Case Study: Case of Incremental Implementation

The following story is based upon multiple assignments. Names, locations, and other facts have been changed. As such, any similarity to any one business or person is coincidental.

Ever have a task so big that you were paralyzed just thinking about it? Andy of California had one and he was inspired by my offer to chat, so he took me up on it. Andy was in the midst of implementing an estimating system in his small all-digital shop outside of San Diego. But he couldn’t get it launched, even after eight months of work. As we talked, I learned more than just about the estimating system.

Andy owned a print shop in a previous life. That’s before he accepted a call to the ministry and spent 20 years serving various churches. Then his son wanted to start a business four years ago, so Andy helped him start the digital shop.

By the first of this year, it was obvious the shop should automate its manual system. Being a self-taught IT guy, Andy began investigating estimating systems in January, and by mid-month had purchased one sufficient for their activities.


Unexpected Setbacks

Then Andy, armed with the new software, got to work. That was, until February. In February, life intervened when Andy’s father died, which required him to devote five months, full time, to settling the estate. In July he returned to the estimating project. By the first of September, he hadn’t progressed much. In fact, he said he felt paralyzed.

I guessed one reason for this feeling was the loss of the father. He agreed. But the other reason seemed to come from Andy’s perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionists always want all the answers before making a decision. He agreed again.

Well, what specifically was keeping this project bottled up? Andy was looking at the shop’s 1,000 customers and felt he had to enter all of the customers plus all of their old data. Untrue—that’s not required. In most shops, 25 accounts provide 50 to 75 percent of sales. In a copy shop, the top 25 will still account for 25 to 30 percent of total sales. Andy agreed this was his case.


One Byte at a Time

So the solution, as with any big project, is to break down the job into attainable tasks. How long will it take to input the top 50 or even 100 customers? A couple days at most, he said. OK, input those, but don’t enter their data. He has the old system to provide that if needed. Then, as jobs are ordered, add additional customers when needed. This step alone will save hundreds of hours.

Now, look at papers. How many does the shop use? I expected a couple hundred, maybe. Andy said it was about 2,000, but he agreed that 25 to 50 or so made up the great bulk of what they printed. How long to input those? Another day was the answer. Again, they can enter other papers as needed.

Then how many digital presses do they have? In this case, only one, so defining the specifications of this unit shouldn’t take long, even if he set up several to allow for discounted pricing. He agreed.

So, within a week, the basic data could be entered. Now, how long will it take to train the son and the CSR to operate the system? This was a little murky because Andy wasn’t fully trained, but he agreed it could be done in a week after he got his arms around it. And then they could go live after a little testing.

There you go. It’s a three week project when the big task is broken into small steps. Even allowing for Andy’s perfectionism, it shouldn’t take more than 30 days. He enthusiastically agreed this could be done and was quite relieved once he stepped back from the details and looked at the big picture. Don’t get caught up in such thinking.


Tom Crouser is senior contributing editor of Quick Printing and principal of Crouser & Associates, Inc., 4710 Chimney Drive, Charleston, WV 25302, Contact him at 304-541-3714 or Connect with Tom on Facebook and LinkedIn and follow his business tweets at