Analytics

Document Accessibility Expertise: The Power of (the Right) Collaboration

When Actuate started developing their high-volume PDF Document Accessibility Solution, they knew they needed to collaborate with the right organization: The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), an industry expert with a proven track record of helping organizations achieve compliance and deliver content that is truly accessible to individuals with disabilities. A national non-profit group, the American Foundation for the Blind is well known for its work with the visually impaired community; activist Helen Keller spent over 40 years working with them. Among its goals, AFB aims to broaden access to technology and promote independent and healthy living for people with vision loss. “We are pleased to be teaming with Actuate to ensure that the process of PDF remediation runs as smoothly and as quickly as possible,” says Paul Schroeder, Vice President, Programs and Policy Group at the AFB. “We are confident this collaboration will support our goal of generating equal opportunities for the millions of people with vision loss.” “We are eager to help the AFB spread awareness regarding the importance of providing readily accessible electronic content to those with vision loss,” adds Shannon Kelly, Accessibility Expert and Evangelist for the Content Services Group at Actuate. This collaboration has helped Actuate develop and test their PDF Accessibility Solution, ensuring that they meet the commitment to making online documents accessible and keep up with two main goals: Creating a technology that would fill a void in the marketplace by offering users with disabilities, including the visually impaired, an opportunity to interact with their transactional data online and on-demand. This technology would also enable customer-facing organizations to deliver a barrier-free experience to all. Offering a solution that would allow organizations to provide high-volume documents in an accessible, fast and easy way. This solution would automate the creation of accessible PDF documents, seamlessly integrate with the processes that are already in place, and ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act, WCAG 2.0 and other standards and regulations. Actuate wanted to do all of that while also considering current trends within the blind and reading-disabled community. For instance, one U.S.-based study found that only 10% of visually impaired children are learning Braille today and, among adults, less than 10% know Braille. It is clear that organizations such as banks or healthcare groups need alternative ways to communicate with their visually impaired customers. For more information on the Actuate/AFB collaboration, read the recent press release announcing the news. Document Accessibility Best Practices As part of the collaboration, Actuate and AFB will continue to help organizations understand the legal requirements and needs of the reading-impaired community to build successful strategies for compliance and providing universal access to electronic content for all. To support this initiative, Actuate and AFB have recently co-authored a white paper, PDF Document Accessibility: Regulations, Risks and Solutions for Compliance. Read the Introduction below and download the full white paper here. “This paper discusses best practices for banks and other financial institutions, insurance, healthcare, and a myriad of other institutions wishing to accommodate their customers who are blind or visually impaired regarding access to account statements and other financial and personal information in electronic formats. It will detail applicable federal laws/regulations requiring financial and other institutions to provide information in accessible formats and outline traditional problems related to meeting those requirements. Finally, this paper will focus on a solution for overcoming the problems and meeting the requirements while delivering a quality customer experience”.

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The Need for Modern Electronic Archiving Solutions

With the increasing prevalence of smart devices in this fast-moving digital world, customers demand all information available whenever and wherever they choose. Whether it’s a credit card or savings account statement, pension or insurance documents, they want it at their fingertips Today, companies are looking for cost-effective repository solutions which can store virtually all document types and make them available to customers electronically with strict security and audit measures. These solutions will store documents only once and retrieve them in multiple formats (e.g. AFP for printing, PDF/Accessible PDF for e-presentment). Organizations also want a modern repository that is easy to deploy with minimum production in order to achieve maximum ROI in less time. Moreover, many companies are looking for an archiving solution which can replace their existing legacy ECM system or work in conjunction with their existing archiving systems to fulfill their new requirements. It is clear, that, when evaluating repository solutions, organizations take into account many factors, including business requirements, cost, and expected ROI, but technical characteristics of the solution and its performance remain the key for decision makers. Below are questions that Enterprise IT Managers often ask when assessing the capabilities of the Repository solution. These questions should be considered when comparing solutions, as they provide insight into how well the repository will perform and suit modern needs. Q. Can the Repository store print streams like AFP and Metacode? A repository must have the capability to store any print stream documents, including AFP, Metacode, PCL, TIFF, PDF, PDF/A and Accessible PDF formats. Additionally, the repository must have the capability to reduce storage requirements of PDF documents by using Document Storage Reduction technology. Q. Can the Repository be installed on Mainframe? What other platforms should it support? A modern repository can be installed on Mainframe and supports all major platforms like Windows, UNIX, AIX and all the flavors of Linux. Q. Can the Repository be deployed on the Cloud? The repository must have the capability to be deployed on any Cloud infrastructure. Q. Can the Repository store MS Office documents like Word, Excel, or Powerpoint? Can it also store other document types like HTML, or XML? A modern repository must support storage of virtually any document type (see Figure 1, demonstrating a common Repository interface screen). For commonly used formats like MS Office Word, Excel, Powerpoint, XML and others, it must have the capability to parse the document to extract metadata and use it as index values for the respective documents (Figure 2). Q. Can the Repository store customer emails? Can you analyze the emails in the Repository? A modern repository solution can store emails in their original format. The repository should also have the capability to parse emails for basic information like email address, subject, from, to, CC and other fields. In addition, the repository also needs to include an Analytics plugin to analyze emails and enable targeted marketing messages to customers. Q. Can I index the documents when loading into the Repository? Is there a facility to edit the index details later? A modern repository can index the documents either using metadata of the document or by extracting the main attributes (like account number, customer id, credit card number, etc.) in the content (Figure 3) and using them as index values. It also allows editing indexes after the loading process has been completed (Figure 4). Q. Can I search for the documents in the Repository? Yes, the repository must provide multiple interfaces to search documents in various application groups. This provides the capability to search on all index fields. It also enables customers to use plain SQL type operators like (=) equals, (>) greater than, (<) less than, and percent (%) (Figure 6). Q. Is it possible to access documents from legacy archives? Can I have a federated search from multiple ECM instances? A modern repository provides multiple connectors for major ECM providers like IBM CMOD, IBM File Net P8, EMC Documentum, IBM File Net Image Services, and Microsoft SharePoint (Figure 7). It must also connect to any ECM system (as long as it supports CMIS framework) using CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Service) Adapter. The repository can also create a federated layer to search documents from multiple ECM instances. Q. Are there any restrictions on volumes or number of documents to be stored? Can the Repository support billions of documents? A modern repository must be tailored to support high volume transactional output (HVTO). The solution should not only store high volume documents, but also process high volume transactions with ease. Q. Does the Repository support COLD archiving? What other storage technologies does it support? The repository must support COLD archiving. It provides a logical physical layer for storage and it is also agnostic of the storage medium used. With just a couple of configuration changes (Figure 8), it is possible to switch from one storage medium to another. The Repository supports multiple storage mediums like Hadoop , Centera etc. Q. Does the Repository convert print stream documents to PDF? Yes, the repository must have the capability to transform print stream documents to PDF on-the-fly whenever customers want to view the documents. Q. Does the Repository support Accessible PDF documents which would be suitable for individuals with disabilities, including the visually impaired? Does it comply with accessibility regulations? Yes. A modern repository must have the capability to to convert print stream documents or existing PDFs into Accessible PDF documents (Figure 9). Look for vendors that partner with multiple industry organizations in different regions across the globe to ensure that all Accessibility requirements are met. If you would like to learn more about Actuate’s Repository solution, download the Repository Datasheet or contact Actuate.

