by Bob Raus of Océ North America's Digital Document Systems Division Since documents are the currency of business, is your current IT infrastructure the pacing factor in how much business you can generate? August 14, 2005 -- We talked last month about how building an infrastructure for print, scan, fax and archival of documents is an often-overlooked area of competitive advantage. When I ask many IT managers and CEOs, CFOs and CIOs about this, they reply that their IT infrastructure is sufficient and most believe that their current systems are working just fine. The next questions I ask are, "What if 'just fine' results in slower cash flow, sales proposal generation, contract development, less than optimal customer support and ultimately lost business? Since documents are the currency of business, is your current IT infrastructure the pacing factor in how much business you can generate? Also -- do you have competitors that are more responsive and can deliver information to customers in a fraction of the time that that you can? What is that costing you today in lost business, market share and growth?" I find that companies still view documents as items to e-mail, print, fax, etc. when they are in a very real sense the critical factor in business success or failure. A well-architected print infrastructure goes beyond printing to all aspects of document creation, management, distribution and archival. However, when a document is eventually printed, that physical piece of paper is what gets signed and ultimately how business is transacted. Software critical A well-architected print infrastructure goes beyond printing to all aspects of document creation, management, distribution and archival. Does an IT infrastructure based on products from Microsoft, HP and others deliver the minimum required functions for printing today? Yes. Does that same infrastructure enable a company to integrate printing, scanning, faxing, archival and sharing of documents across many departments, divisions and customers inside and outside of a company? Not likely. Because of the way companies acquire and use desktop and corridor printers, scanners, fax machines and other related devices, scant attention is paid to integrating various systems, devices and processes to maximize return on their investments. This was perhaps unavoidable when there were few effective ways of linking departments, workgroups and printshops together. But today, there are literally no excuses for accepting these inefficiencies any longer -- especially when an architected print infrastructure enables increased business revenues and significant cost savings today.. An architected print infrastructure can take in files from individuals, offices and workgroups, no matter where they were created or what software was used. The high-level view is that modular, integrated software can interconnect the office, in-house printshop (or CRD), data centers, and also help support outside print providers. An architected print infrastructure can take in files from individuals, offices and workgroups, no matter where they were created or what software was used. It can help proof documents, prepare them for printing, faxing, e-mailing, manage the printing and finishing on an array of equipment from any vendor, and archive them with full-text indexing and search capabilities for instant access later. For more detail on print infrastructures, look for a new Océ white paper appearing tomorrow here at On Demand Journal. The Three Cs of Software for an effective print infrastructure Since a mix of systems and machines is a fact of life, the onus is on software to make the best possible use of all input and output devices in a company. The number of variables involved necessitate the use of modular software, so you can pick and choose the tools best suited to your needs. Whatever those may be, the software supporting this infrastructure should be: Compatiblewith a broad range of devices from any manufacturer and that can accommodate a full range of file formats, datastreams and PDLs. Comprehensive enough to handle a full range of print jobs from letters, memos and faxes to transactional statements, bills and invoices to print-on-demand and publishing. Its scope should begin with job submission and ticketing, moving through prepress and into production and out to delivery and archival. Consistent, so the software modules all work the same way no matter what kind of job it is handling, which type of file a job is created in, or what make of input or output device is being used. Software with these characteristics combines with your existing devices to provide the flexibility and adaptability you need as you build a print infrastructure that will operate within your IT and communications infrastructures as a strategic part of your business or enterprise. What this ultimately creates is a tightly integrated document management system where digital document creation, collaboration, job submission and production, distribution and archival to deliver increased revenues and a sustainable competitive advantage. If you will be at Print 05 in Chicago, I invite you to visit by Océ North America in booth #2462 where we'll be demonstrating how a print infrastructure can deliver strategic business benefits to your company. For a preview of our program for PRINT '05, please visit http://www.oceusa.com/. Do you agree? Or not? Drop me an e-mail at [email protected] and I’ll share the feedback I get as well as more thoughts and ideas in a couple of weeks.