For disaster recovery contingencies and business interruption insurance premiums to be affordable and effective, it is necessary to prioritise off-site backup frequencies, up-and-running facility re-installation timings, secure web-infrastructure decisions and so on. Fundamental to this thinking is an insight into the importance of different areas of document management to an organisation, and where document management is delivering critical value. This essentially helps to map out the priority of document access systems, where critical insurance cover is most needed, and where disaster-recovery systems have to prioritise investment.
A recent Pitney Bowes survey provides just this insight, asking representatives from the UK's top 1000 companies to identify the business departments obtaining highest value from document management systems. The responses are shown below (figure 1).
In poll position come billing and statements - a business-critical, highly-regulated area. The technology used to handle this business process will ultimately determine a company's cash flow, so it is no surprise that document management solutions are focused towards this function. The rapid rise in the use of marketing messages on bills and statements also serves to make data-flows more complex.
It is vital that the bill/statement function integrates fully with the call centre to ensure fast, accurate customer service. Document management enables call-centre personnel to rapidly access information 'as rendered', giving them the same view of a document as the customer and expediting satisfactory resolution of customer queries.
Finally, there has been a drive to improve the efficiency of replies to marketing responses, allowing the agent to compose a reply to the caller following their call (usually controlled through templates and standard text passages), and then the physical processing of the documents to be handled remotely at the mailing site.
However, let us look at the other end of our graph. Perhaps most interesting was the relatively small margin between the document management in the billing and statement area, and that afforded to document management value in marketing and direct marketing - just a nine point difference.
The high response for marketing/direct marketing was unexpected.This can perhaps be attributed to the trend for centralised marketing document libraries. Here, brochures, creatives, and so on, can be stored in one location, enabling each branch or country to tailor to a local design, and either print locally or order through a centralised print or mail facility. Such a facility is important to the business in terms of a) retaining brand/marketing control, b) empowering local operations to reflect local colour, and c) saving production costs through centralised production.
In a world of offshoring enthusiasm, organisations also have to incorporate the offshore option into their risk perspective. This raises the question of what parts of the document process cannot be transferred offshore.
Regulatory requirements (including the timely and reliable generation and delivery of certain documents) and critical customer service touchpoints are usually not transferable, whereas back office processes are.
Outsourcing a mission-critical process such as billing and statements, or the highly customer-visible direct marketing function, is becoming seen as a good method of risk mitigation (the outsourcer has larger capacity, back-up, mirror sites, staff skills, etc). But given the time-critical nature of individualised document delivery, print-on-demand needs to stay onshore.
Also, in the highly regulated functions, a document archive will need to be kept locally anyway for security and compliance reasons, so why take the political and geographical risk of offshoring? Labour cost savings will tend to be outweighed by non-compliance risk (keeping documents secure) and insurance premiums.
Clearly, any company considering the offshoring option has much to ponder.
But in reality, the argument is not whether firms should offshore some of their processes - this is almost inevitable in today's globalised businesses.
Indeed, it may even be regarded as irresponsible not to offshore some processes in order to deliver value back to customers and shareholders.
The key is to ensure that the business processes that are offshored affect customer service provision positively.
For certain business processes, there is no reason why the cost efficiencies of offshoring cannot be harnessed. Back office functions - including data entry, software application hosting and maintenance, forms processing - and simple call-centre queries are examples.
On the other hand, document production and mailing, by its very nature, cannot be offshored, as timeliness of delivery is essential, and needs to be situated in close proximity to the point of delivery.
Workflow software can identify those documents requiring manual data capture and divert them from those that can be processed automatically.
Call centre agents can have instant access to 'as rendered' customer documents, and can automatically trigger document production from a print and distribution centre close to the caller.
In conclusion, then, document management is delivering value in all the key business processes studied. Outsourcing can help companies to mitigate their process risk in these areas with robust but cost-efficient disaster contingency.
Some offshoring is inevitable for most companies, and its most successful application will be in those areas where document processes are seamlessly linked across continents, so that decisions that weigh the balance between risk and cost can be freely taken.
- Ashley Bailey is managing director, Pitney Bowes Management Services (UK), Tel: 020 7415 3000.