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Highlighting Duplicate Entries, Creating a Variable Based SQL Query, BIRT RAP Application Bar Chart, and More

Sometimes when creating a report, it’s beneficial to suppress duplicate entries in a table. There are also situations that might require you to draw attention to the duplicate entries instead of hiding them. To do something like this we can leverage the highlight functionality that is built into the table item. Before the table is told what to highlight, we’ll need to store the data in an ArrayList so we can check to see if there are duplicate entries. To do this I created my ArrayList in the beforeOpen() of the data set. array = new java.util.ArrayList(); After that I just added each row of data I want to compare later. I did this from onFetch() of my data set. array.add(row["QUANTITYORDERED"]); Once we have all the data that needs to be compared it will need to be stored as a global persistent variable in the afterClose() the data set. This was we use it in our highlight rule. reportContext.setPersistentGlobalVariable("array", array); The last step is to create a highlight rule using the ArrayList I created eariler. To do this I simply selected the cell we want to highlight > property editor > highlights > add. Then I used the following scripts for the logic. var array = reportContext.getPersistentGlobalVariable("array"); var first = array.indexOf(row["QUANTITYORDERED"]); first; “Not equal to” var array = reportContext.getPersistentGlobalVariable("array"); var last = array.lastIndexOf(row["QUANTITYORDERED"]); last; Now all thats left is choosing our highlight color. Once this is all done the final result should look something like this. To download the full example visit this devshare entry. Some other posts worth taking a look at: create a variable based select result report in xls output and page breaks every 40 rows BIRT RAP Application Bar Chart Here are some unanswered posts from this week: Aggregation in grid Table not centered when exporting/printing to PDF Actuate One Jobs If you have a suggestion or solution for any of these, please post in the thread! As the week comes to an end I hope everyone has a good week!

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Embracing Accessible PDF Documents: Key Learnings from the Accessibility Seminar in Toronto

First published on ECM Trends from the Field. We were joined by approximately 15 people in the Ontario Accessibility community earlier this autumn at an exclusive seminar we hosted at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Toronto. The presenters were Thomas Logan, Senior Accessibility Consultant from SSB Bart Group, Shannon Kelly – Accessibility SME from Actuate, Lou Fioritto, CEO of Braille Works International, as well as Jeff Williams, Director of Product Management, and Will Davis, Manager NA Presales, of Actuate. The presentations provided in-depth insight into the document accessibility problems facing organizations in Ontario in particular. We got some great content, which is, of course, tagged for accessibility. All presentations from the Seminar are available here. A few ideas really crystallized for us in this session. Shannon Kelly’s presentation – co-presented with Lou Fioritto, who is himself blind since birth – delivered a real-life experience using AT or Assistive Technology. Lou was able to give us a side-by-side narrative of using both incorrectly and correctly tagged PDF files. It was a real ear-opener! People with impairments use a screen reader such as JAWS to deftly navigate websites and PDF files and Lou showed how utterly frustrating it can be to attempt to work through a PDF bank statement with no headers, vaguely tagged graphics and tables with column headers but no row headers. Lou even commented that as a user, if you had to endure this, you’d just give up and get your information from another source! Shannon Kelly Accessibility SME Actuate Lou Fioritto Co-owner and Vice-President BrailleWorks This begs the question about the perception of PDF files within the visually/cognitively impaired community. Correctly tagged PDF files can now be created at their source and remediated with automation at high speed (see Figure 1 below). However, do decades of bad PDF with errant or no tags spoil it for today’s better PDFs? We suspect this will be debated in the coming months, but we are struck that HVTO (High Volume Transaction Output) content and the visually impaired community are just now beginning to intersect, some would say collide, at high speed. What’s compelling about PDF in HVTO is that it is a correct snapshot of a transaction oriented document with all the elements that accompanied that snapshot when it was created (i.e. logos, offers, signatures). PDF has become a de facto checkbox for those needing to comply with regulations that mandate multi-year retention of exact replica artifacts that can be produced in court. Ever hear of an insurance company coming to court with HTML representations of an insured’s date-stamped renewal notice? Nope, it’s all about PDF when the lawyers are involved. So, the thinking goes: “PDFs are not going away, so why not work with PDFs rather than other, less-structured, less-accepted formats?” Another idea that kind of blew us away was the immediacy of impending legal mandates, and for this we have to thank SSB Bart and some attendees from a top Canadian Financial Institution. First, in the US, both Title III of the ADA AND Section 508 are expected to be updated. Title III may be explicitly calling out websites as places of accommodation. Section 508 will likely point to and embrace WCAG 2.0. Both of these changes are expected by Spring 2014. In Ontario, the AODA states that if you host content on your website, the content must be accessible by January 2014, four short weeks from now. We’d like to thank our presenters and attendees. As usual, I think we learned as much at our seminar from the attendees as the other way around. It was an impressive show of community-smarts, and we were glad just to be associated. It was so successful, Actuate has decided to take the show on the road. The next installment will be held in Charlotte, NC on January 23, 2014 – check out the agenda and let us know if you are interested in taking part!

