The difference between an MIS, a WMS and an ERP?Are they all the same?

3 min read
23/02/21 16:17

If you’re researching software to digitize and streamline your print business, you may have been confused by all the different terms and abbreviations we suppliers may use.

Let us explain what they all mean, so you can find the right software for your print business.


Most common phrases

First of all, let’s get out the three main phrases you might have heard about:

  1. Management Information System (MIS) – A print MIS is the most common phrase used when referring to the software used by printing companies to manage their business. The term came about back in the 1980s when these software applications did 2 things only – helped printers create estimates, and provided management information. Print MIS solutions have completely evolved from these times, and do so much more than that now. They are a complete end-to-end solution for everything from sales and marketing, to production and delivery and everything in between.

  2. Workflow Management Software (sometimes also called Management Workflow Software) - A WMS or MWS is just another name for a print MIS and is used by MIS providers as a way of getting across the end-to-end functionality their software provides.

  3. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – You may also see this term used interchangeably with ‘MIS’ and ‘WMS’ because it also describes software that organizations use to manage day-to-day business activities. Indeed there are some very large printing companies that use ERP solutions. However, they are not print specific solutions, and were developed for larger manufacturing operations.


We refer to our software as 'Business Workflow Software' because it covers every aspect of a business workflow - from sales and estimating, through to production and delivery.

While it’s clear that Business Workflow Software is a better description for what our software does, you will find us using both phrases still, for SEO purposes – that’s because there are around 2,400 monthly Google searches for the phrase “Management Information System” and only 10 a month for the phrase “Business Workflow Software”. So while we might not agree with the limits of the phrase “print MIS” we know that’s how the market describe our product, and so we need to roll with it!


FYI, we’ve also occasionally seen the phrase “Print Workflow Automation System” used to describe an MIS solution. Again, it means the same as the first two phrases above.

Less comprehensive solutions

There are also software applications that deal with one or two particular parts of the workflow e.g. “Print Estimating Software” or “Print Production Management Software”, sometimes they are used in combination to demonstrate they deal with more than one part of the workflow e.g. “Estimating and Production Management Software”. These solutions are obviously not designed to be end-to-end solutions and are typically used by small printing companies.  

Misused phrases

You may also see the below phrases being used intermittently in place of “Print MIS” or “Workflow Management Software”, but these are actually different types of software applications used for different purposes:

  • “Productivity Software for Printers” – This refers to any piece of software used to create or modify a document, image, audio or video clip including business application suites such as Microsoft Office.
  • “Business Management System” – This is more related to the executive management of a business and includes tools used in the development and execution of business strategies and plans.
  • “Print Management Software” – This can be used in any industry to manage and optimize office document printers.

The best advice we can give you when researching software for your print business is to look at the modules and tools available on their features page, like this one from Tharstern. All MIS providers have these as standard, and you will instantly be able to see if their software covers the areas of your business that you want to improve.

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