by Cassandra Balentine
When it comes to document output management strategies, process automation is increasingly important. Organizations look to Enterprise Output Management Systems (EOMS) to facilitate processes that take place from the time work is accepted into a print and/or digital production environment until it is delivered to the final destination or recipient, offering more control.
Further, EOMS enables legacy or disparate systems to consolidate multiple communications streams to a single, more manageable platform. We break it down here and in the July issue of DPS magazine. Additionally tune into a webinar on the topic this Summer.
The role of EOMS includes long list of core competencies including workflow automation; print queue management; concatenation; impositioning; page description language (PDL) ingestion; file encryption in transit and at rest; PDL transformation and normalization; post composition; document reengineering; mail automation; regulatory compliance; postal optimization; real-time validation; mail piece integrity; inserter and ADF integrations; integrations with print MIS, ERP, CRM and inventory management systems; intelligent routing and separation based on content preference management platforms; omnichannel distribution; exception handling workflow processes; reprint management; and real-time dashboard visibility and robust reporting.
“All the while, EOMS must maximize/maintain processing speed, accuracy, and scalability,” comments Ernie Crawford, president/CEO, Crawford Technologies.
EOMS encompasses processes that take place from the time work is accepted into a print and/or digital production environment until it is delivered to the final destination or recipient. “The EOMS should add value to the production areas—we call them swim lanes—in the enterprise,” offers Jonathan Malone-McGrew, senior director of engagement, Solimar Systems. He explains that for Solimar Systems, production areas include include onboarding, makeready/prepress, enhancement and enrichment, print management, visibility and dashboards, tracking and reporting, archive, eDelivery, portals. “The process in each of these swim lanes moves work through the enterprise,” he shares.
An important and relatively new component of EOMS is how you orchestrate or control the process. “The ability to automate the orchestration efficiently will help you on-board clients and their applications faster, with fewer resources and with more reusable components, as well as giving larger enterprises the ability to move work across multiple locations or to a disaster recovery facility,” adds Raymond Grant, director of product management, BlueCrest Inc.
Anthony Leccese, product Manager, prepress and output management, Rochester Software Associates, says an EOMS system should also be able to implement business rules such as grouping by recipient and location versus just “printing rules” such as routing by B&W or color ink output or number of impressions. EOMS needs to be flexible enough to support the industry standard formats and protocols and have ways to communicate and work with data from other systems in the enterprise. “This flexibility comes from the software having API and customization points and the EOMS vendor’s workflow expertise to analyze and build a truly integrated solution. Because in some cases the EOMS system will literally touch most if not all customer communication, it is in a unique position to centrally collect data about the various output and report on it to provide more holistic views of what is being produced for business decisions,” he explains.
Security is another critical component. “For some organizations EOMS systems manage extremely sensitive information that contains personal information or content protected by laws such as HIPAA, which requires information protection from hacking or other exposure. Protecting the information from those that should not have access to it is as important as producing the output,” adds Leccesse.
Matt Mahoney, EVP, sales, Racami LLC, sees two types of EOMS systems. The first is those that emerged 20 to 30 years ago to solve the problem of printer manufacturers having their own proprietary print streams. “If you wanted to send HP PCL from a desktop publishing application to a high-speed Xerox printer that spoke Metacode via Bus/Tag Channel, you needed to transform the PDL and convert a TCP/IP connection (network) to a mainframe Channel Connection. That issue of incompatibility between printers was the primary driver for the development of EOMS system. Those systems evolved to include print queue management, TIFF and PDF output for archiving, and support the internet when it arrived. EOMS came before broad internet adoption,” he explains. Mahoney adds that while these legacy tools continue to evolve, they don’t stray far from their core competency of driving printers.
“Most printer manufacturers continue to provide their specific branded EOMS systems and there are a few independent software companies still going strong with their EOMS systems. These basically do five things today, convert and optimize PDLs, connect host to printers, automate and record file processing tasks, and provide a screen for print management,” shares Mahoney.
The EOMS systems that have been around for a while are generally single machine systems that run on a single server, have a thick client, are licensed as such, and are not scalable. “If you need more horsepower, you buy more than one license. If they have a database, it is old like DB2 or similar. This is not necessarily bad. It keeps things simple, but limits the use of the system in today’s dynamic connected mobile world,” he adds.
The second type are newer EOMS systems, which tend to be thin-client, have a database, have integrated workflow, dashboard, and the tools to do the work. “They lean towards all-in-one systems with the ability to integrate front office and back office software, direct output to print, email, sms, voice, and measure what consumers are doing with the messages they receive,” Mahoney explains.
He says these newer inventions are truer to the name EOMS because they construct and deliver messages for off-line and online channels. “They also measure the activity in those channels to support complex cross channel communications. For example, when an email is sent and it is not opened, what do you want to do? Try again? What if that second email is not opened? Do you want to revert to a mail piece automatically and track it through the USPS? The newer systems have this capability,” offers Mahoney.