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New Changes in the BIRT Community, Chart with Zoom Functionality, and Other Topics.

The last few weeks on BIRT Exchange have ushered in some exciting changes for the BIRT developer community. We’ve released a whole new developer focused site that contains a large repository of information that will help developers from newbie to experts alike. In this blog, I’ll talk a little about the new site, along with the normal “This Week in the Forums” content. The new BIRT Developer Center has been broken down into five major sections. Design Center – The design center can be used to find getting started guides, documentation product manuals, and video’s all focused on helping you learn to build designs that will stand above the rest. Deployment Center – In the deployment center you can find getting started guides, deployment guides, product manuals, a video gallery, and even instructions on how to integrate BIRT with a wide selection of technologies. Community – Don’t worry, the community hasn’t gone anywhere! The forums, devshare, challenges, awards, advisory council, and social groups can be found under this section with a whole new look and feel. Want to connect your BIRT-exchange account to your Facebook? Well go to the forums and connect away! Blog – No major changes to the blog have occurred and made sure they are easily accessible from the top navigation. Actuate – Want to find more about the BIRT Company? Make sure to visit the Actuate page! Okay. Now, back to business… With all of the new changes happening on the community site I also got to work on some fun questions in the forums this week. This week there was a question that asked how you would implement zoom functionality with a chart. While there are a few different ways you can accomplish this I chose to use the built in drill-through hyperlinks in the chart builder. Imagine you have a chart with a lot of data that looks very busy like this one. The customer numbers can be rotated to allow more labels along the X-Axis but it still will not show all of them. One way to get around this problem is to implement this zoom in solution. The first step is to build a standard bar chart. For this example I had to build two data sets. The first data set will retrieve the customer numbers while the second will retrieve the payment data for our chart. Once we have both data sets we need to create a hidden and required parameter. This will allow us to tell the report what customer to zoom in on. The default value is -1 which tells us that there should be no zoom at all. Then we need to build our chart. I used the customer number for the X-Series and amount for the Y-Series. Make sure to enable Mouse Click interactivity. Now the report is setup to pass the category that was selected back to itself via drill-through links. The zoom actually happens in the beforeOpen(), beforeClose(), and onFetch() of the first data set and beforeOpen() of the second. In the beforeOpen() of the first data set we need to create a new array. customers = new Array(); In the onFetch() of the first data set customers[customers.length] = row["CUSTOMERNUMBER"]; Then we need to remember to set it as a persistent global variable in the beforeClose() reportContext.setPersistentGlobalVariable("myArray",customers); Finally we can remove data we don’t want to display in the chart creating a “zoom” in our query of the second data set. customers = reportContext.getPersistentGlobalVariable("myArray"); twoBack = null; oneBack = null; if (params["customernumber"] != -1){ for(i=0;i<customers.length;i++){ if(customers[i] != params["customernumber"]){ twoBack = oneBack; oneBack = customers[i]; } else{ i=customers.length; } } } if(twoBack != null){ this.queryText = this.queryText + " where CUSTOMERNUMBER >= " + twoBack.toString(); } You can download this example from this devshare. Some other posts worth taking a look at: Reference database columns with more user friendly names TOC with PageNumber and dots PNG’s not displaying in Firefox! Here are some unanswered posts from this week: Line chart remove second Y-Axis series space How to link database from SQLyog to BIRT Eclipse BIRT with PHP without using Tomcat If you have a suggestion or solution for any of these, please post in the thread! As the week comes to an end I hope everyone has a good week!

