Multi-Channel: 4 Unavoidable Printer Workflows: #3 Programming

September 23, 2014

“You don’t have to change.  Survival is not mandatory.” Edward Deming

W Edwards DemingDeming is a master of change and continuous improvement.  His insights during war years, in world restoration and for many American companies seeking reinvention have been invaluable.  Use them. Pick one or two principles and benefit. 

Don't change what you don’t fully understand.  Random and unstudied change may accidentally result in product or process improvement.  Then you will think you can shoot from the hip again and might lose a foot.

Workflow understood and supported by your management leadership must continually be communicated to team members and stakeholders.  Don’t underplay the reinforcement necessary to make this work.  Quit preaching to the mirror.  “I tried it and it did not work.  I knew this would not work.  No one will follow the plan.”  On and on you and others on your team can get caught in the trap of bad adherence to workflow.  Screaming won’t help.  Threatening won’t help.  Firm persistence and education can certainly help.

Programming:  The first installments on workflow covered the Intersections and Data portions.  Programming is one that most printers find most unfamiliar and especially In-Plants.   Who would have thought programming would become a necessity in print?  Yet, if you are running digital equipment or supporting transactional flow or maybe just winding your way through Microsoft Outlook, you might be surprised how much programming already is happening.  Chances are you have one or two geeks on your team that are ready to connect.

Detailed programming languages are not needed and not wanted.  You program a piece when you layout in Adobe or another product.  You program a piece when you use a tool to create a form.  You program a piece when you cut and paste using desktop software.  The tools for personalized landing pages and variable print and email are not so different.  You do need to study them and understand limitations and behind the scene customization tricks to make them work.  Your team can master right tools.

Layout:  Remember a site is a landing page, a postcard, a letter, and email or any other component piece that will present and gather information.  Geesh.  That's not hard to comprehend.  Keeping content consistency and congruency and conversation flow is a tough job.  Your team can master it with right attention to detail and impact.  Layout includes placing and defining parameters for variable integration of text, names, demographics, and images.

Integrity Check: Each site will need an integrity check and test independently with a representative sampling of your data.  It is amazing that many multi-channel efforts are so targeted you may be dealing with only a few hundred data lines.  Instead of 50,000 pieces, you may have 363 or 3200.  The numbers are staggeringly lower than the days of mass marketing.  You may even start with 20,000 names and help glean down to the top 10% the marketer feels will give best response.  Use 5% of the names.  Make sure you use a sampling of different variants.  If you have six images to use based on variable input, make sure you get sample data that tests all six images.  Marketers are not magicians.  They are studious.  Be one.

Test Jointly:  This programming push is essential..  There is a data flow that must be certified through the joint test.  You need to insure something in your data flow design does not cause a problem in another element.  Testing independently will not flush this type error for correction.

Quality Assurance: Now, recheck all the programmed code portions and do a quality assurance run.  Do formal signoff with each leader of production press, online, distribution, and finishing to make sure all are committed and understand.  You don’t have to have a piece of paper to sign, but it would not hurt.

Final Mods: Finalize any modifications to the production live workflow between teams and actions.  Check your process documentation so you don't have a blip at 3 in the morning due to mixed messages to staff.

Objectives Review: Review your ticker , that conversational timeline,  and objectives for the last time. 

Go For It.  Do it.  Run it live and make the customer happy.

describe the imageSummary:  Programming is tough.  Be tough.  Get into it.  Be a master marketer with digital savvy at the programming level.  Seek out help in your bigger organization.  Don't run it alone.

See you at GraphExpo.  I'll be focusing on performance metrics magic for your organization.

This article focuses on Sales/Marketing/Operations and Information levels of the operational pyramid.  

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

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