Internal alignment is important for any business initiative, because web to print can be viewed as a threat to your labor force – alignment is critical. Get everyone on the same page before you invest – it’s worth the time and effort.
I’ve experienced it too many times to even count. Management at the print provider makes a decision on a web to print vendor (sometimes after creating a strategy – frequently picking a vendor is their strategy). The vendor sends in the implementation team who is greeted by resources at the printer whose knowledge of the project ranges from, didn’t even know you were coming, to heard something about it but I’m really busy!
Meet what Nilofer Merchant calls the “Air Sandwich” in her book The New How. “An Air Sandwich is, in effect, a strategy that has clear vision and future direction on the top layer, day-to-day action on the bottom, and virtually nothing in the middle…”
The vendor and the production people implement the software but there is nothing to tie that implementation to the overall strategy. Check lists get completed, invoices can be sent (for completed implementations) but the actions aren’t anchored to a strategy which focuses on outcomes instead of tasks.
What does the printer get out of this? They “get” to spend money with the vendor; they “get” to utilize their precious resources.
What does the vendor get out of this? They “get” a sale and the professional services typically required to implement their solution.
What are they both missing out on? A success story, a long term partnership, a chance for them to teach each other.
What’s the easiest thing to focus on? (because nobody wants to admit that there is only air in the sandwich). The technology, so we start down a path of identifying every tiny detail that should be altered with the technology in order to make it perfect before we actually let customers use it.
Avoid the air sandwich by creating an online strategy in a collaborative manner – success starts with getting internal alignment first. Yes, this will take more time, yes it will be messy. If you believe your CSRs will see the web to print initiative as a threat – then involve them in the strategy upfront or they will make sure it never succeeds downstream. Identify resistance upfront and speak about it openly, debate, and communicate the necessity of building a online business so that you’re all on the same team before you invest a penny.