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Out-of-the-Box Performance: What IT Wants in a Repository UI

As you know, customers demand access to relevant and insightful information where, when, and how they want it. To keep pace with these demands, businesses must adjust and modernize their IT infrastructure. When it comes to storing and delivering high-volume customer statements, electronic documents or scanned images, the requirements for repositories are greater than ever. Repositories today must be designed to not only store high-volume customer statements, electronic documents and scanned images but to also deliver content across multiple channels to internal stakeholders and online customers – both in static and interactive formats. There are a several important features that we hear from IT when it comes to modern repository solutions. The first comment we often hear is simple and straight-forward: the most user-friendly repository solutions must have an intuitive user interface with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop environment. Second, the repository must connect to multiple repositories:  IBM CMOD, IBM Filenet P8, IBM FileNet Image Services, EMC Documentum, Microsoft SharePoint, Alfresco etc. Additionally, all of these systems must be accessible through a single interface so that users will be able to search across multiple lines of business and look at documents and statements in a single view, without having to move from one system to another. Third, statements must be available for view in any chosen format, no matter how they are being stored. For instance, one document might be stored in an AFP format, but the end-user wants to see it as a PDF – the repository must be able to transform that statement behind the scenes, in a process that is invisible to end-users. Finally, when the user interface is designed in HTML5, it is generally accessible on any browser and device of choice, which provides flexibility for IT in how, when and where they manage the repository. The most popular request of all? All of that functionality should be available out of the box with no custom coding required! When designing our Repository Solution, we listened to the market and made sure it delivers a compelling user interface, exceptional performance and drives bottom-line benefits to organizations with high-volumes of customer statements and electronic documents. To take a first-hand look at a modern Repository User Interface, watch this 7-minute Demo. Join the conversation and let us know: What are your specific requirements for a Repository User Interface? Can you share any great experiences with other archiving products?

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Introducing the Free BIRT Viewer Toolkit – BIRT TechTalk Series

By joining our TechTalk community you will be kept abreast of all the latest happenings in the world of BIRT. We’ll have experts reveal tips and tricks, share best practices, give you a sneak peek into new product features, and more. Can’t make it? No problem. All recordings will be posted to our site so you don’t have to miss a single episode!In our first 30 minute TechTalk – Introducing the Free BIRT Viewer Toolkit – Enhance the Way Your Users View BIRT Designs – onWednesday, November 13, 2013 at 11am PT we’ll cover how the newly launched BIRT Viewer Toolkit renders BIRT-based data visualizations and reports in a more powerful and user-friendly way, enhancing the experience for your internal users or in your externally-facing application.Attend this TechTalk to learn: What is the BIRT Viewer Toolkit? How does the Viewer Toolkit enhance the viewing experience of your application? How can you easily integrate the Viewer Toolkit into your existing application? Thank you for joining us and stay tuned!Event Details: Title: Introducing the Free BIRT Viewer Toolkit – Enhance the Way Your Users View BIRT DesignsDate: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 Time: 11am PT | 2pm ET Duration: 30 minutesLocation: WebWATCH THE RECORDING NOW 

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BIRT Developer vs Java Coder

Have you ever wondered just how much time and effort BIRT can save you in developing information driven, customer facing web and mobile applications? This “docu-drama” compares the experience of two enterprise developers creating a mission critical application, one who uses BIRT, and one who insists on hand coding in Java. Watch the VideoDON’T BE A LARRY!  

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ABA Convention 2013: Banks Bounce Back and Look for Ways to Improve Customer Experience

First published on ECM Trends from the Field. The 2013 American Bankers Association (ABA) Annual Convention in New Orleans has just drawn to a close. Banks are bouncing back! Actuate Content Services Group attended the ABA Convention to greet C-Level bank executives from all over the US. We also held a Power Breakfast Session to exchange ideas on how modern banks use analytics to improve customer experience. But first let’s talk about the Convention experience and at the end – about the feedback we received from the Power Breakfast Session attendees. Most of the ABA Convention attendees were C-Level executives from small, community banks with assets of <$1B and they were mostly from the Southeast given that the venue was New Orleans this year. We talked to many banks, and received great insight into some of the things that are important to them. Dodd-Frank is in the midst of being fully implemented with tighter lending guidelines for QM or Qualified Mortgages hitting in Jan 2014, however, the head of the CFPB stated that there would be a gradual easing-in of the guidelines with little to no litigation in the first few months. The bottom line for the small banks was that if they have a traditionally good track record making loans in their markets with acceptable loss rates, this new legislation should have little or no impact. The reaction of the CEO’s ranged however from activist “we should show up with thousands to march on Washington” to more resigned “let’s not dwell on the regulation but focus on our business.” The attitudes of the CEO’s matched almost exactly the geographies from which they hail. The West Coast CEO focusing on a vibrant, young work force, the East Coast bank implementing new technology but only to the extent that it would pay off with its specific customer profile. The CEO from a deep south bank explained how his bank’s branches had been “slabbed” during Katrina, a verb meaning completely demolished save the cement slab upon which the building used to sit. But the employees were at work the next day at fold-out tables doing business, ultimately handing out up to $100M total in cash to bank customers needing money to evacuate immediately. I’m not sure what was more moving – the image of employees at those tables in front of their erstwhile branches, or the news that the bank experienced less than 1% loss from this cash handout despite the complete lack of ID validation. “How can you force someone to produce ID, when you can plainly see that they ‘swam’ out of their house this morning.” This, said the CEO, is proof positive that we are still a nation of trustworthy individuals. This particular bank has expanded rapidly since Katrina, capturing a double digit increase in market share right after the storm. How’s that for a positive customer experience? The best part of Actuate’s presentation to the ABA attendees during the Power Breakfast Session on 10/22 was not the presentation itself but the really good questions that followed. Doug Koppenhofer, Regional VP, delivered the presentation and answered the questions: Q: Is it possible to do Communication Management completely independent of Analytics? We answered that yes, one could definitely find low hanging fruit in the customer communication area especially in correspondence, without having to tie in analytics. We explained that many banks in particular are getting a better handle on the way they manage the correspondence with their clients to ensure that they leverage their brand, manage message consistency and even compliance. We mentioned the example of the bank we met at the Customer Experience Exchange who found countless examples of letters to customers stating that they “did not meet their standards.” We do believe that analytics helps you embed much more personalization and power into your messaging and that most banks will at some point couple analytics to their communication hubs. Q: Can you elaborate on what impact privacy laws might have on using publicly available social media and other content as your source for customer messaging? My only answer to that was that we are not the compliance or bank law experts. In talking with a compliance vendor later, he saw no issue with this because as individuals we opt in to disclosing all manner of personal information to Google, Facebook, etc. Bottom line: if the banks decide not to take advantage of this publicly available information, somebody else may do so instead. Q: Any ideas on how to know the identity of clicks to specific ads you would embed? That’s a darn good question, and I wonder if there is any way the e-Ad could somehow capture session information. The question was posed by an SVP of Marketing of a 20 branch bank who is doing very well with embedding ads in their real estate channel that should drive sales to their lending channel and they are getting a lot of good clicks but, how could they ever tell who it is that they need to follow up with. More to follow as we could not come up with a complete answer to this very good question. This Q & A session was first published on ECM Trends from the Field Blog by Doug Koppenhofer. You can find the Power Breakfast Session presentation here.

