By Ed Avis
Reprographics firms have specific needs for their business operations software. In an ideal world, this software would easily create accurate bids and invoices based on the variety of pricing structures in the industry – square feet, by-the-sheet, project-based, etc. – integrate with the job tracking system and the accounting system, and create easy-to-use reports. But this is not an ideal world, and a survey of APDSP members reveals that many of them are not satisfied with their current systems.
The survey, conducted earlier this week, was answered by 35 reprographics firm owners. The survey asked which packages they used, and whether they were satisfied with them. The most commonly used program, according to the survey, is Thoroughbred; seven companies reported using that system. The next most common is MV Software, which is used by six of the responding companies. No other program – other than QuickBooks, which is not specific to reprographics – was mentioned by any more than two respondents.
Among the 13 respondents who use either MV or Thoroughbred, exactly four each responded to the next question: “Are you satisfied with your back-end software?” In both cases, two said “yes” and two said “no.” Since the number of respondents is so low, this survey is not statistically relevant. But it does suggest that there is a certain level of dissatisfaction among users of those two programs.
However, the remaining respondents were nearly as dissatisfied. Among the other programs that are specifically designed for reprographics and/or printing, Cyrious Software and Avanti Slingshot were each cited by two respondents. And just like with MV and Thoroughbred, exactly half of the users of Cyrious and Avanti said they were satisfied and half said they were not.
Curiously, the most satisfied respondents were those who use a system that’s not designed specifically for reprographics, such as QuickBooks or Sage. Of the five users of those systems who answered the question “Are you satisfied….”, four said “yes.” However, that’s probably because the respondents are satisfied overall with QuickBooks or Sage in the limited capacities those programs have. After all, those programs are developed by major companies and are constantly being improved. If the survey had asked specific questions about the software that pertain to reprographics, such as “How well does your system handle square-foot pricing?” the users of QuickBooks and Sage would probably not have reported satisfaction.
Most of the other respondents to the survey are using a home-made system to run their operations, and most did not answer the “Are you satisfied…” question. Because, presumably, if they’re not satisfied they have no one to blame but themselves.
So What’s the Problem?
The survey included a comment field that allowed respondents to write specifically what they disliked about their software. Because the survey was statistically insignificant, I’m not going to attach the complaints I received to the specific software packages. Instead I’m going to classify the complaints in general categories, which will provide some overall guidance about how these programs can improve.
Cost: Several users cited cost as a concern. “It is a very expensive software….” “We do not feel it is cost-effective…”
Service: Several respondents said they were very happy with the service they are getting, so this appears to be a minor problem. Only one respondent complained: “Support is abysmal.” Interestingly, another user of that same program said “They always take care of us.”
Relevance: This was a problem mentioned by several respondents, and it may be because the reprographics industry is so small that the software companies simply can’t invest enough money to add all the modern bells and whistles that repro shop owners would like. Responses in this area included “It is somewhat archaic” and “It is too old and we would like to change, but we see the transition as very cumbersome and difficult.”
Performance: A number complaints in this area: “Not user-friendly,” “Very buggy. Updates seem to always cause other issues,” “We need more robust CRM capabilities.”
Are the Main Providers Still Updating?
Are MV and Thoroughbred still developing their software, considering this size of the reprographics industry and its lack of growth? Yes, to a certain extent.
MV Software, which dates to 1978, changed its name to MVS Alliance about a year ago. This change reflects a shifting of the company to more of a consulting business, says Jim Diefenback, the company’s president.
“Reprographics is still the primary group using our software, but on the consulting side of our business, we’re doing things with other companies outside of reprographics,” Diefenback says. “We work with them on improving their internal process flows.”
Profits Plus is the core of the company’s reprographics software. It handles everything from order processing to accounting functions, and it handles those functions how a reprographics firm needs them handled – with square-foot pricing, job tracking, etc.
Diefenback says the system has been updated, such as with the addition of an online portal for customer access, but the primary focus of the company today is growing its consulting work. Between 50 and 100 reprographics firms use MV’s system, he estimates.
The learn more, click here: https://www.mvsalliance.com/
Thoroughbred is updated once a year, in February or March. Mark Lewis, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, says the release for 2017 will probably appear next month.
“In this coming release we’re adding a FedEx shipping package, some more matrix pricing, and the ability to more easily print reports to Excel,” Lewis says. “And we’re building interfaces to the make the system more connectable to programs like OpCenter, Sepialine, Midnight Print, and SalesForce.”
Thoroughbred also makes systems for companies that make sports uniforms and for school systems, though the back-end accounting system remains the same. Lewis says about 100 reprographics firms use the software, and the company has been adding new clients since the recession ended.
Click here to learn more: http://thoroughbredsoftware.com/
The other two systems mentioned by users in the survey that are specific to reprographics or printing were Cyrious Software and Avanti Slingshot.
Cyrious’ website says that over 4,000 sign, graphics, and print companies use their software. Click here to learn more: http://www.cyrious.com/
Avanti Slingshot software is used by five categories of users: in-plant printers, print and mail providers, commercial printers, marketing services providers, and large or grand format providers. Click here for information about the large or grand format version: http://avantisystems.com/who-we-help/large-or-grand-format/