by Bob Raus of Océ Printing Systems USA, Inc. February 16, 2004 -- One of the favored software marketing strategies these days is to claim a product is comprehensive. One need look no further than the various software suites offered for everything from graphic design to video editing to high-speed print production. All are said to be comprehensive--which is defined as covering completely or broadly--but as in anything else, it is the details that make the difference in how truly comprehensive a product is. When it comes to the workflow software for digital print engines, a comprehensive system must first span the document lifecycle of creation through distribution. Beyond that, the functionality should encompass several and preferably all major business environments including: office/networks, CRDs, on-demand printing and publishing, and transactional printing. More important, though, that functionality must transcend the boundaries of these once separate and distinct environments, enabling information and documents to be produced throughout an enterprise. Crossing Boundaries The ability to cross boundaries opens new worlds of possibility and productivity. Not so long ago, you had to go to the bank between 9 AM and 3 PM, stand in line and deal with a teller to deposit or withdraw funds. With ATMs, direct deposit, and Internet bill paying, those limitations and boundaries have vanished. The current document creation and production revolution, and need to fully utilize every business asset elevates implementing a comprehensive document production workflow from a purchasing decision to a strategic business choice. Piece-meal, disparate workflows are disappearing like dinosaurs because IT professionals and CIOs can now go to a single vendor and negotiate for hardware, software, and the professional services required for a complete system that spans multiple departments, and ultimately the entire enterprise. Contrast this to yesterday's focus on buying the least expensive systems for each operational silo such as the data center, office and CRD. Finally, a comprehensive workflow results in integrated, architected systems so work can be shifted--unified if you will--between different parts of the company for ultimate utilization and ROI of every asset. Such job shifting is no small advantage in these convergent times. Consider, for instance, the high-speed cut-sheet and continuous-form printers in the average data center. In many cases these machines are dedicated systems and under-utilized for the two or three weeks each month they're not occupied with monthly bills or statements. Meanwhile, the company where they reside has on-demand printing or publishing requirements--a couple thousand prospectuses or policies, for example--that are printed by going outside to a commercial printer, because the software for the data center machines doesn't support high-quality non-transactional jobs with graphics and highlight color. Most high-speed printers today are perfectly capable of producing all manner of transactional and on-demand print jobs. Those idle machines can be much better utilized if comprehensive workflow software were used to create, spool, manage, track and print those documents. And it's not just limited to local printing, either. High-speed network connections enable the machines to be used across remote locations within a larger enterprise. This provides a stronger and faster ROI on those machines while reducing or eliminating the need for outsourcing. Upstream of the CRD There's a similar example for CRD and office/network printing. CRDs, often mandated to do more with less, increasingly find themselves running over capacity and having difficulty in meeting deadlines. Yet if the workflow software that runs the big production printers in a CRD can also run more modest machines across the office network, the 500 training manuals that are jeopardizing the CRD's delivery schedule can be run on office network printers during second shift, when office workers are home, giving the CRD optional capacity for peak times and if equipment is down for service. Convergence has made many of the features built in to modern workgroup printers--both color and black and white-- virtually identical to those on their larger, faster cousins in the CRD. Comprehensive workflow software leverages those capabilities by enabling jobs to be redirected easily and run on either type of machine while still being able to account and bill for each job. From a CIO's perspective, these examples mean your customers --the department Vice Presidents --can ship work to wherever they need it to be done or wherever it can be done most efficiently, utilizing the entire printing capacity of your enterprise. It saves time, money and increases the value of your investment and your value to the organization. No More Silos That's the real meaning of comprehensive workflow software. Not individual workflows for specific types of jobs or for individual vertical applications. Not continuing to design work for designated equipment. Comprehensive workflow software enables all print engines throughout a corporation, a data center, a service bureau, or a commercial printing operation to be used in concert to produce documents when and where they are needed. More importantly, comprehensive also means software that adapts to your needs. The software architecture that allows a data center to handle on-demand printing and publishing can help the same company's CRD route jobs to office/network printers. Such solutions address more customer needs for all types of documents in all major business environments. You can think of it almost as a Lego set--how do you need to adjust your print infrastructure today to best support your current business needs? An adaptable, comprehensive workflow solution enables you to achieve your goals and accomplish all your document production objectives. Like waiting in the bank line, it empowers you to forget old paradigms and outdated limitations and move your business forward unhindered by conventional thinking and constraints.