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Top 3 Questions about your ECM Migration Project

A successful document migration involves planning and the proper technology, as well as a strong methodology to see it through from start to finish. The following are some of the common questions Actuate has received about ECM migration best practices. Q: How long does an ECM migration typically take? Many of the methods used for extraction are time-consuming and without the relevant expertise can literally take years to perform on large datasets. However, with the proper professional expertise and tools, the time spent implementing these methods can be greatly reduced. It ultimately depends on many variables including volume of content, transformation of content, changing the index structure from the source system to the target and others. All of the processes involved into managing these variables can be automated with technology. Q: We’re extracting data from a legacy system built before XML. How does that affect the process? With legacy systems built before XML, it’s particularly difficult to maintain existing metadata associations – an important step when you’re extracting data to move to another ECM system. In a system such as this, it’s complicated by the fact that different document types often infer different metadata rules and indexing requirements. One solution is to rebuild the indexes during migration through a technique known as “re-indexing.” Q: Besides converting content to a compatible format, we have heard that the transformation stage migration process can have added benefits. What might those be? On top of converting and repurposing data, the transformation process helps to organize data as well. Some of the print resources – such as fonts and images used by different document types – can lead to problems if they’re not dealt with properly: resources with duplicate names may lead to the wrong logo or signature showing up, for example. The transformation process allows those embedded resources to be extracted and catalogued, aiding the retrieval process later on. The transformation process also introduces additional benefits to the overall outcome of the migration project: Document proofing. Data is validated to ensure that what came out of one ECM system is exactly what goes into the other. Long-term storage. Data is transformed into standard formats to comply with records management and industry regulations as well as potentially being generated as PDF/UA making them fully accessible for the visually impaired. Reverse composition. The elements of the content can be extracted into formats such as XML, to be used in other applications. Enrichment. Color, images and other creative touches can be added to refresh old content. Compliance. Data can also be redacted to ensure that information is not viewable based on any PCI standards or compliance issues. For more information on the document migration process, and to help ensure that your document migration is well-planned and non-disruptive to your business, read ECM Content Migration: Best Practices in Document Archive Convergence, co-written by Actuate and AIIM, a global community of information professionals dedicated to sharing thought leadership content.

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Document Accessibility Q&A: Meeting Accessibility Standards

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the federal law that oversees accessibility in the United States; it’s also the law that requires that online statements provided by financial institutions be accessible to individuals with disabilities, including visually impaired and blind customers. As the creator of PDF accessibility technology that makes online statements available to screen reader solutions, Actuate often gets questions about the ADA. Read some of the most common ones here. Q: What do organizations need to do to ensure that their online statements meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and thereby avoid expensive lawsuits? Meeting accessibility regulations means developing inclusionary practices based on universal design standards. Information systems must be flexible enough to accommodate the needs of the broadest range of users of computers and telecommunications equipment, regardless of age or disability. For it to be accessible to persons with disabilities, including the visually impaired or blind, electronic information technology must be compatible with screen reader and screen magnification technology. Q: What standards do web designers need to consider? Standards for designing universally accessible websites can be found at the Worldwide Web consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative. These guidelines, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), combined with the other information available on the site, provide a foundation for designing website structure and content that is accessible and usable for people with a range of disabilities. Q: What format works for creating accessible documents? The Portable Document Format (PDF) is the most common for financial, insurance, healthcare and other institutions creating statements in an electronic format. The benefit of PDFs is that they appear the same regardless of the computer platform you present them on, and can be made compatible with screen reader and screen magnifier software when proper design and tagging techniques are used. To learn more about creating accessible PDF documents at your organization, read PDF Document Accessibility: Regulations, Risks and Solutions for Compliance, co-authored by Actuate and The American Foundation for the Blind.

