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Accelerate Your Customer Communications Strategy at Enterprise World

Enterprise World

Join us in Nashville this July at Enterprise World 2016 to learn, and share, the latest in Customer Communications and how to turn your regular customer communications into a powerful marketing asset. With OpenText™ Communications Center you can maximize the effectiveness of your communications, not only by providing a single, consistent look and feel across all devices, but also by creating a dialogue from the document. Also, because the channels are linked, a customer can, say, initiate an application from their email reader and complete it on their tablet at a later time or date. Communications Center provides the robust, enterprise-grade CCM solution that you need to effectively generate and manage communications that connect all of your business systems, while providing up-to-the-minute critical information to your customers, partners, vendors and personnel. You can find out more at the upcoming OpenText Enterprise World conference in Nashville the week of July 11th. The focus for Enterprise World 2016 is to provide more informative and detailed technical sessions alongside customer case studies, making it our most informative user conference to date. For example, the OpenText Communications Center specific sessions on offer in Nashville include: Fast tracking sales from Contract to Digital Signature Developing state of the art Dynamic Templates for Customer Communications Data Gathering Strategies for Customer Communications Management Integrating Customer Communications with Content Server What’s new and what’s upcoming for the OpenText Customer Communications offerings And that’s just a small selection of over 20 sessions around Experience Suite and 200 plus breakout sessions, roundtables, labs, and demos on offer across the whole OpenText portfolio. Enterprise World 2016 is a must attend event for anyone in the Customer Experience and Customer Communications world. If you haven’t yet registered for Enterprise World, now is the perfect time to do so. Come join us in Nashville!

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Achieving Equal Access in Health Care Information

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As per a report published by the Equal Rights Center in 2011, blind and visually impaired individuals routinely face barriers in receiving information regarding their health care including documents such as test results, prescriptions, etc., benefits information such as Explanation of Benefits, eligibility and termination information and e-delivered communications such as billing statements, summary of benefits and more in accessible formats. This includes information received by visually impaired Americans being covered by Medicare and Medicaid. These individuals are often presented with work-around solutions, such as relying on friends, family or healthcare practitioners to read their private medical information to them. Not only is this a breach of the individual’s privacy, but also leads to outcomes that could result in poor health and loss of benefits. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services, is the largest single payer for health care in the United States. As per data from the CMS: 90 Million Americans receive healthcare coverage through Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Approximately 4.3 million individuals over the age of 65 report some form of visual impairment. There are also approximately 700,000 Medicare beneficiaries between the ages of 21 and 64 who have some form of visual impairment. Private healthcare insurers have been contracted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to offer Medicare and Medicaid programs, and these insurance providers must meet federal regulation i.e. Section 508, requiring that they ensure access to and use of their websites and digital documentation to people with disabilities, including the blind or visually impaired individuals. Non-compliance could lead to penalties and the loss of lucrative contracts for insurers. It is therefore no surprise that document (e.g. PDF) accessibility is a hot-button issue for government and even private healthcare insurers contracted by the CMS. As “public accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), healthcare insurers are generally well aware of their legal responsibility to customers with disabilities such as visual impairment, and are quite used to complying with these regulations. But now that accessibility requirements are expanding into cyberspace, healthcare insurers need to find appropriate technology solutions for this new challenge. Until a couple of years ago, it simply had not been possible for healthcare insurers to create high-volume, communications and documents in accessible PDF format. The sheer scale of production, with documents numbering in the thousands or millions, precludes manual remediation because of several limiting factors: Costs of manually remediating documents Delivery time due to the laborious nature of manual remediation Stringent accessibility tagging requirements OpenText has created an automated, software-based solution to address these very limitations. The OpenText Automated Output Accessibility solution can generate accessible PDFs from any high-volume, system-generated input print stream or other formats quickly and efficiently, while keeping storage size at bay. The solution was designed using thousands of man-hours worth of very specific experience and expertise in the system-generated document accessibility space, and our industry-leading transformation engine enables generating accessible output in the milliseconds. In fact, the output generated from this solution has been reviewed by the National Federation of the Blind and other prominent organizations for the visually impaired. Learn more about the OpenText Automated Output Accessibility solution at http://ccm.actuate.com/solutions/document-accessibility.

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Upcoming Accessibility Deadlines for Federal Student Loan Statement Servicers

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Section 508 and WCAG compliance has been an important mandate for the U.S. Federal Government, and the Department of Education is one of the government agencies actively working towards meeting these requirements for visually impaired students receiving federal loans. The Department of Education has now issued time frames and deadlines for WCAG compliance to student loan servicers that generate and distribute federal Direct Loan Program (DLP) statements, notices and communications. Accordingly, all loan statements, notices and communications, forms and websites need to be made available to borrowers in accessible read-only HTML format or non-proprietary equivalent (e.g. accessible PDF), complying with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and WCAG 2.0, within a few short months. The Federal Government has also established additional time frames for testing and verification of accessibility compliance before the actual deadline, for making accessible content available to borrowers. Loan service providers typically generate statements, notices and communications in print stream or PDF formats. Making these accessible using traditional methods is manual, laborious, time-consuming and expensive. Visually impaired students therefore typically experience a lag in receiving critical information included in their statements, notices and communications in formats they can access due to the time lines and delays involved in generating manually tagged accessible PDFs, Braille, Large Print, Audio or HTML formats. This is far from ideal, and visually impaired students are now expecting to be treated the same as anyone else would be with regards to the timely availability of important information. Most Federal Student Loan Statement Servicers are still struggling to find a solution that meets compliance and can be made operational before the required deadlines. While building a new solution from scratch is often how IT departments approach technology challenges, given the tight timelines involved and the level of accuracy, expertise, testing capabilities and technological know-how required in building a solution, it is not an efficient way of addressing this particular requirement. Key points for Federal Loan Service Providers to consider when implementing an automated accessibility solution: The solution should be easy to implement and should not require management of multiple formats Storage costs should not increase as a result of the solution The solution should be infinitely scalable and be able to support the demands of generating millions of documents without performance issues The OpenText Automated Output Accessibility solution addresses each of these requirements, and can generate accessible PDFs from any input print stream format quickly and efficiently, while keeping storage size at bay. The solution was designed using thousands of man-hours worth of very specific experience and expertise in the system-generated document accessibility space, and our industry-leading transformation engine enables generating accessible output in the milliseconds. In fact, the output generated from this solution has been reviewed by the National Federation of the Blind as well as the Department of Education. Using best-of-breed technology and accessibility-specific expertise is the only fool-proof way of meeting the tight time frames and deadlines defined by the Department of Education. Learn more about our solution here.

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Accessible PDF Discussion: A Solution for High-Volume Customer Communications

