May 4 2020 07:02 AM

Ernie Crawford of Crawford Technologies answers questions about industry trends in the current climate

Industry Trends Q&A

In this installment, Ernie Crawford of Crawford Technologies answers questions about industry trends in the current climate.

What CCM practices have arisen in the industry as a result of COVID-19?
In the current reality, most transactional print shops have been considered essential services and have tried to continue business as usual, or as close to normal as they can. Where possible, they are running more shifts with fewer people on each shift and having as many people as possible working from home. One of the first things we noticed was that organizations are taking disaster recovery planning (DRP) and business continuity planning (BCP) more seriously in the face of a real possibility that one or more of their shops could be shut down by an infection. In many enterprises, people are working from home. Since these people still need to communicate with customers, often through hardcopy mail, hybrid mail solutions have quickly become a hot commodity worldwide. Many organizations are expediting digital transformation and their move to cloud-based solutions to handle the dispersed workforce.

What do you mean by hybrid mail?
Hybrid mail is a system that provides methods to facilitate use of production printing and mailing facilities and processes for distribution of ad hoc documents created by office workers during their normal daily activities. We have implemented some customer-specific solutions as far back as 2004, however, most hybrid mail implementations to date have been rolled out in Europe. For those wanting to learn more about implementing hybrid mail, Joe Eremita from BlueCrest will be discussing their Office Mail solution at our Customer Communications Virtual Summit on May 6.

Which CCM practices that have risen as a result of COVID-19 will stick and become lasting trends?
I believe there are 5 trends that will stick after the pandemic:

1. Some of the employees that are now working from home will continue with that arrangement. We saw this when we acquired Flatirons Digital Innovations, an enterprise content services and data management consultant and system integrator. There was a three-month gap when we did not have a local office. Once we had the beautiful Boulder office in place, many employees had adapted to working from home and continue to do so.

2. Another trend is that hybrid mail systems will stay where they are being implemented as users will find them convenient to use, whether they are in the office or working from home.

3. Legacy paper-based internal processes have the potential to fail when the employees are working from their homes, so digital transformation will accelerate exponentially. That doesn't necessarily mean that printing will be reduced, but people are beginning to think in terms of digital-first and mobile-first.

4. Moves to the cloud will continue to accelerate, even in the more conservative industries where organizations have been slow to go all-in on the cloud. This was beginning before coronavirus and will pick up momentum as we recover from this pandemic.

5. DRP/BCP/pandemic plans will garner more focus as any of the doubters will now have a clearer understanding of the importance of these planning strategies. Finally, everyone will think of planning as a necessary survival tool, rather than just a nuisance.

CrawfordTech has seen crises before. How have previous disruptive events affected how you are reacting to the novel coronavirus?
We are keeping our employees safe while meeting our customers' needs by following the Pandemic Plan we instituted after the SARS epidemic. As such, it was very easy to move our employees to work from their homes and we will keep them there as much as we can. We are sticking to virtual events like our upcoming Customer Communications Virtual Summit, which we see as filling a gap that exists in the industry due to the current cancellation of live events.

Tell us more about this Customer Communications Virtual Summit.
With DSF ’20 and other industry events being delayed, I saw a gap in industry education. In order to fill the gap, have organized the Customer Communications Virtual Summit on May 6, with the help of many industry partners. This will help fill the industry education gap until DSF ‘20 in November.

We have assembled the world’s foremost experts in output management, eDelivery and document accessibility to provide timely educational curriculum in three tracks over a full day. Not only do we have industry stalwarts like Matt Swain, Pat McGrew, Gina Ferrara and Lainey Feingold, we also have high-profile customers presenting their stories and vendors discussing recent advances in technology. Industry response has been incredible. For more information and to register for it, here is the link: Customer Communications Virtual Summit.

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