory look will tell you that those integration points are essential to the health of the business, which is why reviewing the current state of your workflow integration, and your options for creating an end-to-end workflow that shares data across the business is essential to long-term growth.
Looking at Your Workflows
Do you have an integration strategy? The best practice is to define and document your approach to integration and test every project against those integration policies. You should define the requirements for data exchange so that all processes share data in real time. In a typical integration project, there may be hundreds of elements to consider, custom code to be written to cross application boundaries, APIs to be updated, and SDKs to be integrated, all needing project management and testing.
Working without a strategy is like a meeting without an agenda. We all gather around a table and start talking about what we think is important. Processes, pain points, bottlenecks and ideas all compete for mindshare. At the end of the meeting there are a few action items that update processes or solve pain points.
Even if you have defined a strategy, a look at your current integration state may uncover gaps. You may find that the work needed to create seamless integration isn’t done. Look for partly installed workflow suites, islands of custom code (usually undocumented), and incomplete integrations. You may find data feeds that should be connected are missing, causing team members to manually enter needed data or to make decisions without relevant data. Incomplete integrations can stem from running out of professional services budget, inability to find integration resources, or difficulties in working with legacy blocks of code. The result is partial integration that never realizes the promise of operational efficiency. Even in a JDF-certified workflow, if the integration points aren’t connected, data cannot flow and inform, so you won’t realize the benefits of true integration.
Your integration investigation may uncover more than incomplete projects. It may uncover multiple software products intended to accomplish the same tasks. It isn’t uncommon to find multiple web-to-print and digital storefront variations alongside elements of estimating, scheduling, inventory management, and shop floor data collection tools from partially installed suites and departmental acquisitions meant to solve specific challenges. Tools may be sitting on dedicated appliances and servers, while others may sit in the cloud.
When multiple tools exist, they each work in their own way. They format the data they gather and pass in ways specific to their architecture. Two different web-to-print environments can be gathering specifications and passing them using parameters with different names. Different products may use different naming conventions for how files are stored, and profiles are maintained. Every variation is a pain point. This is the path to directories filled with custom code that may not be aging gracefully, and which must be maintained and reviewed with every software update.
When there are multiple locations, the impact is magnified. People spend time resolving the differences, or they write custom code to try to normalize them. Don’t be surprised to find that some elements of essential business information are kept in private spreadsheets and re-keyed into primary business systems. To position for growth, this is a great time to look for a true end-to-end workflow that doesn’t rely on custom code, proprietary appliances and servers, or teams of professional services contractors with limited knowledge of the products, all working to a budget. This is the time to look for a single partner with a comprehensive solution and a team ready to create your integration success.
Successful Integration Planning
Integration is more than connecting multiple solutions. Simple connections may not adequately support the workflow architecture. The best practice is to ensure that all systems of record can share data, so look for solutions that provide seamless, end-to-end business integration, not just production shop integration.
The PRINERGY on Demand Business Solution is the only solution is the market that meets these integration requirements. With Microsoft and PrintVIS forming a solid infrastructure with Prinergy, there is no need to hire an army of integration contractors or IT experts. The Kodak team evaluates the existing environment, builds a plan to ensure that data flows between the business and production systems, and quotes a price to deliver a complete end-to-end business system. One vendor. One solution. Complete integration.
Another advantage is the platform, which is cloud based for flexibility and scalability. Working with the Microsoft platform provides integration with both Microsoft 365 and Teams, two of the most widely used business tools. It also brings PowerBI to the integration, ensuring that every member of the team has access to the dashboards needed for both simple and complex business decisions. Going forward, the data locked inside MIS and ERP systems is freed to work for the entire business bringing operational efficiency to every department.
With PRINERGY on Demand you are connected today and tomorrow. By building on the industry-leading Microsoft platform, even as new features are added, the connections remain constant. The result is reliability. Sales teams know that their data is accurate, estimations are based on current costs, and discount rates are optimized for the business. Production management has the information they need for task and machine scheduling, and inventory replenishment. Management has the overview they require and the ability to do deep dives by department as they look for growth opportunities. The result is an empowered, integrated workflow, where every function connects to future-proof your business.
Todd spoke in detail at Kodak’s web session at virtual.drupa on April 20. The session titled: A single Platform Workflow Solution: One Vendor. One Workflow. Fully Managed.