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To help them achieve complete web accessibility, organizations require a viable technology solution for automatically generating high-volume (i.e., enterprise-level) personalized customer communications in Accessible PDF format. Such a solution would give blind and visually impaired people immediate and equal access to electronic documents, which they currently do not have. This series of blog posts explains why demand is increasing for customer communication documents in Accessible PDF format, describes current industry practices for producing these documents, and introduces a new technology option that enables organizations to keep PDF format as their default electronic format for high-volume, web-delivered documents of record while enabling full accessibility and usability of those PDFs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. In recent blog posts we examined the Drivers behind Web Content Accessibility, Best Practices for PDF and Accessible PDF and Approaches to Generating Accessible PDFs. In this post, we will examine a new, patented, state-of-the-art technology solution that is specifically designed to generate high volumes of Accessible PDF. You can also access the complete white paper on this topic, Enterprise-Level PDF Accessiblity: Drivers, Challenges and Innovative Solutions. New Technology for Generating Enterprise-Level Accessible PDFs A first-to-market, enterprise-level technology for automatically producing personalized customer communications in Accessible PDF format is now market available. The new technology converts print streams, documents, and data into Accessible PDFs, either in high-volume batches (i.e., thousands, millions) or individually on demand (dynamically in real time). Organizations can use this type of innovative technology to simultaneously improve customer experience for people with visual disabilities and comply with relevant accessibility legislation such as the ADA, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act, and the CVAA. Accessibility Rules Unlike manual remediation, this automated technology leverages a sophisticated, inherently flexible rules model, ensuring that each source document, whether in PDF or print stream format, completely incorporates the specified accessibility rules. Accessibility templates can be easily edited to ensure production continuity of recurring (e.g., monthly) high-volume transactional documents. Organizations may need to secure accessibility expertise (at least initially) to define PDF accessibility rules for each document type, although the various document authors and creators require no specialized accessibility knowledge because the automated technology includes a highly intelligent graphical user interface. Quality Control Visual PDF tag inspection and usability testing is not required on every page, as it is with manual remediation. Instead, quality control can be maintained with automated and manual accessibility/usability testing on small batches of documents. This patented technology utilizes PDF/UA format (ISO 14289-1) and incorporates the Matterhorn Protocol2 to generate Accessible PDF output that has been independently tested and found to conform to WCAG 2.0, Level AA, by nationally and internationally recognized prominent advocacy organizations and well respected worldwide accessibility firms. Deployment This innovative technology can be deployed as a traditional on-premise traditional or virtual software installation, or as a cloud-based solution. Observed Effect on Traditional Format Production Recent cloud deployments of this new technology are having an unexpected, positive effect on the production of traditional alternate formats such as Braille, large print, and audio. These traditional formats, like manual PDF remediation, can be time and cost intensive to produce, and can delay the delivery of customer communications. The rich, structured output from this automated technology has allowed for automation of the production of traditional formats, including Braille, large print, and audio, lessening the labor resources needed for manual processing. Each personalized communication statement or notice can be produced more efficiently, reducing cost and delivery time for alternate hardcopy formats. ePresentment Options With the advent of affordable, scalable technology for automatically producing high-volume Accessible PDF documents, private organizations and government agencies suddenly have a number of new options for presenting online customer communications. For example, organizations can provide Accessible PDF communications by default, creating an inclusionary environment while meeting legislative mandates. This delivery scenario enables blind and visually impaired people to access their personal information at the same time as other customers, without the delays associated with requesting alternate hardcopy formats. Or, instead of producing Accessible PDFs by default, organizations with existing systems for online presentment of PDF documents may choose to provide customers with on-demand conversion to Accessible PDF format, both for current PDFs and archived documents. For online users, this would mean replacing an inconvenient exception process with merely a few button clicks. Implications for Organizations and Individuals This innovative technology solution for enterprise-level PDF accessibility offers blind and visually impaired people equal (and instant) access to electronic documents, empowering them to be more independent, make more timely financial and other critical decisions, and participate more fully in the 24/7 digital world. Imagine, individuals who prefer digital technology can finally say “No, thanks” to exception processes, accommodations, late-arriving hardcopies in alternate formats, and other such hassles. For blind and visually impaired people who do not currently request documents in alternate formats, and instead rely on family, friends, and support workers to help them manage their affairs, this technology gives them another avenue for becoming more independent. With the arrival of this groundbreaking automated technology and its ready availability to organizations producing customer communication PDFs, 20+ million blind and visually impaired Americans have an opportunity to use their buying power to affect meaningful change. They can achieve this by patronizing service providers that offer instant online access to Accessible PDF versions of bank and credit card statements, phone bills, insurance documents, and other routine (yet vital) communications. Likewise, they can demand a comparable level of service from government agencies, non-profits, and institutions of higher education. This type of technology is a game changer for industry, for government, and most importantly for blind and visually impaired people who deserve equal access to the entire internet, including websites, web content, and web-delivered documents. For more information on this technology, visit ccm.actuate.com.

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NAB SHOWTIME

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This year at NAB, OpenText is demonstrating an example of how integrated and interconnected technologies working together are able to support the Digital Media Supply Chain. OpenText Media Management is an enterprise Digital Asset Management, DAM, system that is an integral part of the core infrastructure for digital media in organizations whether video, publishing, branding, or global marketing campaigns. What is this “Digital Media Supply Chain”? For many of the largest companies it is a transformation from linear processes to a non-linear, dynamic, real-time delivery supply chain across multiple channels and outlets. Media companies have many projects across multiple production areas – video, graphics, photography – plus contributions from agencies, stock houses and contractors. Delivery is not just for a single channel, but an amalgamation of many delivery and consumption points, each with its own requirements. Media Management is interconnected with technologies from OpenText and others, managing digital media as it is created, stored and delivered. It supports the Digital Media Supply Chain from project initiation and production to delivery and analytics. Unlike traditional DAM systems, Media Management has engineered a platform allowing customers to connect people, processes, and content with a sophisticated yet simple HTML5 UI. Media Management supports enterprise-wide ecosystems and digital media supply chains for global delivery of rich media across multiple channels and platforms. What this means for our customers is a “media-enabled” infrastructure to streamline content and data flows throughout the organization. At NAB, our story demonstrates a complex ecosystem from media creation to consumption with Media Management providing a “single source of truth” and a consolidated asset repository for video, marketing, branding, commerce and global distribution. This sophisticated ecosystem has many interdependent and interrelated technologies. It is not just gluing the technologies together; it is orchestrating the flow of data, collaboration and synchronization, then automating the processes for streamlined input and output. Media Management has an open platform with REST APIs, and web services to integrate and even embed DAM functionality with the many different systems and technologies. This centralized repository for media content, with browser-based, user-friendly search and easy (yet secure) sharing helps eliminate all those multiple islands of unmanaged digital assets throughout an organization. Our story starts as an idea that gets a green light, initiating a new project. OpenText Process Suite orchestrates the people, resources, schedule and budget, triggering a flexible project structure in OTMM for all the content deliverables – such as video promos, DVD covers, one-sheets, web graphics, ecommerce, catalogs, artwork for merchandising, billboards, and cross-channel ad and social campaigns. These deliverables and their dependencies are produced in parallel using, reusing and repurposing content and designs for multiple channels and campaigns, allowing producers to select teams, assign and monitor tasks. It is connected to rights and talent contracts to provide detailed usage and contract information as the project progresses. Creative teams use their native tools integrated with Media Management for work-in-progress, versioning, metadata tagging and storage. Collaboration, annotation, reviews and approval for video and images are done in real-time for single assets or collections with a complete audit trail. Media Management has secure, encrypted file acceleration embedded in the platform guaranteeing fast delivery of large files. All of this supports multiple production centers with Media Management as the central repository to search, collect, manage and share digital content. OpenText Media Management bridges the creative production processes and Omni-channel delivery, enabling a faster and more dynamic media supply chain. It automates transformation of digital media to the proper format, aspect ratio and bit-rate based on the delivery channel allowing automated publishing to Web Content Management Systems, such as OpenText Web Experience Management System, CDN file delivery, integration with ecommerce platforms, CRM, and interactive communications. As marketing and commerce shift to high gear, it provides usage metrics as part of the larger analytics and data to allow better performance insight and the ability to make adjustments. Media Management is a core technology within the OpenText Customer Experience Management (CEM) Suite, which includes Web Experience Management, Interactive Customer Communication. OpenText delivers the integrated environments to support the many different teams involved in the creation, management and delivery of rich media. Digital Media Supply Chains enabled with OpenText technology provide a platform for today and a foundation for the future. Discover more about OpenText Media Management here.