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The Secret Sauce of the Document Migration Process

What does it take to migrate a document from one ECM (Enterprise Content Management) system to another? Careful planning, the right technology components, and experienced personnel are all integral to the process. A proven methodology is also key, such as the and 6-step process referred to as DETAIL™. Step 1: Discovery. The process starts with studying the source of the data and getting to know the documents themselves, as well as the current ECM system(s) in which those documents are stored. That means looking at the types of documents in question and the metadata or indexes used to describe them, as well as understanding how documents relate to each other, how they’re physically collected and how the related metadata is stored. Knowing all of this will help the entire migration process move more smoothly. Step 2: Extraction. Extracting document data and metadata from your ECM system can be a challenge. While ECM systems are typically set up to extract individual documents one at a time, that’s not very efficient during the migration process: batch tools, application programming interface (API) and direct database/storage access can all help. Step 3: Transformation. Content may need to be converted or repurposed from one format to another before loading it into your new ECM system. To do that it must be prepared properly, as ECM systems generally require document content streams and all associated resources and metadata to be in a specific format prior to loading. Embedded resources must be extracted and catalogued as well, so that the retrieval process can accurately recreate the original document. Step 4: Auditing. Once the migration is complete, organizations need to know that it’s been done successfully and correctly. An audit trail maintained throughout the conversion process can help achieve that, with checks and balances built into each phase. This will leave companies with a higher level of confidence that everything has been done successfully. Step 5: Indexing. Key information about content – which varies depending on the type of data in question – is stored in indexes and metadata. During the migration process, it may be necessary to add new indexes, for efficient new ways to access content and meet business and regulatory requirements. Step 6: Loading. As the final step in the sequence, content data, metadata indexes and related document resources are loaded into the new ECM system, often as a single stacked file – a file that contains hundreds or thousands of content files. Metadata that describes this content goes into a separate index file, pointing to the location of individual documents. For more information on the document migration process, and to help ensure that your document migration is well-planned and non-disruptive to your business, read ECM Content Migration: Best Practices in Document Archive Convergence, co-authored by Actuate and AIIM, a global community of information professionals dedicated to sharing thought leadership content.

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New BIRT Developer Video Series on YouTube

Several BIRT experts at Actuate have gotten together to create some great technical videos to help open source and commercial BIRT developers — both new and experienced — to get more out of BIRT in their designs, deployments and web applications. We will continue to add lots of new videos in the next few weeks and months so I encourage you to subscribe to the BIRT Developer Channel to keep up with future releases of more cool tips and techniques. If you have any ideas for video topics please let us know by posting a comment on the channel’s discussion board.

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Five Steps to Accessible PDF Documents

How do banks and financial institutions make their PDF statements accessible to individuals with disabilities, including blind and visually impaired customers? This process includes 5 key steps, ensuring that required characteristics that make online PDF statements accessible to screen reader technology are in place: 1. A logical structure and reading order. This will assist the screen reader technology, making it easier for tags behind the scenes to identify the reading order of the content on each page. Reading order is specifically important in financial documents, where tables will make no sense without specific order established. 2. Alternate text descriptions for figures, form fields and links. Graphics, figures, form fields and links are page elements in a PDF that are traditionally presented only visually. For the visually impaired, the documents must include descriptive alternative text, which screen readers can interpret. 3. Navigational aids. Navigational aids – including headings, links and an optimized tab order for forms and embedded links – allow users to go straight to a specific point in the document, rather than having to read every line and page. 4. Security that doesn’t interfere with assistive technology. The restrictions that are sometimes added to PDF documents – that prevent users from printing, copying, extracting, commenting or editing text – can be a hindrance to screen reader technology and its ability to convert on-screen text to speech. 5. Fonts that allow characters to be extracted to text. Fonts must contain enough information to be extracted as text. If that information isn’t all there, the PDF reader can’t substitute characters correctly, making the output incomplete. That may cause the screen reader to omit words or characters. To put all of these in place, financial institutions can manually tag their PDF statements internally or hire a third-party specialist. However, both are costly, time-consuming, and prone to a human error. The other alternative is Actuate’s PDF Accessibility solution, which automates the process – ensuring online documents are readable by everyone without the need for opt-in or lengthy wait times for the requested accessible formats. For more on what it takes to make a PDF statement accessible, read PDF Document Accessibility: Regulations, Risks and Solutions for Compliance, co-authored by Actuate and The American Foundation for the Blind.

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ECM Migrations – Working with PDF Format

