Image by: Ivan_Mogilevchik, ©2016 Getty Images

Back in the late 1990s, creating a “document strategy” was all the craze. Organizations began to realize that they had to get control of their company’s document creation and output. Winging it was no longer acceptable. Why? Money, regulations, brand control—to name a few. So, where is your organization today? Are you winging your operations future?

As I travel throughout North America and visit various organizations, there seems to be a conscious effort to improve operations. There is somewhat of a resurgence of the document strategy concept. This "Document Strategy 2.0" is starting from a place of maturity though. They solved the early problems of standardizing or transforming print description languages to output on their printers. They figured out how to centralize printing to take advantage of larger, more powerful devices. They stopped fighting with marketing and worked with them to get control of the branding or just gave them real estate on outbound communications to get their ever-changing messages out. All of this hard work also earned operations managers respect and a seat at the “planning table” so that they could help the document owners make their theoretical communications concepts become a reality while doing it right the first time.

Most operations teams and their upstream counterparts in information technology (IT), or in various business units, are now asking, “What can be done to optimize the communication life cycle?” Why? Money is still on the list. However, now that more document production is centralized, and managers have gained more control, the discussion has shifted to device reduction, richer physical and digital communications and productivity metrics.

Householding (the placement of two documents in the same envelope destined for the same recipient) has become a reality, but some organizations still lack the control over disparate jobs to get them together. With good indexing and post-composition or re-engineering tools, this advanced activity can prove to be a significant money saver and customers like it too. Document reengineering can also support device reduction by optimizing workflows to drive newer, faster inkjet devices. It can also support richer messaging while reducing time-to-market, whether on paper or other channels.

Part of the evolving document strategy includes more significant data collection and reporting. It has evolved from the collection of disparate pieces of information from paper logs, postage meters and inserters to the culmination of information from multiple databases. The state-of-the-art operations now have dashboards so they have up-to-the minute information about what is happening—beyond just service-level agreements and adhering to schedules. This information also allows them to make intelligent business decisions about staff and future technology investments. The operations in the upper echelon are even confident enough to expose their dashboards to their external customers. This reduces inbound customer calls and coincides with the new mantra of “self-service is the best service.”

So, how do you get to this new nirvana? You need a plan. You need to reestablish your baseline, keeping in mind your organization’s goals, competing projects, the economy and customer demands. After this assessment, you need to calendar some steps to get there. The plan should include realistic timeframes allowing for upgrades and training, while keeping an eye on the ever-shrinking budgets.

So, think about it, get strategic, put a plan together and don’t depend on a wing and a prayer.

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.