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Cloud Quotation Management: Mobility Redefined

Consider this. It’s Friday afternoon. The sun is shining and everyone at the office is enjoying the chance to eat lunch outside. You’re already considering your plans for the weekend. Then the phone rings with a customer on the other end. He needs a quotation. Right away. You have two options. You can wolf down your lunch, return to your office, and ruin not just your own afternoon, but that of your co-workers and office staff too – trying to put everything together as fast as possible for the client in question. Maybe you are getting home at 8 p.m., if you’re lucky, with no energy to enjoy the rest of the day. Alternatively, you can take out your smartphone and have the quotation ready to go before your next bite, sending it directly to the customer or to your manager for approval. And you can have all of that done in a couple of minutes, with calculated prices and discounts, up-to-date information and your company’s corporate branding incorporated. Sounds impossible? It isn’t. In fact, that’s precisely what cloud quotation management is for. It’s true that cloud computing has had its fair share of growing pains and inconsistencies over the past few years. At first, scalability, document production, storage and printing from the cloud were, at best, available only by using unwieldy workarounds. And to make matters worse, there were all kinds of uncertainties regarding hosting and the countries in which sensitive data would be stored. But things have changed: many of those problems are now a thing of the past.   The impact of these changes couldn’t be clearer. Cloud-based CRM systems are becoming increasingly more prevalent, and the number of cloud products, apps and solutions designed to increase productivity is growing day by day. This, in turn, has resulted in the slow but sure migration of processes to the cloud as well. And quotation management is no exception, with benefits that include not only completely new possibilities for sales departments, but also an unparalleled boost in efficiency. Save Time by Using Cloud Quotation Management There’s nothing worse than having to waste time. Commuting, traveling, waiting at the airport or train station – few other things are as maddeningly unproductive. That’s why vendors such as Salesforce.com, Cobra and SugarCRM are releasing solutions that push the envelope in terms of how useful smartphone business apps can be. And their users couldn’t be happier. This trend may or may not have been kick-started by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who had a vision of managing his company through his smartphone. And now software vendors and app programmers are pursuing that same vision too, coming up with new business apps every second. The result? Even the most experienced salesperson can now increase their productivity and save valuable time by using cloud-based tools – including cloud quotation management – wherever they are. Increase Reliability by Using Cloud Quotation Management If you work with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, you are probably already aware of the fact that appropriate process-specific actions are triggered automatically. However, you may not be aware that you can take advantage of this exact same behavior when using cloud quotation management systems. Just like a local or on-premise CRM system, you can rely on processes and actions that will run automatically as soon as they’re initiated. Cloud quotation management enables you to trigger these actions and processes from your smartphone or tablet. In fact, these processes can take care of most of the work in the background. They can be used, for example, with PowerDocs to prepare quotations, request approvals and send emails automatically. Reduce Risk by Using Cloud Quotation Management By mapping and integrating company-specific processes into your cloud quotation management system, you can minimize quotation errors before you even get started. For example, the editing process, the data retrieval process and the quotation writing process can all be centrally managed. In addition, the system can be set up in such a way that outside and inside salespeople will be able to access the content they need based on permissions, create quotations with only a few taps by relying on smart querying processes, and send their quotations directly to their customers or to their supervisors for approval. And that’s regardless of the number of pages, documents and attachments involved. To put it simply, correctly delineating and defining the processes for cloud quotation management in advance takes a load off sales departments’ shoulders, making their work much easier overall. Using the Right Cloud Quotation Management Tool What else do you need to know about cloud quotation management? First of all, it doesn’t necessarily require a cloud-based CRM. Cloud quotation management solutions can also be effectively combined with on-premises systems, meaning that, for instance, you can merge data from ERP, CRM and inventory control systems and retrieve, modify or edit it while you’re with a customer. In addition, every large CRM vendor has cloud apps available, though these are admittedly difficult when it comes to company-specific processes and mapping workflows in detail. Not surprisingly, this means that independent tools are often worth a look. In fact, these tools can come in very handy when switching between database systems or merging data from various systems, as they allow salespeople to continue working with the user interface they are familiar with, eliminating frustration and the need for time-consuming training in the process. PowerDocs is one of such tools. Be Ready for the Future Today, with Cloud Quotation Management The revolution that is cloud computing, apps for business applications, and mobile working solutions has only just begun and will keep growing more and more in the coming years. Not surprisingly, communications, as well as the speed at which business is conducted, are changing along with it. This is why it’s necessary to automate as many processes now as possible, in order to be able to meet the future needs of customers today. Cloud quotation management is not only the perfect solution, but is also an ideal way to optimize quotation management – all while making it easier and faster.

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Preparing Quotations: 7 Tips for Success

How can companies ensure that the quotations they prepare will be successful, bringing in more orders? It’s a question we’re approached with quite often. And we have 2 key recommendations. Although the specifics can vary depending on the project and the customer in question, organizations should always consider the following: Focus on content Use the right tool But this advice is, of course, very broad. So we wanted to use this blog post to break these 2 suggestions down further, applying our own experience working with clients, as well as Gartner analysis on the subject. With that in mind, consider the following 7 tips. 7 Tips for Preparing a Good Quotation Focus on the benefits the customer will achieve if they choose your quotation and products. Buyers are more interested in the results they can expect from a business relationship than in a mere presentation of products or solutions on the surface. Make sure those results are front and center. Don’t add anything to your quotation that the customer didn’t ask for. Doing so can create a bad impression. Documents that embody the ideas and prerequisites that have been jointly accepted are more likely to succeed. Proactively point out options that can help avoid risks. If it’s impossible to fully rule out all risks, make sure to indicate which risks will be involved. Offer options to reduce or avoid them as much as possible. Help ease the way for change. Quotations and associated products can often lead to change within a company, and competing against the status quo will often be your greatest challenge. So support the change process from the moment you prepare a quotation, making the customer feel that you’ll be at their side through every single step. Provide information that’s relevant. You can perfect the technical process of preparing quotations down to the smallest detail, but if a quotation’s contents are not relevant to the customer, or if the customer feels that you did not understand their needs, your quotations will be doomed to fail. Make sure to clearly define and communicate important details. Don’t hide any costs in the offer or accompanying documents. Also, make sure the whole company works together and that any external business partners are involved in the process. This is the only way to avoid unintended surprises down the line, ensuring transparency, reliability and certainty, both internally and externally. Follow a standard process. The effort involved to manually prepare a quotation will escalate the moment it starts to get a little complex. That’s where the right tools become indispensable. Make sure to follow set structures and focus on the essentials. In other words: focus on content, and use the right tool. Successful quotations depend on both, and these 7 tips will help you achieve that. Preparing quotations with PowerDocs Relevant information, process guidance and standardization are not just buzzwords. Find out what it’s like to completely redefine the preparation of quotations with the known reliability of Microsoft Word and the cutting-edge productivity of PowerDocs.  

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Top 10 News Stories from Actuate for 2014