Today, PDF is the go-to format for viewing transactional documents (such as bills, policies, and statements) online. There are reasons why this format is preferred for presenting electronic documents. For the ultimate viewer, the benefits are obvious – PDF documents are generally nicely formatted, can seamlessly incorporate all kinds of visuals to support text information, and can be easily saved or shared via email. From the technical standpoint, in PDF format, text is represented as strings, separated from images and other objects, making documents in this format searchable. The PDF standard also has features such as bookmarks and links, which allow for easy document navigation. In general, PDF provides an opportunity to make static documents more useful, and dynamic. Additionally, in regards to document storage, there has also been a standard introduced for the long term archiving of PDF documents called PDF/A. This standard defines the structure of a PDF document that will ensure it remains supported and viewable in the future. Organizations that produce transactional documents (banks, telecommunications, insurance companies, or utilities) have to manage high-volume content environments with extensive storage and presentment needs. And in that environment, PDF storage requirements need to be considered. That’s where experienced service providers come in, helping organizations keep storage to a minimum for high-volume document batches. This can be achieved by separating and capturing individual components such as logos and formatting information, and sharing them among files. In addition, numerous technical details related to PDF documents must be taken into account when planning and executing an ECM migration or consolidation projects. To address common challenges of organizations with high-volume document output, during the ECM Migrations Technical Training, Sufyaan Kazi, a Senior Sales Engineer from Actuate, answered many questions related to how PDF format is being handled. Q: What does Actuate do in situations where the logos aren’t included in the PDF file? That’s actually not uncommon. Often, we’ll encounter cases where the logo is missing because the documents were originally formatted for pre-printed corporate letterhead. In that scenario, Actuate can easily add overlays and images to the PDF when someone needs to retrieve them. Q: Can Actuate work with the PDF/A format? We’ve been huge supporters of the PDF/A format. But a PDF/A file, as compared to something like an Advanced Function Presentation (AFP) document or normal metacode, has a huge overhead in terms of the file size. Actuate’s Document Storage Reduction (DSR) for ECM has been known to reduce the footprint of a PDF by up to 95%. We can reduce the footprint, without changing that document in any way. When a user requests access to that PDF we’ll rebuild it dynamically on the fly, and it will be byte for byte exactly the same as the original document that we processed in the first place. Q: What do you do when you encounter a document that’s not a PDF, but simple line data instead? We come across line data a lot. It’s very typical for document archives to contain reports in this type of format: very simple text, never intended to be presented as online rich web content. We can handle it in many ways. We can natively interpret line data reports, we can handle reports that are encoded in ASCII using Actuate Transformation Services for Documents, and we can convert these reports into PDF format to store in a new archive. Alternatively, we can use a combination of Transformation Services for Documents and Transformation Services for Data to pull out the raw data inside the reports, then extract that as XML or CSV files and put this information into a database to be used by a Business Intelligence system such as Actuate BIRT. Using BIRT, we can help designers compose a statement to be delivered to customers online or on tablets, or as printed collateral. And we can allow them to transform those very basic documents into more rich, interactive charting and HTML5-based content. Learn more about the methodology and technical aspects of ECM migration: ECM Migrations Technical Training with Sufyaan Kazi.

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ECM Migrations – Technical Details to Consider

Larger organizations often rely on multiple archives and repositories, a sometimes costly practice brought on through acquisitions or normal business growth. Actuate’s ECM migration services help consolidate those archives, combining multiple IDARS /ECM repositories and converting legacy content from disparate formats. When it comes to content migration or consolidation, we ensure success by following a proven methodology. On the technical level, there are numerous details that our customers enquire about and have to take into account when starting the project. For example, here’s a recent question Actuate received during the ECM Migrations Technical Training Webinar about the functionality. Q: Does Actuate have built-in adaptors to extract content and metadata from legacy ECM systems like FileNet Content Services? Yes, we have pre-built connectors for the FileNet family. We have handled image services and FileNet systems for organizations worldwide. For example, a leading global telecommunications provider brought us in to decommission one of their systems. Overall, they achieved over $5 million in savings by being able to turn off that system, which they no longer needed. We completed the project within the timeframe they suggested and it was a huge success. To view the complete on-demand webinar and learn more about the methodology and technical aspects of Actuate’s migration process, visit ECM Migrations Technical Training Webinar.

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Customer Access to Federated Content: from Need to Reality

A common challenge our prospective clients have is the difficult transition to enable true customer access to content from any device. A lot of organisations have tried to enable customer access in the past, but may still only have solutions that offer limited online presence or capabilities. For example, insurance companies often offer customers the ability to view policy documents but not details of any claims, direct debit forms or other correspondence. Our prospects are offering customers access to either none or only a limited set of their content online. Making this type of transition to allow access to ALL content is often desirable but technically difficult to achieve. Quite often there are many technical barriers which typically fall into the following categories: Different types of content are stored in different archives for historical reasons. For example, we often find that customer facing statements are held in one archive, whereas inbound correspondence or general marketing correspondence documents are stored in other archives. Each archive offers different means of accessing content and not all archives allow external access. Content is stored in different formats in each archive (legacy, print, image etc.). User information is not centralised, each archive has its own view of who an external user is. Fortunately, Actuate’s e-Presentment technology overcomes these barriers very simply. Our technology provides the capability to rapidly design process flows that can encapsulate the processing and integration of content from multiple archives. The screenshot on Figure 1 is an example of a complex retrieval request: Actuate Process Flows can be triggered by external APIs or as a WebService which means that integrating our solution into an existing customer portal is very easy. Once integrated, the solution offers very powerful functionality. We have many pre-built adapters for common archives, and also support interfaces such as CMIS (e.g. for connecting to SharePoint). By including these adapters in a single process flow, we can combine request information from different sources (i.e. from a web page, tablet, or mobile device) and use this to make several requests to these archives to fetch matching content. This type of integration does not need any programming or consulting services, as it can be achieved simply by dragging and dropping the components required from our palette. Our pre-built adapters (such as the CMOD Adapter, Figure 2) have already been constructed against the public APIs of these pre-built archives. Connection parameters can be supplied as parameters or hard-coded through our GUI. Actuate technology can also dynamically transform this content from its source format into more customer facing formats such as PDF or HTML5 and provide a merged document including all content from all archives. Creating such integration is very easy in our Developer Studio product. However, this simplicity hides the complex processing power we can achieve. Actuate’s Enterprise Server can process multiple requests in parallel and handle large volumes easily. Using our e-Presentment Technology, to perform retrieval, harmonisation, and delivery we can construct user-centric websites for PCs and tablets using modern visuals and insights as demonstrated on Figure 3. Actuate e-Presentment technology exposes and makes these types of visualisations from document content stored in archives irrespective of document age or tenure in the archive, and not just the past 12 months of data in your live data stores. To make customer access to federated content a reality, organizations must consider a powerful solution which would be flexible enough to enable access to a variety of existing archives with numerous types of content stored in them. To learn more about Actuate’s ePresentment capabilities, contact us and we will be happy to discuss your needs.

