Contributed by Mike Maselli, BÖWE BELL + HOWELL, VP, marketing and product management Digital data – and how to manage and process it – is likely to be one of the top concerns for many businesses in the coming decade, including commercial printers of all sizes. As a point of reference, the amount of digital data created in 2009 increased by 62%, according to a recent study from IDC. This growth isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon, either, with IDC predicting the volume of digital data will grow by a factor of 44 by the year 2020. The report goes on to predict bottlenecks in areas such as information management and real-time processing as the growth of data outpaces the growth in IT staffing and investments in managing data. This wealth of data can present challenges, but also opportunities, for businesses. In the print and mail industry, as print volumes have dropped and postage costs continued to rise over the past couple of years, many printers began rethinking their business models. They added higher value and sometimes higher margin services such as data hygiene, data analytics, design and redesign services, and variable data printing as a way to get more business from existing customers and attract new customers. This move toward data-driven marketing services is likely to continue as print providers look to differentiate their businesses and services from competitors. However, because data management and composition may not be a printer’s strength, they often don’t have the necessary skills or bandwidth in-house for this kind of work. Plus, they may not have the capital to invest in additional tools, or may be reluctant to do so until the new business can fund it. Under these circumstances, many find partnering with another company and leveraging their infrastructure, tools and skills to be a good solution – whether temporary or permanent. Even large printers with extensive infrastructures sometimes need outside help with their data and design needs. For example, they get a last-minute job with a short SLA that needs to be turned around quickly and they don’t have the available cycles in their IT shop. The options available to printers looking to partner on data solutions include dedicated data management and processing firms or, increasingly, production mail solutions providers such as BOWE BELL + HOWELL are offering these services as well. Data processing and management is a fast-growing part of our business today because more and more printers are looking to get a jump on their strategic business goals by partnering with third-party service providers. This is why we are investing heavily in our data environment, with enhanced security, SAS 70 and ISO certification, compliance with PCI and HIPAA standards,  and adding more personnel. To get all of the benefits of printer investments and turn documents and mailpieces into impactful communications that drive the desired response, digital printers will continue to invest in the hardware, software, services, networks and IT staff to manage digital data. Companies that manage this opportunity better than their competitors will have an advantage in the increasingly data-driven world of print.