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This has been a huge year at Actuate. Between new products, acquisitions, and growth in our community, we’ve been busy providing great software across all of our divisions that help our customers meet their challenges in novel ways. Today, as 2014 winds down,  we’re highlighting ten of our biggest news stories of the year.     January 21: Actuate Patents PDF Accessibility Solution for Automated Tagging and Delivery of High Volume Content to the Visually Impaired. We were proud to kick off the year by receiving U.S. Patent 8619272, called “Automated Assistive Technology for the Visually Impaired,” for our PDF Accessibility Solution. This software integrates with an organization’s existing document management system to capture high volume print streams and automatically create properly tagged, accessible documents. February 5: Actuate Acquires legodo ag to Expand its Accessible Customer Communications Management Solution. The company develops software for generation of personalized customer correspondence via any communication channel, including mobile devices, and its software allows organizations to tap into their existing ERP, CRM, and other applications when creating customer communications. February 6: Actuate Launches New Generation of BIRT Content Services to Streamline End-to-End Accessible Customer Communications Management. Called BIRT Content Services 5.0, this new version of Actuate’s CCM product is now integrated with the BIRT iHub 3 deployment platform to enable end-to-end management of high volume customer communications. April 9: Actuate Introduces Document Accessibility Appliance to Automate Remediation of High Volumes of e-Delivered Customer Communications for Access by Vision-Impaired Customers. This virtual software appliance converts high volumes of electronically delivered documents into universally accessible PDF files (PDF/UA). Complying with WCAG 2.0 standards, the appliance helps organizations format and tag statements, bills, invoices, explanation of benefits and policy documents. May 7: BIRT Gains 500,000 New Developer Customers in Six Months; Community Grows to More than 3.5 Million BIRT Developers Worldwide. A quarterly survey by an independent, global developer research firm found that the community of BIRT developers keeps growing. “[T]he growth in the number of developers following Actuate is clearly reflected in the surge in our social media engagement levels,” said Nobby Akiha, Actuate’s Senior Vice President of Marketing. “Actuate’s BIRT social media profile continues to grow organically, with new followers on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, indicating a vibrant and active BIRT community. We have also observed a 50% increase in the number of visitors to our new developer.actuate.com site since its introduction last fall.” July 10:Actuate Launches BIRT iHub F-Type – Free Server for Over 3.5 Million BIRT Developers Building Data-driven Reports, Visualizations and Applications. A freemium version of our enterprise deployment platform, BIRT iHub F-Type has metered output capacity that can be expanded with an in-app purchase. Within 15 minutes of downloading BIRT iHub F-Type, a developer can import a BIRT report, schedule secure distribution, and export their report as a full-function Excel spreadsheet. Interactive personalization capabilities are automatically enabled, and developers can use BIRT iHub F-Type to embed dynamic reports and visualizations in applications. July 21: Actuate Announces BIRT Analytics 4.4 for Even Easier and Faster Big Data Advanced Analytics for Business Professionals. Our upgraded big data analytics platform for business analysts and users got powerful new algorithms and functionalities. “BIRT Analytics allows the business professional a way to easily explore and pivot billions of rows of data in seconds, while gaining immediate insights though visual representations of statistical models and advanced analytic techniques,” said Peter Hoopes, General Manager of Actuate’s BIRT Analytics Group. August 11: BIRT PowerDocs from Actuate is Now Available for the Salesforce1 Mobile App – Empowering Companies to Run their Businesses from Their Phones. Available in 10+ languages, BIRT PowerDocs is a cloud-based app designed to automatically incorporate ERP and CRM data and simplify generation of customer sales quotations and other correspondence within Salesforce1. It’s available for test drive and deployment on the Salesforce AppExchange. October 21: Actuate, Braille Works and Venatôre Collaborate to Deliver Industry’s First Cloud-Based Document Accessibility Service. Through key partnerships we expanded our offerings for the visually impaired community and for organizations that must comply with regulations such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. “Equal access to information is a basic right that every government agency must afford to individuals with vision loss,” said Paul Schroeder, vice president of Programs and Policy for the American Foundation for the Blind. “The Cloud508 service makes it possible to generate information in accessible formats to meet the access needs of people who are blind or visually impaired.” December 5: Actuate Signs Agreement to be Acquired by OpenText. The next chapter in Actuate’s story should begin within a few weeks. From the press release: “The addition of Actuate enables OpenText to enhance their products with embedded analytics as well as enter a growing market. Together Actuate and OpenText will seek to extend the benefits of embedded analytics to more geographies and industries.” We had to make some tough choices to whittle this list down to just ten entries. While we haven’t noted them all here, we’re also proud of our increasing profile among analysts and experts including Conformit, Dresner Advisory Services and Forrester; our growing profile in developer, open source, and social media communities; and our satisfied customers and partners like Phototype, IDS, and New York City Transit Authority who step up share their success stories. And we’re very proud of our Data Driven Summits, so we’re sharing videos of many great demos and panel discussions on the Actuate blog. With all of this in mind, 2015 promises to be another banner year for Actuate. We’re glad to have you – our customers, partners and prospects – with us during this exciting time. Subscribe to our blog (at left) and you’ll be the first to know when the next big things happen. Calendar image by Dafne Cholet.   

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Accessible Communications Deadlines Looming for Public & Private Sectors in Ontario

Do you communicate with your customers electronically? An important deadline is looming for businesses that operate in Ontario. If your organization uses PDF documents in its Customer Communications strategy, then you should be concerned about the deadline for providing accessible communication supports in those PDF documents. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was established in 2005 to help fight discrimination against people with disabilities in Ontario. Since then, in 2010, the Ontario Government enacted the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the AODA. The IASR has deadlines for organizations to provide accessible communication supports which are prescribed based on type and size of organization. The Ontario Government and Legislative Assembly are already on the hook to meet this requirement as of January 1st, 2014. The Public and Private sectors are expected to comply according to the following schedule: Large Public Sector Organizations as of January 1st, 2015; Small Public Sector Organizations and Large Private Organizations as of January 1st, 2016; and Small Private Organizations as of January 1st, 2017. A large organization is one which employs 50 or more people. Programs such as paperless billing, which may involve electronic delivery of PDF-based statements, invoices and bills, are almost ubiquitous in industry today, due to their cost savings advantages and various corporate green initiatives. People with disabilities such as blindness, partial vision loss and cognitive disabilities interfering with reading ability, should be as much able to take advantage of these socially-responsible programs as anybody else. Not having communication supports built into these documents creates barriers to their participation and violates their rights under the law. Accessible Communication Supports for PDFs are provided by adhering to the PDF for Universal Accessibility (PDF/UA) standard which requires including a tag structure and other metadata within the file. PDF/UA compliant documents provide information to assistive technologies such as screen readers with regards to what is the meaningful content, and in what order it is to be read. It includes such information as language specification, identification of document hierarchy and alternate text for images used as content. Without these, screen readers see a PDF document as essentially empty. Many organizations take a manual approach to providing accessible formats, by responding to customer requests and sending documents to service providers at tremendous cost (from $5 to $35 per page) to be converted on-demand. However this is an exclusionary approach, requiring people with disabilities to inform these organizations of their disability, which to them is private information. In addition, delays in having documents made accessible by hand can disadvantage the consumer, especially when the information requested is time-sensitive in nature. An automated transformation approach, as provided by Actuate’s Document Accessibility Solution, can solve this problem by providing consumers with virtually instant access to accessible versions of their statements, allowing them the same timely access to information enjoyed by their sighted compatriots. Because of its ease of integration with an organization’s existing Customer Communications Management (CCM) systems, it can be provided inclusively eliminating the need for consumers to divulge private information. This can all be done at a small fraction of the per-page cost as compared with the labor-intensive manual remediation approach. This not only improves an organization’s public image, but also reduces expenses improving the bottom line. Organizations facing these deadlines under the IASR should already be thinking about how they will comply. To find out more about Actuate’s Document Accessibility Solution, simply send your request for information to ccminfo@actuate.com, and we would be delighted to start that discussion with you.

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Easier Document Transformation Development with Customer Communication Suite 5.1.

