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  1. #1
    Grzy is offline Junior Member
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    Default Small biz: Is there a need for low-cost MIS?

    I am working on an application that's targeted at smaller print shops, and I'm trying to determine if there's a market for it.

    First of all, it does NOT:

    ...Integrate with your presses, your platers, your RIPs, or any other machines or systems
    ...Comply with JDF or other industry specs
    ...Gather shop-floor statistics
    ...iron your shirts or fetch your lattes

    It does, however, provide the following:

    ...End-to-end job management, escorting work from intake, to pre-press, to proof, to scheduling, to printing, bindery, shipping, and invoicing
    ...CRM features to manage your customer base
    ...intuitive drag-and-drop resource scheduling for your presses
    ...PDF and email invoicing
    ...Reports to identify stalled jobs, high-value clients, and business trends
    ...Inventory management to keep your paper supplies current and promise dates accurate
    ...Hosted, web-based application with no additional software to maintain, in order to keep IT requirements in check
    ...99.9% system uptime to keep the business moving
    ...Enterprise-grade offsite backups to protect from catastrophe
    ...Double-redundant hardware to protect from disk, power-supply, or similar localized failures
    ...Secure logins for data security, accountability, and logging
    ...intuitive and attractive UI, requiring only minimal training
    ...Immediate implementation, able to go from online demo, to payment, to "live" as quickly as you can

    If this was available for something like a $4K one-time subscription fee, and $400 per month, is this something that fills a niche for the smaller printers that don't want to, or can't, pursue the larger established players? Or is this too much, for too little? So that I don't run down the wrong road all by myself, I'm very interested in any feedback--either about the price point or the feature set or anything else that captures your imagination.

    --AG

    Edited by: Aaron Grzywinski on Nov 13, 2007 9:59 PM

  2. #2
    Lammy's Avatar
    Lammy is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Small biz: Is there a need for low-cost MIS?

    I think most shops will choke on the $400 a month part. I know we pay about that to PSI tech support and it's a thorn in our side. Especially when we call for help when a machine won't do an install and their solution was to upgrade the database for and EXTRA $700.

    The hardware specs are nice, but make it an option. That'll give shops a lower upfront cost if they choose, they just need to understand the risk of not having an adequate machine.

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  3. #3
    Morning Flight's Avatar
    Morning Flight is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Small biz: Is there a need for low-cost MIS?

    Aaron,

    The specs of your proposed system sound impressive (even without the ironing shirts utility), but Lammy is right. Unless you're targeting the high end sector, say at least 100 employees, you'll have a difficult time penetrating the market. MIS and Estimating systems are overpriced to begin with, and $400 a month is pretty much a deal killer.

    Now, I'll admit to being a biased observer here. The company I represent markets a low end estimating system for offset/copy/digital shops with 1 to 50 employees. Marketing may be the wrong way to put it: The basic Morning Flight estimating software is a free download from the http://www.morningflight.com website. This is not the usual free trial version or demo, but a bonafide free-forever download.

    A complete Morning Flight MIS system with only slighly less ambitious specs than what you're working on is now out on public beta and will sell for $585.00 US with no monthly fees. Feel free to download the beta at http://talkprinting.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=155 to get an idea of how your proposed application will compare. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting you ought to stop developing your program. The industry can certainly use more competition and is badly in need of innovation. My advise is simply to revise your pricing.

    Edited by: Hal Heindel on Dec 17, 2007 6:38 AM

    Edited by: Hal Heindel on Dec 17, 2007 6:42 AM

  4. #4
    Grzy is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Small biz: Is there a need for low-cost MIS?

    *Interesting points all around!* I have a few responses and a couple more questions.

    *Price:* Lammy/Hal, your point is well taken and has been echoed elsewhere. I've had to shift things down to a one-time licensing cost of $3K, and then $300 per month. in order to keep things interesting and accessible. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of room after that--the costs of hosting an enterprise-grade system and providing 24x7 system support is just "that" high.

