When choosing a print supplier, it is often easy to overlook the practicalities that might hinder the fit between what your business envisaged as a final solution, as opposed to what you might get after the fact. Typically, this happens when there are a few oversights in decision making pertaining to what your business wants as opposed to what your business needs. The understanding of your business’s drivers, is often more important before choosing the correct company to fulfil your needs in the print space.
A quick story - I recently engaged with a logistics company where, after an initial audit uncovered a great deal of issues in their space, speaking to a) lack of visibility on print volume & costs, b) lack of proper utilization of their top of the range print management software package (which the company had already paid for), and c) lack of an understanding of their asset list on the C-Level. The audit engagement was driven through the company’s Finance Department, which was feeling a great deal of pain and carrying the cost in the organization, but when digging deeper, it was found that the 500+ staff complement was entirely happy with the end product, service delivery and all the “nifty” functions that their print environment allowed them to do on the go, in a highly mobile working space. Long story short, it became clear that the company’s main driver was not cost saving, tracking, or due diligence – but the simple need for durable, quality high end print devices with a mobile cloud solution to boot. The driver for them, was employee satisfaction – regardless of cost. This made it clear that the organization should be happy to stay with their current vendor relationship and the audit allowed them to budget for the premium cost moving forward.
This instance got me thinking, what are the simple considerations that should come into play when choosing a print supplier? Below are 3 guidelines that I thought should be front of mind:
- What are your business’s main drivers?
If your decision making on choosing a supplier is based on factors that do not align with the company’s overarching strategy, you may find that there are problems in the future. Below are the usual main drivers to consider, you can’t have it all but you can weigh the decisions accordingly:
- Alignment of IT infrastructure
Choose 2 main drivers and make sure your prospective supplier delivers on them to a T.
Often, businesses have symbiotic relationships and therefore can pivot off group strategic alliances or they are simply dictated to from a global head office in terms of supplier relations. This makes it difficult to change and/suggest a new supplier when there are existing relations.
Let’s not put aside the fact that people work with people. Sometimes a potential supplier company might have a great product but lacks in the communications, malleability of terms, or simple people skills provided by the technical staff to the end users – these “soft” aspects of the relationship can easily mushroom positively or negatively.
If you own a small business which has 1 site and a small staff complement, you should probably look for a similarly sized company to fulfil your needs with no fuss. On the other end of the spectrum - if your business has a great deal of sites, employees and small threshold for downtimes; you will need a supplier with the requisite capacity to deliver. A few pointers for vetting your prospective supplier for alignment:
- Where are their sites and do they align with yours in accordance to the SLA to be agreed upon?
- Do you need dedicated resources from your supplier or do you have internal resources ready to take on operational tasks?
- Does the corporate culture of your supplier have similar values to yours? Do they have a code of conduct?
- Legal requirements:
- Is your potential supplier able to provide you the requisite POPI compliance your business needs?
- What is the current BBBEE status of your company and how will engaging with your potential supplier impact your company’s status?
All in all, there are several factors to consider when choosing any supplier for a business, but if there is anything I can leave with you, it is the fact that the first step to a sound decision is to find out what your business’s drivers are and then use that simple guideline in all decision making.
“The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity” – Douglas Horton