We all know that creating document transformation projects is complex. That’s why Actuate, in the 5.1 release of the Actuate Customer Communication Suite, has made improvements motivated to make the job of Document Transform Developer a lot easier. This release includes a number of new features and enhancements that can considerably reduce not only the time and complexity involved in creating a new BIRT Document Transform project, but also the effort it takes to put it into production. Page Layout Auto-Detection Introduced in this release is the ability to auto-detect page layout elements when creating a document template. When defining a document template, developers will now be prompted as to whether they would like the BIRT Process Designer to auto-detect its sections. Choosing to do so will provide a dialog that allows them to specify some basic criteria, be it rows, columns, one single section, or a grid, and the number of such sections to attempt to detect. The Process Designer will then make a best effort attempt to find them, giving the developer the task of only having to make fine-tuning adjustments to what was found. Similarly, once sections exist, the developer can make use of the new Field Detection capability within each section also based on criteria such as rows, columns, a grid, and the number of fields to detect. When creating tables, the Process Designer now has the capability to auto-detect table columns, saving the developer the time it would take to select them individually. Together, these functions save considerable time over having to draw bounding boxes individually for each section and field in a document. Scripting New scripting capabilities have been added in this release. Many of the parameters within components of a Document Transform project can now be set dynamically at runtime using a script rather than being hard coded. This feature, using JavaScript, makes the Document Transform product much more robust in how it can be customized without the need to create hefty custom components. Additionally, introduction of our Script component enables the developer to author a custom processing step in the Document Transform process based on JavaScript and provide capabilities beyond what’s available in the out-of-the-box components. XFT Field Technology Some enhancements to our XFT Field Technology have also been made to enhance the capability of processing document contents. Table support has been enhanced in two significant ways. New row breakers have been added to differentiate rows within a table based on a specific character, or changes in indentation or font, complementing the several row breakers already available in prior versions. This enhancement is based on how tables are used in real world documents. Tables can now be joined across multiple pages, rather than having split tables treated as multiple separate entities, a feature that is useful when generating XML output or tagging for accessibility, enabling a more appropriate data flow experience. Defining of section coordinates using locators has been improved. Developers now have more fine-tuning control over how multiple locators define the boundaries of sections, and tables and fields within them, by setting rules within the XFT Field Technology parameters. Also, locators can now treat repeating sections as separate entities rather than joining them as one, and when a locator finds a new section, it now closes off the previous section. When handling images and other page elements, developers now have the ability to tag these only once, allowing images used as content to be tagged as content on their first occurrence, and then treated as artifacts thereafter. This is useful for documents that are branded with a corporate logo, where you would only want that information to be acknowledged on the first occurrence when reading it aloud as tagged accessible content. Summary These improvements to the Actuate Customer Communication Suite provide a more robust, yet simplified experience for the Document Transform Developer. Get your sophisticated Document Transform projects up and running in less time with CCS 5.1. To take advantage of these new capabilities, we encourage existing customers to obtain the Actuate Customer Communication Suite 5.1 upgrade through Actuate Licensing. Customers may review more detailed product information by reviewing release documentation available from the Actuate Customer Support portal. Prospective customers may request product information by emailing ccminfo@actuate.com or their Actuate Account Representative.

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Sneak Peek: BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile App

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We want to give you an insight into the latest developments of our BIRT PowerDocs cloud software. Today we will introduce you to the new BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile app, which we presented for the first time at the Dreamforce 2014. Take a first look at our app, which you can use to create complex, interactive and process-integrated documents with Salesforce1 and BIRT PowerDocs. How you benefit: you will be able to use all of the features of BIRT PowerDocs on your smartphone! Complex Documents – Just One Click Away Our new Salesforce1 Mobile app lets you create complex documents with just a few clicks. With this new app you can generate all of the documents that you previously needed your PC for. Regardless of whether the documents are interactive, process-integrated or highly complex, all of the features offered by BIRT PowerDocs are supported. BIRT PowerDocs works on all devices and can be integrated into any process. Our well-known interview mode automatically adjusts to your device settings and delivers the full power of professional document generation to your smartphone. This also includes the combination of the user interaction and data retrieval from various data sources. Applications of the BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile App You can easily use the BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile App to create highly complex and yet personalized documents even while you are on the go, without having to manually intervene in the creation process. The interview mode enables to easily implement complex decision-making structures. Of course, the mobile app offers you the additional benefit: it is fully integrated into Salesforce1 and can access all required data. Here is an overview of the highlights: Mobile application is possible Same range of functions – regardless of the user’s device Professional and individual document creation – without manual intervention Interview mode enables complex decision-making structures – with ease Presentation of the app at the Dreamforce 2014 We received a lot of feedback during the presentation of our new BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile App at Dreamforce. Many visitors were amazed at how easy it is to create complex documents on a smartphone with just a few clicks. View this short video to see how easy it is to create documents with BIRT PowerDocs.

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Better Document Accessibility with Customer Communication Suite 5.1.

Whether you are an Accessibility Compliance Officer, an Accessibility Consultant, a Marketing Communications Specialist, or a Document Transform Developer, you will be excited to know that the Document Accessibility solution from Actuate just got much better. Delivered with the release of the Actuate Customer Communication Suite version 5.1, a number of enhancements and features have been added to our robust Document Transform product that streamlines the delivery of Accessible PDF documents, and improves upon their compliance with established PDF for Universal Accessibility (PDF/UA) standards through tighter alignment with the Matterhorn protocol. First and foremost, in the 5.1 release, Actuate has improved the process of managing alternate text for images used in documents through the introduction of the Alternate Text Administration Console. First of its kind for automated document accessibility, the addition of this simple web-based console provides organizations with the ability to effectively separate responsibilities of managing the development of Document Transform processes from the authoring of meaningful alternate text descriptions for images. This effectively provides the means for the Marketing Communications Specialist and Accessibly Consultant to collaborate on the message, while leaving the Document Transform Developer unencumbered with having to import and export text descriptions into the process. The Alternate Text Administration Console is designed to be easy to use, allowing a Marketing Communications Specialist to review images in need of alternate text descriptions, and enter meaningful descriptive text in any number of languages. Descriptions can then be reviewed by an Accessibility Consultant and/or a supervisor for approval as a prerequisite to being made available to the Document Transform engine for use in the production of Accessible PDF output. The console provides ability to add, edit and remove individual descriptions or images, as well as the ability to tag images for effective administrative categorization and enhanced search capability. Updated alternate text descriptions may be approved, after which they are automatically available for use in the production Document Transform environment without the need to involve the Document Transform Developer. This streamlining of responsibilities reduces the likelihood of errors and omissions in the remediation process, and lets each stakeholder focus on what they do best. Actuate has improved its compliance with the PDF/UA standard by aligning its Accessible PDF Generator output more tightly with the Matterhorn Protocol’s set of compliance checkpoints. Additionally, the Accessible PDF Generator now includes an option to preserve the original graphical print order, effectively solving the z-order problem caused when the order of overlapping images is changed, resulting in details being lost. These improvements to our Customer Communication Suite provide peace of mind to an Accessibility Compliance Officer knowing not only that processes to remediate inaccessible documents into standards-compliant Accessible PDF have now been made more robust and flexible for collaboration among stakeholders, but also that the result of these processes produce higher quality Accessible output.  

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Finding the Right Print-to-Web Solution: 8 Things to Look For

In a recent blog post, “The Customer Communications Transformed: Who Benefits and How it Works,” we talked about the recent shift in customer needs, as more and more customers look online – rather than at the more traditional print versions – for their statements and billing information. The experience is not only beneficial for customers, who can have all of their information at their fingertips at any time, but to companies as well, which can save money and gain customer loyalty from the shift. But how do those companies ensure statement information is presented accurately, on-demand and in easily readable formats? To achieve all of that, they require the right technology solution to handle their print-to-web transformation needs. And for that, they need to know what to look for. These 8 solution attributes should be priorities on print-to-web shopping list: A Big Picture Understanding. The technology provider should have broad experience with all components of the customer communications management (CCM) and how content, transformation, visualization, reporting, analytics, etc., fit together in transforming print to web. Flexible High-Fidelity Transformation Tools. Companies don’t want a print-to-web solution that’s tied to a single input or output format. Look for something more flexible, that can work with multiple input formats (including AFP, Line Data, PCL, Metacode, PDF, TIFF, etc.) and output formats (such as PDF, accessible PDF, XML, HTML, etc.). Multichannel Capability. The right technology will allow customer communications to be delivered across all online channels – from web to mobile and email – and over all computing devices. Accessible Output for the Visually Impaired. In order to stay legally compliant and reach all of their customers, organizations need to consider accessibility, and look for a solution that automatically produces high-volume communications in a WCAG 2.0 compliant Accessible PDF format, usable through screen reader technology. Superior Performance. Look for robust, enterprise-grade performance. Excellent System Integration. Print-to-web technology should be able to interact with products not only within the same suite, but also with popular third-party business systems, for better integration into the company’s existing environment. Comprehensive Visualization and Reporting. The right print-to-web technology should accept data from multiple sources, produce multiple output formats, provide informative dashboards and give consumers the tools they need to aggregate, sort, chart, compare and rank data. Fast, User-Friendly Analytics. Analytics can help consumers and companies get more out of their data. Add these together and the result will be a robust, flexible and powerful print-to-web technology that’s also easy to use for everyone. A solution such as this will help create an online content environment that will allow both customers and companies to thrive.  

