Print ERP (MIS) Software: Should You Build or Buy?

Build vs Buy Print MIS Software

There are dozens of print and business management software products available for printers interested in upgrading or replacing their current systems. Print management information systems (MIS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software are commonly used in the print industry, as well as point solutions that address a specific area of the business, like estimating, scheduling, or inventory management. There is also the option to build your own custom solution from the ground up.  

In this blog post, we are going to provide some insight into the total cost of an investment in print ERP (MIS) software. We’ll compare the difference between pre-built software and custom solutions to give you a better understanding of all the costs included and help you make the right decision for your print shop.   

Understanding the Costs of Print ERP (MIS) Software  

There is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to print management software. We’re going to keep it simple and give you the basic costs. You can decide from there what the lower price and more feasible option is for your business.  

So, let’s get started.  

Print ERP (MIS), by definition, is a business process management system that connects all core areas of your print business in a common database, from sales and accounting to print production and inventory. To design and build the software from scratch, you need a full-stack development team and a clear vision of what exactly it is you are creating. That means you need to have the time and talent dedicated to:    

  • Upfront analysis and requirements gathering  
  • Strategic planning and project management 
  • Solution architecture and development  
  • Coding and programming  
  • Hardware and infrastructure  

Once the actual solution is built, you have to consider the costs to actually implement and adopt the new system. In this stage, you need the people and skills required for:  

  • Data migration  
  • UAT and deployment  
  • Integration with other systems  
  • Documentation  

Finally, no business management software is ever perfect, and every year there are bugs to fix and upgrades to make. To keep your print ERP (MIS) solution running optimally without disruption, you have to consider:  

  • Ongoing support  
  • Maintenance 
  • Security updates  
  • Enhancements and optimization  

As you can see, this isn’t a project that a single developer can handle. There are a number of roles, skills, and technology necessary to develop and deploy a custom ERP platform in-house. And we haven’t even considered the hardware you will need to buy, store, and maintain. With labor costs alone, most printers would be looking at spending $2 million per year to develop an in-house ERP (MIS) solution. However, these types of projects typically take two to three years to develop, with total costs anywhere in the $2–$8m range. 

If you decide to go with a proven out-of-the-box system, you can eliminate most of these line items and costs. Here’s what your ERP (MIS) implementation project will include:  

  • Upfront analysis and requirements gathering  
  • Customization  
  • Data migration  
  • UAT and deployment  
  • Ongoing support and maintenance  

You don’t have to worry about paying for and keeping the team of expensive developers in-house, and you won’t be the guinea pigs. You get a solution that has already been tried and tested by other printers and an experienced implementation partner who knows what they are doing.  

Over the years, some printers have chosen to build their own print management systems because the software and functionality they needed didn’t actually exist yet. They had to work with what they had and build the capabilities that weren’t available. Luckily that’s not the case anymore. Today, there are a ton of affordable, flexible, and scalable options out there for printers that can be tailored to fit specialized processes.  

Should You Build or Buy?  

When it comes to software, there is a common misconception that “in order to do something right, you have to do it yourself.” In a conservative industry like print, that is precisely the reason you will encounter custom software development jobs more often. Printers have deep-rooted knowledge in estimating, scheduling, inventory management, and invoicing—and it’s hard to trust that there’s a software solution out there that can do all that.  

Although we have shared some of the reasons why building a custom solution is a costlier endeavor than buying an out-of-the-box system, there is a lot more to the decision. We dive into this question more deeply in our latest whitepaper, “Build vs. Buy: The True Cost of Your Software Investment.” We explore more reasons why building a custom solution can have disastrous implications for your productivity and bottom line—no matter how complex your print operations are.   

Download this whitepaper to learn more about:  

  • What the “Build vs. Buy Fallacy” means in print software 
  • The hidden costs of building vs. buying (continuation of this blog post)  
  • The benefits of buying out-of-the-box MIS/ERP software 
  • Reasons to invest in an all-in-one ERP system that is flexible to fit your requirements