How to Select Variable Data Printing (VDP) Software


Variable data printing software is one of the most challenging and important software purchases that your company can make. Differences between transactional and promotional printing software applications have decreased, creating a single variable data printing category called transpromotional. Digital printing allows you to send direct mail postcards with your customer's name emblazoned on your product in a customized mail piece. It also allows you provide unique sales messages on customer invoices.

Survey all corporate stakeholders to determine the types of print jobs that will use variable data software. Some possible uses for variable printing are books, postcards,manuals, invoices, statements, brochures and mailings.

Identify and rank the different end uses of variable printing into broad categories and then rank those categories by anticipated impact on company profitability.

All companies start the selection process wanting their software to do "everything", but the reality of all software is that strengths and weaknesses vary among products. Knowing if the main use of the product will be transaction-oriented or marketing-oriented helps to focus the evaluation process.

For marketing oriented applications,focus on how well each product handles variable images and design features. For transactional applications, rendering and processing time become more critical due to the large amount of data involved in these applications.

The digital products will differ in their abilities according to what their original target market.

Develop a test using your data files and documents. Your digital printing software vendors should be able to take that information and provide anticipated processing time for their software. During these tests you'll get a good feel for speed and reliability. Your programmers will also be providing input about which product will be easiest for them to work with. Remember, your most important internal audience will be your programmers.

Ask for a list of customers of references in your field or a closely related field who will talk about their experience with the vendor's software product. What kind of printing projects have they undertaken? How reliable was their product? Speed and reliability are the two critical success factors for variable print.

The final part of this process is to agree on vendor response time when the software develops a bug. Focus on the definitions of "critical" and "non-critical" problems and the service response times.

Create a scorecard to track strengths and weaknesses of each product. If you've done your research well, you should have a clear winner in your variable data printing software search.

Tips & Warnings

  • Technical support is an extremely important factor. Vague definitions and wording in contracts always favor the software vendor. When in doubt, ask for a change in wording.

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