    *Service:* The experience you describe, Lammy, with your tech support doesn't come as a surprise, and it is +precisely+ the thing that I'm trying to solve for because it's not necessary. The reason they have to charge you for the upgrade is that their work is ala carte and they aren't really taking ownership of your experience. One of the things you get from a hosted solution is a Service Level Agreement that describes how responsive and available your system will be; in this case I OWN your experience and it is on me and my team to make sure that you are always on, that your system response is always fast, and that your data is always protected and secure; and this is just a part of the $300 hosting fee, not extra. It should be like using Google; always there and always the same. Contrast that with having to ASK your tech support team to do this and that and then wait for them to provide you with a quote so you can find out how much it will hurt. (And then discover that upgrading the database wasn't actually the problem and that they have to try something else for another $700....) I can go on about this forever; I've been on the other end of this model and it's not good. I recognize that the hosting model (what I'm selling) is a paradigm shift for your industry, but it's a good one: It's employed by every other industry I've worked in, it lets you enjoy an economy of scale, and it allows you to stop thinking about your ticketing/MIS altogether. *Questions:* Do you still feel like the price is a deal-breaker? Is the value-proposition still weak for a shop like yours, Lammy?

    *Hardware specs:* The fancy hardware specs are the result of the product that I'm offering. That "product" is less about the software, and more about the service. And I just can't offer the service without the fancy gear. So if I don't have the fancy disks, the woo-woo redundancy and all the rest, then my product looks like that of my competitors. (Or almost like my competitors; besides being web-based, I think I have a particularly attractive and familiar interface.)

    *Morning Flight/Printfire:* How interesting! When I was doing my first round of investigation in to the market I didn't come across your product. (Nor something called Printleader, which someone put me on to recently.) MorningFlight is the hands-down winner for cost and the Flash demos on your website, Hal, illustrate the ease of use, and your Gold version looks like it's quite full-featured! *Questions:* Hal-- what has been your thought about not offering a hosted version? Lammy--what product are you on? Or are you on something custom? Do any of the Morning Flight products fit your needs?

    Lammy/Hal--I appreciate the feedback! You've both raised interesting points and would love to hear more.

    (And Lammy--good luck with the upgrade!)

    Cheers,

    AG

  5. #5
    Morning Flight's Avatar
    Morning Flight is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Small biz: Is there a need for low-cost MIS?

    Aaron,

    In light of the considerable hand-holding you're providing, a $300 monthly fee may well be acceptable. The question remains, is the initial subscription fee of $3,000 above or below the tipping point? To get your foot in the door, it may prove helpful to offer a 90-day trial period with penalty-free return privileges, should that be feasible.

    The reason we don't offer a hosted version has as much to do with our target audience as with the nature of our products. The Morning Flight target market will always be 1-50 employees, and our products will always be shrinkwrapped, off-the-shelf . All customization is built into the product and fully tested, as opposed to one-of custom installations.

    For that approach to work (and it is working - we're running just shy of 4,000 installations), the software has to be extremely easy to use and virtually bulletproof. Even then, and despite the low cost, we will generally be locked out of shops that feel uncomfortable if they don't have a one-on-one support network behind them.

    Don't get me wrong, we stand behind all Morning Flight products, even the Free Edition, but that support is broadbased via our forum at http://www.talkprinting.com and a dedicated help web site at http://www.morningflighthelp.com. Individual telephone support, though available and free of charge, is discouraged and rarely necessary. We've never had one of our applications crash, all Morning Flight programs are wrapped into a single .exe file (no DLL's), and when a user does post a question on our forum, it is always answered the same day.

    I'm not surprised that you hadn't come across Morning Flight during your research. Our first product was only launched in April of 2005. Despite being a relative newcomer, it has been our good fortune to be listed as one of the top eleven (out of more than 130 estimating software vendors) in the current issue of Quick Printing magazine. FYI, the eleven, in alphabetical order, are:

    EFI/Printsmith
    Franklin Estimating
    Legacy USA
    PowerQuote
    Printer's Plan
    Printer's Plus
    Printfire/Morning Flight
    PrintLEADER
    Print Pak
    PrintPoint
    Print Shop Manager

    All the best,

    Edited by: Hal Heindel on Dec 20, 2007 6:25 AM


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