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Announcing the Customer Communication Suite Release 5.1

We are pleased to announce the 5.1 release of the Customer Communication Suite (CCS) on October 27, 2014. This version is available to existing customers through Actuate Licensing. This release includes numerous product improvements, including a number of enhancements and all cumulative fixes from previous releases. This release encompasses the following products: Process Designer 5.1, Process Manager 5.1, Repository 5.1, Document Transform 5.1 and Data Transform 6.7. Existing customers can obtain release documentation from the Actuate Customer Support Portal. Release documentation available includes Release Notes, Technical Summary of New Features whitepaper, Supported Products Matrix (including product obsolescence information), documentation and more! Highlights of improvements in the CCS 5.1 release include: Process Manager Alternate Text Manager to improve the implementation of alternate text for accessible documents Increased flexibility in all products through the implementation of scripting support using JavaScript Enhanced API functionality to provide enhanced interoperability and integration with existing business systems Usage tracking reporting within Administration Console to enable administrators to track usage and anticipate future needs Document Transform Automated Page layout detection to improved usability and decrease new project setup time Repository Enhanced Repository reporting to include drill downs, and new user reports allowing administrators to monitor and tune existing applications Help System Enhanced help system to increase ease of use and support mobile / tablet browsers We encourage existing customers to plan your upgrade to CCS 5.1 as soon as possible to take advantage of the latest improvements and functionality. We look forward to having our Professional Services teams in North America and Europe work with you should you require their expert assistance with your implementation upgrade. For support information, please contact Customer Support.

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Implementing Software for Customer Communications Management Rapidly and Effectively

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When addressing Customer Communications Management (CCM), enterprises usually seek a quick and effective project. This post delves into 2 technical issues that play a key role in implementing and running such a system. Predefined Interfaces Help Cut Costs In CCM, one big issue is that of interfaces and connectivity. In other words, how does one add and retrieve data from connected systems into a document; for example, adding the customer information stored in a typical CRM system to digital correspondence? 3 solutions to this issue are explained below: 1. Pull strategy The CCM software retrieves (this is known as the “pull process”) the required data in real time from the source such as the CRM system. This process is preferably deployed on two fronts: for on-demand documents, composed in a call center or on a Web portal, and for interactive documents, which can be highly personalized by adding information retrieved from a CRM system. 2. Push strategy The source system hands over (this is known as the “push process”) defined data packets to the CCM software in an XML format or as a flat file. This approach needs only to be defined once, and then delivers the best performance. In addition to composing interactive documents, this method is best suited for personalizing mass mailings in stacks or batches. One refers to these as “structured documents”, with one example being monthly phone bills. 3. Combination strategy This takes the best from each of the two aforementioned strategies. Based on the application, specific data is handed over to the CCM software while other dependent data can be retrieved in real time via a pull process. This approach functions well for highly personalized interactive documents and for mass mailings or batch processing. These 3 strategies cover the majority of cases, but custom solutions can also be created and used to handle special configurations. For example, Internet services can also be integrated into the CCM software in the area of SOA. Standard Technologies Offer Security Usually, the use of reliable, standard technology eliminates dependence on software manufacturers and their release cycles. The OOXML data format is one good example of a standard application used for customer communications. OOXML – A Standard for XML-based File Formats Microsoft developed the OOXML standard as one means to store documents using XML- based file formats. This format was released in 2008 as the ISO/EC 29500 standard for data exchange between different applications. It is an open format. CCM systems use OOXML for generating various documents. The CCM software interprets the data per defined rules, variables, and dependencies, in order to create documents in the OOXML format or as a print data stream. The resulting correspondence can be delivered to a customer in either printed or electronic formats. Print data streams are languages used by printers to control the entire printing process, and are commonly called PDL (Page Description Language). Systems using the OOXML format as a standard for data processing offer two decisive advantages: Security through ISO certification An open format for full compatibility The second aspect is really useful for handling data. If the internal data format of a program is “open” for CCM purposes, it means that all companies on the market have equal access to the software without facing any legal or technical restrictions that could limit further development. With OOXML, it is also possible to reuse the data or content for printing or other electronic output formats. Seamless Integration of Legacy Systems Using data formats based on the OOXML standard, a company can connect any prior system(s) they have. However, problems may arise in using or connecting a third party system that is proprietary (i.e. neither free nor an open source). One thing is certain – avoiding standard technologies makes it more difficult to find appropriate consultation, and leads to increasing dependence on software manufacturers. It is evident that CCM software offers the greatest possible flexibility for accessing incoming data, and the implementation effort remains reasonable.  

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Enterprise World 2014 Invites you to Experience Greatness!

Customer Experience , as defined in Wikipedia, is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. In today’s world, this experience can make or break a business. At OpenText we strive to provide our customers with a platform and applications that allow them to deliver great Customer Experiences to their audiences, buyers and stakeholders. Enterprise World provides the perfect venue to come together and share vibrant stories of greatness. In fact our theme for this year’s Customer Experience Management track is called: Experience Greatness! This post will help you navigate greatness in products , ROI, peer discussions and technical how-to’s. CEM Sessions on Wednesday & Thursday We have over 35 CEM session and activities to help you experience greatness. Keynotes : We begin the day with Main Stage Keynotes from guest speakers and OpenText Executive Leadership. Right after lunch, we will host a mini-keynote session centered on the Experience Suite, where we have organized a “View on CEM” for you. The mini-keynote will tease you with discussions that will continue into more in-depth breakout sessions. It’s Time for Action: Lessons in Delivering Great Digital Experiences from across the world. • How are digital channels changing expectations and how should organizations respond? • Are social media efforts like the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” creating emotional connections that others should follow? • Beyond satisfaction: what is it that makes customers loyal? • What can we learn from companies that consistently ‘wow’ their customers? • Next steps: how should you invest to meet Digital Transformation initiatives? Breakouts : After the mini-keynote, we will have 4 CEM tracks running simultaneously. The 4 track themes each cover important facets that are needed to help build a great experience: Track 1: Great Omni Channel Communications Great communication is an art form. Hear from other organizations how they were able to design, develop and deploy rich omni-channel Communications: personalize and target invoices, email, webpages, receipts, documents and more to improve interaction with you anytime, anywhere and across any device. Track 2: Great Adaptive Content Information is an instrument for communication in every organization; dynamically tuning it for each individual’s preference is the heart of Adaptive content. This track will highlight how organizations like yours are accessing information from multiple sources to share the most effective content based on user preference. Track 4: Great Experiences With the rise in Digital Transformation projects, many organizations are looking at how to create, curate and manage media, web, documents, social and any other digital assets to deliver the most compelling Digital Experience possible. Looking for ideas in digital marketing, customer self-service, supply chain distribution? Hear how other companies have deliver seamless, comprehensive information flows – creation, publication, distribution, analysis and archiving of content to formulate a great experience. Track 4: Great Responsiveness This track will highlight the importance of creating a responsive web and mobile experience that is consistent, compelling and engaging. Adaptive content delivers experiences that are device agnostic, but only a Responsive system can adjust as users switch between devices and channels. Each track is designed to stimulate conversation and interaction with the audience on a variety of topics. Whether you want to continue the technical discussion or look for business oriented sessions, we have something just for you. Each of the 4 themed tracks above are broken into the following focus areas to help you narrow down to your most relevant area of interest. CEM – Experience Strategy – Market leading companies will share their strategic views on topics such as; how best to find the balance between adopting new digital channels and consistency across existing channels. CEM –Experience Insight – It’s all about the metrics. These sessions will provide insights into measurable activities such as; how to best make your customer experience seamless and responsive across the multitude of devices that both businesses and consumers use; or how to improve on your customer engagement. CEM – Experience Best Practices – In these sessions, you will hear direct from the practitioners who will offer their tips and advice on things like; how best to use HTML5 to improve the user experience; or how to optimize social collaboration for positive business impact. CEM – Experience Case Studies – What better way to bring the strategy, metrics and implementation to life than through real-life scenarios? OpenText customers share their stories such as a government’s ability to cement the citizen experience with social media capabilities. CEM – Roadmap – Upgrade Path – Product Management will share their vision for the next releases of our Experience Suite family of products, including Tempo Social, Portal, WEM, CCM and Media Management sessions. Hear how you can upgrade to the full Experience Suite and take advantage of this new integrated platform. Innovation and CEM Labs and Meetings Back by popular demand… don’t forget to stop by the expo hall and check out the latest Customer Experience Management information workflow (we like to call the CEM LAB) . Here you will find the process of creating, managing, sharing and publishing content all visible in one location. Can’t make it through the whole story in one sitting, don’t worry, we’ll have a time table set that you can pop in and out as often as you can to see it all. Expo Hall: WEM, Tempo Social, Portal, Media Management, Customer Communication Management and WSM pods. CEM LAB: Get your hands on (and give feedback to) the new UX designs for CEM products . Meet the Experts: Just in case you want some 1-1 time with our engineers, product managers, support or services staff on site, you can request meeting times with your favorite experts. As you can see, in addition to the great entertainment we have in store for you (announcing soon) , there are many different activities to partake in over the course of the week. Make sure to keep an eye on this community as my next post will talk about the great customers that are coming to join us and share thier stories. Take a look back at last year’s event here. REGISTER NOW to ATTEND! WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!! http://www.opentext.com/campaigns/enterprise-world-2014

