Commentary & Analysis
Symcor: Being Strategic in Re-tooling Workflow
By Barb Pellow
Published: June 28, 2012
Most of us have a basic sense of the difference between strategy and tactics—strategy represents the big picture, while tactics involve the details. When it comes time to actually put this knowledge into practice, however, many of us are unsure about how to do it effectively.
Symcor offers a diverse portfolio of integrated solutions, including item processing, statement processing and production, and cash management services.
I recently read Erika Andersen’s book entitled Being Strategic: Plan for Success, Out-think Your Competitors, Stay Ahead of Change. This book helps the reader approach business (and life) strategically, and Andersen explains why taking a strategic approach is important, what’s involved in doing it, and how to do it. The book offers a step-by-step model and skills for strategic thoughts and action that are broadly applicable and thoroughly practical. Tips include:
- Get clear about the problem you’re trying to solve
- Define the current state
- Imagine your ultimate goal
- Identify the obstacles in your path
- Outline your core strategies and the tactics for implementing them
- Re-evaluate your strategy and your tactics as conditions change
This past week, I had the opportunity to interview Meegan Hinds, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Integrated Statement Services at Symcor. Symcor is one of Canada’s largest outsourcers of financial processing. The company offers a diverse portfolio of integrated solutions, including item processing, statement processing and production, and cash management services.
Hinds shared the steps that Symcor has taken to retool and automate its statement processing operations to deal with our changing industry. Symcor’s process clearly demonstrates its understanding of what it means to be strategic.
A Realistic View of the Market
Hinds joined Symcor in 2008. During this time, the transaction processing market was beginning to undergo significant changes. Digital color for statement production and the concept of TransPromo were taking hold. Symcor’s clients wanted to respond to the demand for electronic presentment, enabling end-users to access documents where and when it was convenient for them, in a secure and cost-effective environment. Hinds recognized that it was time to create a strategic plan that addressed an environment where print volume would decline, color would displace black & white, and cross-media and electronic delivery would be critical offerings.
Hinds explains,“Our goal was to deliver dynamic approaches to optimizing printed bills, statements, and other data-driven communications that are regularly delivered to consumers. By enhancing existing white space with full-color personalized messages, our customers could turn standard business communications into vital communication tools. We also wanted to become the most cost-effective provider in the market, and that meant investing in the tools and technologies to automate operations.”
According to Hinds, “We realized that the journey of transitioning our business was going to take us three to four years. We created a roadmap that identified several key milestones to ultimately realize our goals.” The key elements of the strategic plan included:
1. Making an initial investment in high-speed digital color. Transforming printed bills and statements into valuable customer touchpoints while reducing cost became an important criterion for attracting and retaining clients in the 2008 timeframe. Symcor was an early investor in the creation of a cost-effective, high-speed, full-color digital printing platform. Creating personalized printed communications with targeted messages in full color is an ideal way to educate, promote, and connect with clients who prefer receiving their regular bills and statements in paper format. Hinds notes, “We felt the investment in high-speed full-color inkjet technology was essential in helping clients to move toward this goal. Our offerings enable clients to take incremental steps by replacing the pre-printed form with a white paper solution first. This first step offers the client savings by reducing the procurement and obsolescence of forms. The next step is generally to implement a more complex color solution that involves color messaging and onserts. By the end of this year, Symcor will have transitioned about 40% of its current black & white transactional print volumes to digital color. This strategy created better communications for our customer base while being mindful of their cost containment goals. It also provided growth in page volume and revenue for Symcor.”
2. Consolidation of operations to maximize efficiencies. Prior to the consolidation, Symcor had five sites across Canada. Hinds elaborates, “We consolidated large jobs into our locations in Toronto and Montreal. After investing in high-speed inkjet technology, the consolidation enabled us to optimize our capital investment while retaining our ability to print locally, where it makes sense for our clients. It also set the stage so we could further automate operations and become a world class operation.”
3. Building a technology platform for automation. Symcor wanted to ensure that it had best-in-class workflow automation tools in place. Last fall, the company issued an RFP to major vendors in an effort to understand options and alternatives. At the time, Symcor had significant investments in Océ’s PRISMA print server technology, Bell & Howell’s work order management tool and two major intelligent insertion platforms. It wanted to select the best long-range alternative for implementation. The RFP provided a screening mechanism to ensure that Symcor was making the right technology choices in the process of moving toward the vision it had created. After exploring its options, Symcor decided that it was logical to protect its existing investments in Océ PRISMA and Bell & Howell work order management tool as well as to further standardize and optimize the 30,000 print jobs Symcor processes each month. The missing component was “post composition.” Symcor opted to integrate Sefas technology into the mix. Sefas’ software offers seamless integration to the existing environment as well as the ability to secure and transfer data, transform print files, insert control information and index each transaction, and employ intelligent devices and cameras to securely process transactions. It also provides automation and workflow systems to trigger, track, and audit statement processing. Sefas’ technology was critical in the post-composition phase and the re-engineering of existing documents to fix or enhance them for optimized content or processing. Hinds explains, “The triumvirate of tools—Océ PRISMA, Sefas, and Bell & Howell Performance IQ solution set—gave us a lower cost of implementation and the fastest time to market.”
Symcor’s strategy was built against a solid business plan. The team developed clear financial metrics and a payback analysis for the project. Hinds states, “We created clear metrics for each step along the way. We are still in the project implementation phase, but we are on track to complete this by mid-2013. We expect tremendous results for both our customer base and Symcor.”
Given all the changes in the financial services market, the ability to rapidly respond to regulatory and compliance changes across all document types is critical. In addition, these changes are ever-increasing. According to Hinds, “Our goal was to navigate through these changing times while positioning our company for future success. It wasn’t just saying ‘We need to be more strategic,’ but actually doing so and reaping the rewards that followed.”