When I first discussed participating in this blog for DOCUMENT Strategy, the editor suggested that I address “workflow tools to streamline the full document life cycle” and “end-to-end tracking and related controls.” These subjects are the basis of my blogs; however, if you stop to think about it, the tools are there to solve business problems—not just document production problems.

As document professionals, we must remain conscious of our place within the business. We are a part of a business, not a business in itself. Of course, the exceptions being the marketing service providers or print-for-pay operations and service bureaus, but even these businesses are extensions of the businesses or clients they serve. They are serving one or more of the communication channels that those internal or external clients need.

So, if we are “subsets” of businesses, we need to help them with their business. We need to help them solve business issues and challenges. In effect, we need to contribute to their bottom lines by saving them money or making them money. So, how do we do this? By streamlining our processes? By making ourselves better? Those are givens in today’s market. More importantly, we need to understand their business challenges and help to alleviate them.

Over the years, I have tried to uncover these often neglected, nagging and unbudgeted challenges that sporadically appear deep inside business walls. These challenges are often born in finance, compliance, human resources, customer service or in marketing, but their symptoms appear in our document life cycle, things like no dividend payments, lower audit scores, employee absenteeism and lost customers. I know what you are saying, "Can we, as document professionals, really impact these things?" I believe we can do our part by putting in the right tools and the related controls.

In my last blog, “Is It Good Enough Just to Measure It?”, I discussed looking in the mirror and evaluating why you are doing the things you are doing in your operation. When operations take the time to look in the mirror, they see a reflection of some sort. This reflection may be because of the businesses you serve. You may be subjected to create “workarounds” to “fix” broken upstream processes. You may be the filter at the end of the stream because of the upstream “polluters.” You can take it and filter all day, or you can educate the polluters to suggest that they take a different approach. You may be surprised that they were not aware of different potential approaches, or your new set of eyes may be able to provide them with a creative way to help with their business challenge.

An example of how document professionals may be able to support a business challenge is to look at the age-old problem of large, inbound call center volumes. Call center volumes usually rise when communications, especially poorly designed or poorly worded ones, are mailed out. These volumes can rise when mailings are late. By learning what questions are asked most frequently, document design folks can make the necessary adjustments to make documents easier to understand and easier to process from an operations perspective. At an insurance company, this may not only reduce inbound calls, but it could also increase customer satisfaction scores that could, in turn, increase overall ratings, such as Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) scores. With higher scores, organizations may get more business through auto-assigned case management and make more money.

Document professionals need to step outside of their operations and into their clients' or colleagues' shoes in other areas of the business to learn how they alleviate the business problems and contribute to the bottom line.

Paul Abdool is the vice president of enterprise solutions for Solimar Systems, Inc.. He uses his 17 years of document industry experience to help customers develop and optimize their automated document factories with process automation, workflow solutions and professional services. Follow him on Twitter @PaulAbdool.