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Reasons for Customer Communications Management

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The concept of Customer Communications Management (CCM) is quite broad. To understand its importance, let’s review the basics and focus on several important reasons why organizations invest in developing and executing a CCM strategy. What You Should Know About CCM Customer Communications Management: Enables corporate-wide deployment spanning different departments and functions. Reassigns responsibility for documents to content specialists. Ensures corporate image consistency. Minimizes compliance and liability-related risks associated with documents. Offers the potential to optimize costs and up-sell / cross-sell. Enables full control over customer communications. Helps avoid errors in correspondence. Provides a central platform for all corporate communications. Optimization in Customer Communications One can maximize profits while cutting costs in the area of customer communications. However, many companies still do not realize this and continue wasting money on postage and impersonal communications with customers. This situation continues to prevail, despite the fact that personalized customer correspondence can and should be optimized more often to help reach corporate goals. A Step Ahead of the Competition with Your Customer Correspondence The way you choose to communicate with customers can be the decisive factor that enables you to stand out in a packed competitive landscape. It is no wonder that a survey of SMEs by IBM® confirmed that customer care is taking on increasing significance for enterprises. The survey revealed that 79% of respondents ranked better customer care as the key issue facing their business. The McKinsey Quarterly listed three facts that highlighted the rising importance of customer communications to enterprises in general: 1. 98% of enterprises lack an effective or efficient strategy on how to deal with documents. 2. For each dollar an enterprise spends on composing a document, another nine are needed to manage it. 3.  Even modest investments to optimize document-related processes can have a major impact on the financial outcome. Optimizing customer communications and all other document-related areas adds value to your IT, editing, document creation, and customer management units while distinguishing you from your competitors. Another way to distinguish yourself is by adding a personal touch to your correspondences. This increases customer loyalty as well as works in your advantage when working to win new customers. It also emphasizes to customers the importance of communication to your company. Constant Emphasis on Costs, Control, and Quality The 21st century’s personalized service mentality and the advancement of social media as the communications platform preferred by many consumers have brought about significant changes in the area of customer communication. Yet, the status quo of many companies remains unchanged, for example: 1. Each department communicates separately with customers. 2. Many data processing applications and IT systems are inadequately integrated, or are not integrated at all, when it comes to processing customer communications and document creation. 3. The Corporate Identity /Corporate Design are inconsistent, depending on who worked on a particular document. 4. There is no central platform for saving, managing, and extracting information. The aforementioned issues cause problems in corporate communications. By passively reacting or not responding to the new ways in which consumers communicate, enterprises are steadily incurring rising costs. Companies experience serious financial drawbacks by choosing to deploy mostly printed correspondence (an outdated approach) instead of opting for more digital communications. Moreover, the costs associated with following-up on written correspondence are relatively high. Wherever communications generate competitive advantage, inadequate control over those communications could mean a significant disadvantage. For instance, it can be difficult to enforce guidelines and standards of quality without keeping the proper tabs on the communication channels and documenting actions and interactions of customers and employees. Therefore, companies must constantly emphasize the costs, controls, and quality of their communications. These are the key parameters to focus on when introducing modern CCM systems to ensure standardized communications. CCM – A Solution for Enterprises The expression “Customer Communications Management” was used by analysts such as Forrester Research, the Gartner Group, and Madison Advisors, to define a convergent set of information technology solutions for communicating with customers (Figure 1, CCM Framework). Figure 1. Customer Communications Management Framework. The goal of CCM is to optimize the way enterprises communicate with their customers. This does not mean sending more offers or information to customers, but rather boosting the relevance, uniformity, and clarity of communication. Create Personalized Correspondence for the Customer CCM is a field in which software is used to format and personalize customer-specific content and send it in an electronic or physical form. CCM encompasses various kinds of content, including letters, bills, financial correspondence, marketing materials, reminders, offers and more. Recognize the Hidden Potential CCM should be one of the core competencies of any enterprise, since it facilitates direct contact with the customer, regardless of the industry or sector involved. Applications can be divided into structured, interactive, and on-demand documents. The relevant processes fall into the 3 categories below: Structured Documents Structured documents are scheduled, consistently formatted, and rarely need any formal changes; thus template management plays an important role here. Such documents are often created in batches or are offset for print runs. Success thus depends on generating large volumes and controlling the print data streams. Examples: phone bills, brokerage statements Interactive Documents Interactive documents require linking the customer-specific data with predefined structures. Compared with structured output, these call for a high degree of personalization. This means that the software uses a particular set of text blocks, rules, and variables to provide more individualized output based on matching customer-specific and customer-relevant data. Many enterprises would like to see templates, document structures, and text blocks controlled by specialists, while having the option to control documents through multiple channels. Examples: customer correspondence, marketing materials, offers, contracts On-Demand Documents These documents are generally triggered by requests from various incoming channels of an enterprise, such as the web, fax, phone, email, and ERP systems with integrated solutions. On-demand output may be initiated automatically or manually. Examples: service correspondence in a call center, documents from a Web portal The CCM concept is a technical one that can be simplified regardless of the kind of output an enterprise wishes to generate. It applies mostly to the data-handling system (CRM / ERP) used to create the documents. In addition, the concept focuses solely on a conversation with customers. Since implementation is straightforward, the IT department can return to concentrating on its main tasks once it hands over responsibility for the CCM system to content specialists. In our upcoming posts, we will examine core components of a successful CCM strategy in detail – stay tuned!  

