Ask any half-decent printer how to print something and they should be able to work out the best way in a matter of seconds. Ask them to price up the job and sell it to customers and many will stand around scratching their heads. It’s an age-old problem and one the printing industry has never really managed to get its head around.
But in an era when everybody wants everything yesterday, this prehistoric approach to sales is no longer acceptable. Or, indeed, sustainable. But a new generation of management information systems (MIS) may have solved the issue.
Over the past year or so, there has been a noticeable shift in the positioning of MIS. Where once these systems were solely used to control the flow of information through a business to ensure it ran as efficiently and effectively as possible, the latest versions of MIS are taking the software to another level. For MIS software provider Optimus, this shift began at Drupa 2012.
Group managing director Nicola Bisset says, “Optimus took a new message to market of MIS being used as a sales tool. This is why at Drupa 2012, new functionality, including Cloud Mobile, was launched, all around using Optimus as a sales tool.”
As the name suggests, Cloud Mobile runs on tablet devices used by a print sales teams. The inspiration, it turns out, came from one of the UK company’s local clients.
“The ideas behind Cloud Mobile originally came from discussions with customers in Australia,” says Bisset. “This is because of the size of the country and also because we find that the Australian market is at the forefront of exploring and embracing new ideas and new technologies.”
Bisset says that were a number of different reasons behind the launch of Cloud Mobile, with one key factor being the growth of web-to-print and the launch of Optimus Cloud – a modular web-to-print tool that integrates with Optimus dash and 2020 MIS software.
“However, there are still customers who want a personal visit from the printers’ sales team, so we put all of the functionality available for the printers’ customer in Optimus Cloud and made it available to the printers’ sales reps in Cloud Mobile. That way, they can visit their customers and provide the same service,” explains Bisset.
This includes the all-important ability to instantly quote for jobs while at remote locations. “We have been told many times of instances where the process of the rep going to visit, then returning to the office to fill in the office staff to then produce the quote, is time consuming and can result in losing a job due to the delay,” explains Bisset.
“With Cloud Mobile the sales rep can capture instant buying decisions.”
This evolutionary step for MIS was long overdue, she says. “We really felt that it was time MIS be used to assist selling. MIS has been acknowledged and used as a production tool and also for management information, but why not for selling as well?”
The application runs on a tablet device, but it is ‘reading and writing’ to the main Optimus Dash system back at the office (Cloud Mobile only works with Optimus Dash MIS). This means users get to enjoy all of the functionality that Dash provides in the office – instant quote creation, instant order taking, plus an insight into what is happening, such as ‘where is the customer’s job in production?’ – while they are away from the office.
This streamlining and the eradication of duplication of effort make it an ideal solution for printers of all shapes and sizes, says Bisset. “We believe this is a valuable addition to any company with sales reps on the road and who want to streamline their processes.
“Any action performed in Cloud Mobile automatically updates Optimus Dash MIS. For example, if an order is taken, the order appears in Dash as a full production job ready to be produced, despatched and invoiced without expensive re-keying.”
Cloud Mobile currently only works on second and third-generation iPads. But as it is based on browser code, it can be adapted for Android tablets, says Bisset. “We would not recommend at this stage smartphones as there is a volume of information available that is easier for the user on a larger screen,” she adds.
Unique selling point
Although Bisset refuses to comment on competitor products (see ‘the alternative’ box), after researching and analysing “very thoroughly” what sort of functionality the tablet solution should include, she’s confident that Cloud Mobile is as attractive a proposition as anything else on the market
“This is not just a quoting tool – it’s a comprehensive customer relationship tool,” says Bisset. “But I don’t mean CRM system. Take the following example. A sales rep logs onto Cloud Mobile before his customer visit. He will see his list of ‘alerts’ globally and then chooses the customer about to be visited. The alerts tell the rep information such as: two deliveries are late; awaiting proof sign off on X jobs; or X enquiries are outstanding.
“The rep is then fully prepared when they walk into the meeting with answers about why deliveries are late. Or they can chase outstanding enquiries and convert them into jobs.”
Cloud Mobile was given its global launch at Drupa 2012 and was introduced to the Australia market at Visual Impact Image Expo in September 2012.
At Drupa, Bisset says that the product was “very well received and was a big attraction”. Since the show there has been “considerable interest” worldwide in the product, which costs $1,500 per user, with “considerable sales in the UK and Ireland with South Africa following on.
“We are awaiting our first Australian order, which is imminent,” she says.
Bisset adds that Australia is a growing market for Optimus. It even inspired the idea for Cloud Mobile. When Australian printers talk, she’s only too happen to listen. It’s an approach that Bisset pledges to continue to take in the future to ensure that Optimus delivers products that meet the needs of its customers.
“We are constantly researching, listening to our worldwide customers, prospective customers and the print markets in general to ensure we offer the most innovative solutions,” says Bisset. “We will continue to listen, as we have for the past 31 years, to research and provide innovative solutions for our customers.”
Compatibility iPad 2-3
Supporting software Optimus Dash MIS
Cost $1,500 per user
Contact Optimus, www.optimus2020.com
Tharstern Primo Live
Although some MIS offer users the ability to access information remotely via a smartphone or tablet device, the closest alternative to Cloud Mobile is Primo Live, a mobile estimating app specifically designed for the iPad launched in March this year.
“Primo Live gives your sales teams the edge by providing mobile CRM and estimating tools fully integrated with your on-premise MIS,” says Tharstern’s marketing manager Kate Bancroft.
“It’s loaded with features to increase the productivity of your customer-facing sales and account teams. By enabling them to become self-sufficient and less reliant on support staff, it maximises the time they are able to spend with customers while giving them access to real-time information and pricing.”
According to Bancroft, Primo Live allows users to: manage tasks and to-do lists on the move with CRM tools; view all orders and estimates assigned to a rep; create accurate estimates on-site with live pricing information using the power of estimate PRO; take the order electronically there and then straight into the MIS; and view real-time management information to enable reps to make business decisions without being tied to a desk.
Primo Live costs £240 per user per year and Bancroft reveals that the company has already had “an exceptionally positive response” to the product since its launch, with sites already starting to use the tool.
Compatibility iPad (all versions)
Supporting software Primo
Contact Tharstern, +64 27 292 5440, www.tharstern.co.nz
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at [email protected]
Sign up to the Sprinter newsletter