The production team of any printer is the prize profit making engine.
Creative Support: This is not your same old creative services department. Look to expand skills for integration of variables into print and online. Work with vendors and your team to understand desktop and shared tools needed, how long they will need to master (multiply by three, creatives believe they can conquer anything quickly), and get them some test projects up front that are challenging. Creative support will need to become masters at logic and variable logic. It is a different world.
Programming Support: Snoop around and see who the best onsite spreadsheet or database wizard is. Who is always playing around with EBay and maybe even building their own websites and websites for others? Get a good tinkerer, who works well with others. Most of the tools have their own programming logic and elements that will need mastered and documented. Yes, this person needs to understand documentation demands up front.
Everything must have audit trail. This is unlike a project programming job. Every project is programmed, runs, is modified while running, and needs tweaking and made into a repeatable process for future projects. Web savvy is a must.
Technical Support: Data handling, databases, integration of systems, security coordination, and software implantation and networking are a few of the items needed. The skill set is the same as what you need for your transactional support or online order systems. It needs to be someone sensitive to your printing integrations, rip engines, and desktop softwares. You might find this skill available in your IT department and you might have to hire your own or use your vendors in a coordinated fashion.
Mail Processing: Really, your mail department should be able to handle this. Some don’t. I’ve found many large companies have outsourced so much of their work that they no longer have the right knowledge base to do some of these more intensive support tasks. Someone needs to grasp all the ins and outs of mailing and understand NCOA, CASS, IMB, and all the other lingo and how to make it work for you. Your local postal support usually is really good, but they don’t do these tasks for you. Maybe they should add the service and make a little money?
Print and Finishing: Well of course you should have this one covered. Just make sure these folks are included in all training and production coordination. They are key. These type projects have short print and finish and distribution turnarounds and can call on skills that are not used every day in the shop. Include, inform, and inspire your best to perform their best.
Where will we get the time? You will be amazed. When you are looking at all these items ask yourself one simple question. Who has 1.5 hours a week of lag time I believe can be applied to one of these areas? When you have identified those people and that time you might find yourself with 10-20 hours a week of development time for your team. People can always contribute a little time to a large project to do something new and learn new skills and grow the team. How much of that you have in your shop is an indicator of how long it will take you to grow the service. You can do it.
The flip side is an amazing affect discovered at the Hawthorne plant studies many years back. People improve performance just because there is change and someone cares enough to involve them in the new. Of course there is a law of diminishing returns on the Hawthorne Effect. If you keep changing and moving, you overwork the team and they will lay down on you. As the manager, you need to work the balance of knowing your team and challenging them appropriately. They will find new ways to get old work done faster so they can work on the new stuff if your rightly present the opportunity.
Of course there are old dogs that have already lain down and won’t get up. You may need to walk on by them until they ask to be involved. Curiosity is a powerful stimulant for tired muscle and mind.
Don’t skimp on training. I have sure made this mistake too many times. Get it online. Work it into your contracts with vendors. Cut back on the coffee fund. Do whatever you need to do to get training dollars and right tools for the team.
Next up in installment #8 is how to market this service to other departments, customers, or whomever you are targeting.
This article focuses on Sales/Marketing/Operations and Information levels of the operational pyramid.