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Generating Documents in the Cloud: 3 Reasons for BIRT PowerDocs

More and more businesses are using cloud-based software to manage their documents commonly needed for daily business. Such documents typically include quotes, invoices, service documents and contracts. The processes for generating documents in the cloud are usually handled manually or using native functionality of the cloud software. Basic functionality limits users and businesses Common documents vary from simple business letters to highly complex, multi-page documents. The more complex the document, the more frequently users experience limitations with native basic functionality of the cloud document generation solutions. Technically, the native mail merge functionality is quite limited – data from only one object can be referred to in parallel with common information about the contact. Publishing options are also limited: for example, documents can only be generated in Word format. In addition, these documents cannot be automatically combined with other Word documents and templates. Sending options often include only an option to download to the local computer. But the biggest problem with the native mail merge functionality is that it is not flexible enough to implement all customer requirements or customer processes. Scripting is (not) a solution Many cloud providers are aware of the technical limitations of generating documents in the cloud and therefore recommend the use of individual extensions. By developing such extensions, one can expand the basic functionality of the applications. This, however, calls for custom software development, a significant risk factor for the project success. Through scripting, certain objects (e.g. from the area of quote in offer management) can be synchronized with other objects (e.g. from the area of an opportunity). This feature is useful for many application cases and is especially well suited for proper administration and maintenance of selected products for a business transaction. In addition, in some cases editors can also be developed to enable template creation. Nevertheless, these extensions cannot compete with the flexibility and range of formatting options found in Microsoft Word or Excel. Therefore, it is usually impossible to add the existing documents of the customer to the cloud. Therefore, this leaves out of scope an important requirement of businesses switching their processes to the cloud. Upgrade through apps: BIRT PowerDocs Due to these limitations and deficiencies, we developed an application for document creation in the cloud – BIRT PowerDocs. This application is fully integrated with customer environments and is based on technology and platform of major cloud providers. BIRT PowerDocs offers users a significant upgrade from the basic functionality of cloud solutions. The advantages include: ability to publish documents in various formats, such as Microsoft Word, PDF, etc.; the option to refer to data from several objects at the same time; multi-channel delivery capabilities to distribute documents via e-mail, SMS, fax etc.; easy use of electronic signatures. These features make the complex world of documents easier to control. Flexibility, variety of options and powerful formatting possibilities allow for a smooth transition to document generation in the cloud. More information on BIRT PowerDocs.

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Outbound Customer Communications: Author Once, Publish Many?

Originally published on Doculabs.com For many of our clients today, there are three primary outbound communication channels: Paper via USPS Mail, email via Exact Target (or similar), and web pages via the web site. Unfortunately, for most organizations, each of these channels tends to have a different content authoring team, different publishing processes, and different underlying technologies. In addition, the manner in which the content is structured, in terms of naming conventions, meta-data and hierarchy, is different. As a result, while the world has adopted multiple channels of communications, costs have increased for these organizations, when you would actually expect to achieve some synergies. Consider some stats. On an annual basis, a financial services or insurance client with 10 million customers will likely generate 100 million pieces of physical mail, send 50 million emails (assuming a 25% “e-doption”), and roughly 25 million site visit and more than 75 million page views. In support of these activities, across these three channels, there are typically in excess of 50,000 discrete “templates”, and likely a quarter- to a half-million content components used in the various templates. And considering both business and IT resources, it takes more than 100 FTEs to support the authoring, publishing, and delivery processes. Not cheap! Given the magnitude, how do we streamline these processes and gain some efficiency? What about the promise of “author once, publish many” that the industry has been advocating for well over 10 years? Well, in my opinion, the operational constraints of the different target mediums and supporting technologies result in some redundancy. Regardless, though, some efficiencies can be gained. So the key questions our customers ask is: What is the right balance? Can we encourage content re-use within and across channels, without compromising the optimization needed for a particular channel? Here, some suggestions for organizations looking for additional leverage, from the standpoints of people, process, information architecture, and technology: People Cross-pollinate team members. Granted, the skills needed to work in Adobe for web content or Documaker for templates destined for paper, or in Aprimo for email campaigns, etc., involve some specialization. But the fundamental skills needed to understand tone, conform to a style guide, and use brevity apply across all channels. So the more you can cross-train individuals in these three teams, and use common practices for authoring and assigning meta-date, etc., the more you will be encouraging common processes. Organizational alignment. If possible, have the different content authoring teams report directly or matrix to a common set of manager(s); again, consistency is increased. In particular, the different teams will begin to understand and appreciate some of the unique complexities within each channel, but also many of the similarities. And it affords the organization an opportunity to define common operating metrics – the number of change requests, length of time and number of hours to modify content, etc. Process Standardized workflows. While the platforms used to author and publish content may be different in each delivery channel, some degree of process standardization is achievable. Consider, for instance, how change requests are submitted, how requirements are articulated, what additional artifacts are needed, how approvals are collected, etc. In many cases, standardizing these steps simplifies the process, both for the individuals within the publishing teams and also for business users interacting with the various teams. Roles and responsibilities and metrics. The participants in the workflow, regardless of channel, can also be standardized so that everyone knows their role. Most critical is the definition of what tasks business or IT staff are responsible for. In addition, define the key metrics, including the number of units of work needing to be completed and the desired SLAs. Information Architecture Naming conventions and hierarchy. Just about every client I work with complains that they have content “all over the place”. Of course, content is everywhere, because no one ever proactively defined these retention protocols. Even if you are using simple file shares, taking the time to define basic meta-data and where content should be stored and how to do version control (even as simple as Filename_v1,… v2) goes a long way toward consistency. Meta-data. When the basics above have been addressed, go a step further to define the essential set of indices that can be used to describe a template or content component. Graphics and design elements are particularly problematic, so get a cross-channel team in the room and come up with the three to five descriptive elements needed from the original creator of the content. Technology Today, the supplier community might claim they do multi-channel support – and if you were starting “greenfield,” that may well be the case. But for most of our clients, given the divergence of platforms already in use, they need to create channel-specific renditions. “Rendition” is probably too favorable a term, as it implies simply pushing a button, and magically an email or web page is created. Regardless, if the upstream processes leverage common standards (as outlined above), the particularities of technology platforms can be minimized (but not eliminated). Overall, while the perfect world of authoring once and dynamically publishing across paper, email, and web channels is still a challenge, there are many steps organizations can take to streamline their operations. Developing common skills, processes, and content naming conventions optimizes use of resources to the extent possible.

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Using BIRT to Run Your Business From Your Phone

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Remember the first time you saw a cell phone? The guy holding it was probably in a business suit and looked pretty successful. And you probably thought, How cool it would be to make phone calls and do business on the road, right? Well the promise of mobile phones and business on the go has evolved again with the release of BIRT PowerDocs for the Salesforce1 Mobile App. This cloud-based app is designed for the salesperson or account executive on the go. With a few clicks, you can automatically tap into your company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) data and parse it within Salesforce1, a popular mobile business app for sales. The result is the generation of customer data such as service requests or sales quotes and auto-generation of the appropriate documents. BIRT PowerDocs conveniently accesses Salesforce1 to manage the delivery of PDFs and Word docs as well as generate and continuously edit customer documents in the cloud. All processes and files associated with quotation creation and management can be saved in a file system or backup server, issued through a wide variety of channels, and even printed directly from Salesforce. Generated documents can be archived in any location. Of course, the app is designed for the modern smartphone, not the brick of a device you see above. Translated into more than 10 languages, the BIRT PowerDocs app can be accessed from any device – including a PC, tablet, or smartphone-  running either Android or iOS. The importance of document management cannot be understated. The proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers force companies to turn to mobile apps to manage documents where they need to be competitive. “For instance, the typical output management system is incapable of dialogue, which essentially strikes it out from the system requirements for managing next generation communications,” said Christian Rodrian of legodo product marketing in a recent blog. “Similarly, CRM and ERP systems alone do not allow any personalized written dialogue. For communication with customers that is both quick and personalized, a company must deploy CCM [Customer Communications Management] solutions. These CCM solutions can deliver the whole gamut of information generated by customers over social networks and through other digital services; which is necessary for creating and managing meaningful conversations with customers.” This latest version of BIRT PowerDocs is immediately available for test drive and deployment on the Salesforce AppExchange. Here’s the first in a series of videos explaining the awesomeness of BIRT PowerDocs.

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