Jan. 3 2007 11:26 AM

When you think of a consultant, what's the first image that comes to mind? For many, it's a person who uses so much jargon when they talk that you think they're speaking a foreign language. And for others, it's a guy in an expensive suit with lots of gadgets who comes to your company and wants to be paid to give you answers to questions you didn't ask because you already know the answers. While this image may be true in some industries, like the work we do, the nature of print and mail consultants is a little more practical and down to earth.

To us, a print and mail consultant is a person who understands business processes and postal optimization, can identify ways to streamline a process and maximize discounts and has the ability to both choose and use the right tools as well as automate the streamlined process in a cost-efficient and effective manner. When you call a print and mail consultant, you can expect to find competent individuals who have significant experience with the kinds of challenges you face on a daily basis. But, with a broad view of the production process from mainframe to delivery to the USPS and beyond.

"Best Practices" Gives You an Advantage

In years past, our jobs in the print and mail industry were pretty straightforward; we printed documents, we inserted them into envelopes and we optimized address quality and production workflow to gain the best discounts from the Postal Service. As technology and business expectations have advanced, mail centers have given way to Automated Document Factories (ADF) and the financial implications of every decision you make cascade through every step of the process.

The experience and knowledge of document production "best practices" enable a skilled consultant to optimize your workflow in the shortest possible time. Because clients are so diverse, chances are that quality consultants have already implemented a solution in an environment much like yours and seen how a firm with similar workflow has organized its operations with excellent results.

Using best practice analysis, a consultant can help you choose the best possible solution without reinventing the wheel, which saves you time and money. Equally important, a consultant is familiar with both the challenges and rewards of implementing an ADF solution and already knows how to work through the challenges with minimal disruption to your existing operation. And when you're working with software and hardware from several vendors, a consultant's experience allows us to quickly identify the gaps and their recommend solutions to ensure that you achieve results.

Using Consultants to Improve Your Productivity

It's easy to underestimate the impact a system implementation or major software development project may have on your internal staff and their day-to-day responsibilities. In today's competitive environment, few firms have the extra resources to dedicate to a simple system upgrade, let alone an enterprise-wide ADF implementation. And while you may be in the midst of a complete system changeover, your staff still has to make mail and meet customer expectations day in and day out. That's why it makes sense to use a consulting team as a solutions partner they can implement a new system while you have the resources you need to maintain your productivity and client service focus.

Price vs. Value

One traditional notion about consultants is that they are expensive. And based on a casual look at the hourly rate of most skilled consultants, it would be easy to come to that conclusion. One essential truth, however, is that price and value aren't always the same thing. Given the ability to utilize best practice knowledge described above to optimize production processes and find the deepest possible postal discounts along with an ability to rapidly deploy a solution, a good print and mail consultant can actually be the best investment that a company can make. Price and value are two different things, and a good consultant should be able to easily justify his fee based on careful analysis of your company's needs coupled with the delivery of rapid results in your production environment.

What should you look for in a print and mail consultant?

  • Does the consultant have a good reputation in the print and mail industry.

  • Does the consultant have experience working with a wide variety of hardware and software vendors as well as their products?

  • Does the consultant have the ability to understand your own unique needs as well as to quantify process improvements and related savings to you and your management team?

  • Is the consultant cost-conscious?

  • Does the consultant involve you and your team every step of the way?

  • Is the consultant willing to tell you the truth, even if it's painful?

  • Does the consultant have broad experience with all aspects of a print and mail operation?

  • Does the consultant understand a broad range of up-to-date tools and techniques?

  • Can the consultant help you sell the benefits of the project or process change both up and down your organizational structure?

  • Can the consultant justify his fees by quantifying the value of the engagement to you and your organization?

    It's in the Way that You Use it...

    Consultant jokes aside, if you're ready to implement a complete ADF solution or simply want to make the system you already have work better, it might be time to call a consultant to receive an honest assessment of your business needs. A good consultant team can help you make the right decisions; deliver cost-effective, high-integrity solutions; and can manage your entire project, if necessary, from start to finish to ensure your ADF solution is optimized to meet current and future business objectives.

    And that's what it's all about... delivering results to you and your organization while enabling you to remain focused on the most important mission maintaining productivity and meeting or exceeding your customer's expectations.

    Peter Somu, Principal, and Jeff Sutton, Consulting Partner, have years of experience working with industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Böwe Bell + Howell, Kern and Xerox delivering ADF solutions to their most critical customers. Contact the authors at contactus@zensys.com or by phone at 504-288-6202 or 908-369-0225.

  • {top_comments_ads}