By Keith Nickoloff, President, PathForward August 29, 2003 -- It is no secret that the disruptive technologies of the Internet Age are impacting the way information is communicated. At the same time, as a result of the tumultuous events of the first few years of this century, companies have placed new emphasis on cost containment as well as improved productivity and efficiency. Having trimmed the fat off of the most obvious areas of enterprise spend, organizations are now starting to turn their attention to an area that has been difficult to quantify and control, but is now being recognized as a significant area of opportunity for cost containment—the creation, management, production, storage and retrieval of documents. And the cost of printing these documents—whether at the desktop, in the print shop, or anywhere in between—is clearly a target. By improving the efficiency of these document processes and carefully analyzing where, how—and even whether—they are actually printed, our research indicates organizations can save from 15 to 50 percent across the entire document lifecycle supply chain—and 15 to 25 percent on printing and finishing alone. The figure below depicts the results of our research. This does not necessarily mean the prices paid to quick and commercial printers are being further squeezed—although that certainly happens. What it does mean is there are significant unexploited opportunities to make document processes more efficient and cost-effective across the board. It also means that customers are interested in migrating communications to electronic form as well as in taking advantage of the dynamics around print-on-demand that allow reductions in both cost and cycle time. As companies come to grips with this, they will begin to realize that the best way to cut print-related costs is to not print at all, or to make sure that when a document is printed, it is structured in the most personal and relevant manner possible. To gain these advantages, companies must begin to consider the implementation of an enterprise document management strategy that will not only allow them to accurately capture current costs with a view toward optimizing them, but will also allow them to leverage the value of corporate intellectual property across the enterprise by making valuable information readily available to those who need it. The truth is—and we see this over and over in our practice—companies don't know what they don't know. Most have no idea what they are actually spending on document-related processes or how to even go about identifying and correcting inefficient processes. There is no one in the organization who has responsibility for an enterprise view of the impact of documents and document-related processes on the bottom line. Once executives understand the opportunities to not only reduce costs, but to improve organizational efficiencies and reduce cycle times, they are anxious to attack this last bastion of seemingly uncontrolled corporate spend and to reinvest those savings in harder working and more effective communications with their customers and prospects. Though on the surface this appears to be a significant threat to the printing industry, it actually presents tremendous opportunity for printers, particularly those who have implemented a digital workflow that streamlines their operation from order entry through fulfillment—and who recognize that production of business communications might not always result in laying ink or toner on paper. A document should not be restricted to a single channel of output. Throughout its life, differing usage demand may suggest alternate or multiple production channels. This could mean it is produced through normal commercial printing channels, with high run lengths printed to inventory and distributed as needed. It may mean print on demand to, for example, produce the 500 brochures for a new product that need to be available at next week's trade show. It can even mean that users will produce the document at their local desktop printer—or not print it at all, but rather utilize an electronic version. But consider: The content for all of these channels of communication is basically the same—and may in fact be exactly the same. Significant efficiencies can be achieved when the information can be accessed from a common repository that optimizes content re-use and facilitates use of the most appropriate channel at any given time. Disruptive technologies, on the surface, pose a threat to existing businesses. But by understanding the opportunities that disruptive technologies present and by capitalizing on those opportunities to offer new and more valuable products and services, both vendors and service providers in the graphic arts industry can leverage these disruptive technologies into a growth machine for their companies. Over the next several months, we will be sharing with you, through this monthly column, real stories with real business results in specific vertical industries, including financial services, insurance, manufacturing, telecommunications and pharmaceutical. We at PathForward are excited about being able to share these stories with our fellow industry executives because we believe that the more we all understand about the opportunities presented by these dynamic and quickly changing times, the healthier the industry will be overall. We look forward to speaking with you again next month.