For background, we have been contacted by quite a few people from both the US and Europe to talk about their experience with web-to-print. When you get stories for background that can't be checked, this has to be considered. Still, I have chosen to dedicate a chapter to this side of the story since some of the questions are generic, and I believe printers WILL experience.
One of the questions always asked is how long time it takes from signature until fully implemented. The answer is not easy to answer. First of all, it depends on what solution you are looking into. If it's an off-the-shelf solution, the solution theoretically can be delivered within a few days. That is, however, never the case, since you will need training, you will need to describe all your products, make icon/images for each, calculate prices, etc. IF you allocate the necessary resources for the project and work around the clock, you can surely bring a solution to live within one-two weeks of work. Whether you can get credit-card processing ready within this time depends on how this is managed in your country. If you use PayPal, it's for most solutions integrated. The more important question is whether it's realistic.
In the 'web-to-compare' event we intended to do this week (but where we couldn't get the needed support from vendors), we wanted each vendor to show how products are created/added.
I can, however, give you an example:
Product URL (which is good for SEO, and other marketing activities)
Price calculation model (see here for examples)
Descriptive texts - typically both short and long (depending on where viewed).
Upload of at least one image (most solutions offer multiple images)
Is the product public/private
Product variants (could be format)
Size and trim value for each of the formats and other measures
For each of the formats, you now add variable like:
Paper quality (grammage)
Print (1+1, 4+4 and others if applicable)
Enhancement options (could be dispersion varnish, UV, Lamination, etc.)
You will have to add information to each product that relates to how it's presented online, templates, etc.
Each product will most likely give you a matrix of prices of approx. 200-300 parameters.
Most can be copy/pasted, but you get the idea - nothing is difficult; it just takes some time.
A normal public web-shop would typically have the following products as a minimum: Business Cards (1), Post Cards (3), Posters (3), Leaflets (8), Folders (8), Brochures (4), Letterheads (1), Envelopes (4) - so maybe a total of min. 32 products of 200-300 parameters easily equal some 8.000-10.000 fields that need to consider. Before entering the data, you will have to decide what prices you will offer, your strategy, your go-to-market approach, etc.
Most printers don't allocate one person to the implementation of a SaaS solution full time, and therefore have to fit it in between. A good guess could be 2-3 months before everything is online, tested, and ready to take orders.
Now, this depends on the solution you choose and how prepared you've been. You will still have to work on the integration of the workflow. You still have to describe your internal routines.
For solutions that need development, it takes an even longer time. The success of the developed solutions and changes, is based on a good requirements description - and how your supplier shares the milestones with you. You will need to have good reporting and online tools to interact with your supplier about development, reviews, and driving the development forward. In the development of INKISH services, we are using Trello - it's a so-called swim-lane approach where a task moves through various stages before it's implemented on the live-server.
If you haven't clear requirements and no agreed management tool, the development duration will drive you crazy.
We know from customers that this happens and that printers have almost given up on their web-to-print solution since expectations weren't balanced.
Balancing the expectation is the most important thing in almost all projects.
One thing we've learned when developing INKISH is to be ambitious. But break down projects into smaller and more accessible projects that can be achieved, checked, and then move forward. Also, be sure that your payments represent the deliveries, and don't move forward with the next development stage if the previous hasn't been signed off.
Be fair to your supplier. If neither of you loses interest in the project, it rarely ends well. Your supplier has an interest in delivering the right solution, so the way you can achieve the best possible process is to be responsive, test, test, test, and revert promptly.
As one of the people that reached out - expect the unexpected, then everybody is more aligned.