Workflow in the High Volume Transactional Output (HVTO) industry is a term that can encompass many different aspects of production. From composition all the way through to delivery and storage of each customer communication, workflow is intrinsically linked to your production environment.
This means that a workflow and how your company defines it is critical to your print, mail and archive operations. It also makes the relationships you have with your workflow technology vendors equally as important. However, there are times when it is necessary to step back and look at your current workflow, the performance of your current tools, their ongoing costs and ask “Can we do better?”
Are you getting the performance and capabilities you need to meet your company’s business policies and regulatory compliance requirements?
At Crawford Technologies we are consulting with companies in the HVTO industry on not only the print and mail portions of their workflow, but also their archiving strategies. These strategies include archiving into an existing ECM, acquiring an ECM or the need for a standalone archive system. Through our conversations we have found that there are several archive considerations that companies should take into account when evaluating their current workflow toolsets, archive strategies and vendor relationships. These considerations include:
- Document Indexing Capabilities
- New Archival Document Formats
- Native Print File Storage Capabilities
- Flexible Storage Models Enablement
- New ECM Technology Enablement
- Reduced Storage Footprint
Why are these important? In the evaluation of current workflow performance and toolsets, it is incredibly valuable to make sure that you have the functionality your organization requires today. You need the ability to change with the market and adapt to workflow requirements while reducing ongoing expenses and avoiding long down times.
The considerations mentioned above are topics that are top of mind for our customers and might be for your company as well. Let’s take a look at why these considerations are driving In-Plant and Print Service Providers alike to consider the question: “Do I need to change my archiving and workflow tools and/or processes?”
Look again at the list above and ask yourself how you would rate your current workflow capabilities and performance. Start with document indexing capabilities, defined as the need to expand what is being extracted from documents in order to meet more extensive and detailed document indexing requirements. This includes extracting metadata from the document so that the archival of those documents is more comprehensive. Many times today’s workflows are not using all available data due to a lack of capabilities in the current toolset.
The format that gets archived is also something many of our customers seem to have challenges with today, which has made the archival format a hot topic. PDF/A is just one file type that is being considered for the long-term archival of transactional and customer communication documents. The question then becomes can you transform and load PDF/A (or other formats) to your archive environment through the processes already in place today? If not, this can be a significant problem in your retention and archive strategy that warrants consideration for the future.
Speaking of file formats, in the transactional document industry many companies print AFP due to the strength of its architecture and richness of the print-stream. Archiving native files formats, like AFP, has become more important as regulatory compliance requires the need for exact copies of the printed file to be kept for defined periods of time.
In many workflows it isn’t possible to retain the AFP natively in the ECM or standalone archive system; this normally results in a transform being used to convert the file to another archive file format for storage in the archive. The challenge is that then all of the extra metadata housed within the native print file is usually lost, making it difficult (sometimes impossible) to recreate the print file exactly as it was sent out originally including that important metadata.
As we look down the list we naturally start to talk about storage models and data footprint within an archive. Both are critical to the operation of an efficient ECM system and archival strategy. Flexible storage models are increasingly being required to archive, retrieve and even remove items from the archive for single customer records.
Consider the situation where you have an end-customer that moves their relationship to another supplier and you now have the regulatory requirement to make sure that all of their personal, confidential and sensitive data is removed from your archive and destroyed to prevent that data from being compromised. Can you go into your archive today using indexing and search capabilities to find and remove a single customer’s data? If not, this is a compliance consideration that you might need to evaluate further within your organization.
Looping back around to the idea of storage and the cost of storage, there is a common saying: “Disk is cheap.” While disk storage costs are coming down dramatically, when storing huge quantities of customer documents the costs still add up to significant overall expenditures in this area. Today, data can be optimized and stored in smaller files sizes than once possible, especially if you have the right archive tools.
Smaller files sizes allow you to store your data at rates that reduce your overall disk storage requirements and all of the needed redundancies. The important consideration here is whether your data is being stored in the smallest file package possible or whether you are losing efficiency and cost savings by storing files that are larger than necessary.
The last two considerations that are top of mind today are support of new ECM and archive technologies and scalability. The ECM and archive industry, just like that of the print industry, is ever evolving. As new feature sets come out for ECM systems and standalone archive systems, is your organization able to take advantage of them with your current workflows and tools?
Part of staying ahead of the competition and leading the way for the best customer service experience is to make sure you can adapt quickly to technology changes. If you are finding that you can’t leverage new features due to your workflow and archive environment setup, this is another consideration when deciding whether you stick with current tools or change to more capable tools. Then there is scalability; getting content to where it needs to be quickly is key, especially when talking about flexible storage models and the retention and destruction compliance issues we mentioned earlier. Are the tools you are using today scalable?
If you aren’t able to achieve the performance you need to load content into your archive system of record and take advantage of efficiencies such as load balancing and flexible storage models, then this could be a good time to add this requirement into your consideration set. The efficiencies and costs savings that come from scalability can be significant.
Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in learning more we invite you to view a free webinar replay that looks at getting your transforms, workflow and archive environment working for you. Are you going to ‘switch or fight’ to take your ECM and Archive environments to the next level?