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PDF Accessibility Solution Q&A: A New Business Alternative

Actuate’s PDF Accessibility Solution is a first in the industry. It allows organizations to capture and transform high-volume print streams into PDFs, tagging them automatically to make them accessible to visually impaired customers through screen reader technology. This eliminates the need for manual tagging and allows blind and low-vision customers to read their online transactional documents on demand. How does it work? Find out as we answer our customers’ questions below. Q: What makes the Actuate PDF Accessibility Solution different from the traditional method of contracting third parties or assigning an in-house group to manually tag individual PDF documents? Currently, most companies are doing just this in order to make their documents readable to visually impaired customers through screen reader technology. The problem is that these techniques are not scalable or cost effective when you start applying them to high-volume print streams that are the norm in financial institutions, utilities, some government agencies, and telecommunications organizations. Privacy also becomes an issue: the manual process exposes more people to sensitive transactional information. Actuate’s PDF Accessibility Solution tags high-volume content on demand, not only reducing the amount of storage needed, but also eliminating the privacy issues that these traditional manual processes create. Q: How quickly does it work? A traditional Actuate transformation – which would transform a document from an Advanced Function Presentation (AFP) format into a PDF – typically takes about 200 milliseconds for a 20-page document. Add in accessibility tagging, and it will take approximately 266 milliseconds. That’s only a one-third increase in the processing time. With the tagged text, the PDF is also only about one-third larger. Q: What if the document has already been converted into a PDF? It will take approximately the same amount of processing time, because the software is reading it and doing the exact same thing as it does with an AFP file. For more information on Actuate’s PDF Accessibility Solution, please contact us.

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PDF Accessibility Solution Q&A: What are the Alternatives?

Traditionally, visually impaired customers have been able to request accessible documents – in Braille, large-print or audio CD formats – from their financial services institutions. However, many in this community are demanding a different approach – one that will allow them to access their documents online and on-demand, just the way their sighted counterparts can. Actuate’s PDF Accessibility Solution creates tagged PDFs for banks, utilities, and other high-volume print stream environments, making transactional documents accessible through screen reader technology. This solution allows institutions to offer an inclusionary environment that meets the requirements of their visually impaired customers. Our customers have had some questions about how this compares to the other alternatives: Q: What are the pros and cons of Braille in terms of creating accessible documents for the visually impaired? While most information can be translated into Braille, and it’s definitely vital to some, not everyone who’s visually impaired can read Braille. In fact, only a small number of blind or partially sighted individuals can, and that number is smaller for the younger generation. Specifically, in 2009 the National Federation of the Blind has reported that fewer than 10 percent of the people who are legally blind in the United States are Braille readers. A mere 10 percent of blind children are learning it. Furthermore, those that can read it need to wait up to 48 hrs to receive their translated statements in the mail, or require special hardware, including a Braille printer, to convert online text into usable information. For those visually impaired consumers who want to be able to interact with information online the same way their sighted counterparts do, a different solution is needed. Q: What about audio CDs and large-print formatting? Audio CDs and large print are other common formats that organizations can use to make their documents accessible to their blind and low-vision customers. However, every format has its restrictions. Audio CDs lack the immediacy many consumers (blind or not) want with their transactional information. And large print is only useful for low-vision customers. Institutions also find it difficult to meet high-volume needs with these formats. Q: What are the benefits of tagged accessible PDFs? Designed to work with a range of screen reader technologies, accessible PDFs let your visually impaired clients read their transactional documentation online through screen reader technology. But to be able to use that technology effectively, PDFs and documents need to be tagged properly (See Figure 1 – example of tagging for accessibility). That’s why the visually impaired community has become more and more vocal about creating tagged PDFs that are efficient and effective. If it’s done right, tagging allows visually impaired individuals to access documents that are immediate and up to date. Actuate’s PDF Accessibility Solution allows for on-demand access to accessible high-volume content, including bank statements and other transactional information. For more information on Actuate’s PDF Accessibility Solution, read the solution sheet.

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Refresh BIRT Report to Next Page, Multiple String Values in Where Clause, Scatter Chart Category Problems and More

This week I worked on a thread with a table that had been grouped. The table also had an aggregation in the group footer. He wanted to take the previous group aggregation value and subtract it by the current group aggregation. This was done easily by using a persistent global variable to store each value.First I had to create my PGV in the initialize() of the report. reportContext.setPersistentGlobalVariable("lastValue","0.00"); Next, in the onRender() of the aggregation item I used the following script. var oldValue = parseFloat(reportContext.getPersistentGlobalValue("lastValue"));if(oldValue ==0){// do nothing because this is the first group}else{var newValue = oldValue -this.getValue(); reportContext.setPersistentGlobalVariable("newValue", newValue.toString()); reportContext.setPersistentGlobalVariable("lastValue",this.getDisplayValue());} This will take the last value and subtract the current value from it. Finally we place our new value into a PGV so we can use it somewhere else. In this case I placed it in a label to the right of the aggregation in the group footer.Some other posts worth taking a look at: Refresh BIRT Report to next page Report Parameter – Multiple String Values in where clause Scatter chart category problems Here are some unanswered posts from this week: Stacked Area Chart tooltip Charts don’t display – birt.war deployed in Virgo Tomcat Server Error including class files in BIRT Report If you have a suggestion or solution for any of these, please post in the thread!As the week comes to an end I hope everyone has a good week! 

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