EOMS Break Down
As noted above, there are many elements of EOMS. Malone-McGrew walks us through the Solimar process. The company separates processes production production area, or swim lanes. Starting with onboarding, an EOMS should provide capable, fast, and flexible tools for taking in a wide variety of PDLs. This is also the lane where a file can be transformed to the preferred file type for the production environment.
“At Solimar we see many customers that want to standardize on PDF, but the real requirement is to be able to output the best file type for the customer’s current—and future—production environment. An EOMS should also automate the flow of work as well as optimize the files as they are onboarded into the production environment. Every point where a manual step is taken out of the organization’s workflow drives a reduction in costs and potential errors. Optimization of the files ensures that every step of the production workflow is able to process as quickly as possible—and without errors,” he explains.
Once files are automatically onboarded and optimized, an EOMS gives production managers and their key staff the ability to answer real-time challenges that are typically part of print and digital production work, which often arrives print-ready. These challenges can include the need to adjust barcodes and marks in a print file so that the target print device and its finishing equipment produce the correct final product. “This is a task that is generally hard to accomplish in a composition product as the target production print engine or digital channel may not be known at the time of production,” says Malone-McGrew.
The EOMS also allows last minute or required regulatory changes to be performed quickly and without the need for a client to reproduce the file upstream in their original composition system. This flexibility gives production environments the ability to update print-ready files while still delivering the final product on time. Changes can focus on production spanning everything from updating print marks—or removing them for digital delivery—to switching out color profiles. They can also focus on value-add by enriching the printed piece with onserts, data-driven TransPromo, TransInfo, and TransEd.
He says another value-add is to group communications from one organization into a single household mailing to save postage, speed delivery, and improve the overall customer experience. “There are more advantages in this EOMS swim lane than one article has room for; it is the Swiss Army Knife required to effectively manage print and digital production with success,” says Malone-McGrew.
The print management lane of EOMS should provide the ability to easily manage the flow of the print and digital production; it should also add value by providing visibility into what is happening in the production environment for internal staff and external customers.
“At Solimar, we believe this should be available across all types of screens from large displays to desktops and laptops to mobile devices, including smartphones. We firmly believe EOMS in this space should be backed by the provider and carry a low requirement for implementation and maintenance services,” he offers.
Environments where you find EOMS installations generally need predictable and capable solutions that don’t create additional risk through custom coding not supported as part of a standard solution release. “Of course, along with the management, tracking and reporting have become key in making sure you can find current work-in-progress and can audit work that has been completed. These features create the most efficient and cost-efficient print and digital production and delivery environment,” says Malone McGrew.
The end of the production process starts to blend into archiving and storage. “Not all companies provide archive capabilities for their end customers, but many have the need to store files for reprints or dispatch them through eDelivery. These needs grew as communication requirements changed during 2020. What is important to know about archive, eDelivery, and company or customer-facing portals is that they can be the backbone to other advantageous capabilities in an EOMS,” he shares.
For example, the ability to track down to the single piece within a larger job would allow an enterprise to add value by knowing where each individual recipient’s work is across the production workflow. It also opens the door to leveraging proof and approval workflows within the EOMS to make the information accessible to enterprise staff and consumers looking for updates.
When it comes to modern document strategies, customer communications management (CCM) systems are often in the spotlight, so it is important to differentiation between CCM and EOMS.
Crawford points out that both EOMS and CCM are now viewed by analysts and customers as subsets of customer experience management (CXM) solutions. He explains that essentially, EOMS and CCM are “both sides of the same coin” with EOMS focused on the processing and delivery of corporate messaging, branding, and customer communications through automated workflows across multiple communication channels. “CCM in recent years has been focused on customer journey mapping and creating personalized customer communications to improve digital customer experiences. Both EOMS and CCM systems have some overlaps in functionality and ultimately both types of systems are designed to facilitate delivering the right messaging to the right recipient at the right time through the right channel.”
Grant feels that the relationship is almost symbiotic. “They can perform similar functions for an enterprise but serve very different users,” he shares. The CCM platform serves the needs of IT and the business and feeds the EOMS that is mostly serviced by operations. Meanwhile, the EOMS processes the output of the customer communications platform in a way where the delivery can be done in the most efficient and cost-effective manner, thus allowing the business to be more profitable.
Leccese agrees, noting that EOMS provides the bridge for legacy or disparate systems to consolidate multiple communications streams to a single more manageable platform. “After the information is consolidated it can provide a more unified communication process directly to the customer like converting everything to similar formatting or householding to provide consolidated content. The consolidated inputs can also be integrated into a communication management system that manages all customer contact.”
From Malone-McGrew’s perspective, EOMS and CCM are just different ways of talking about and approaching the creation of print and digital materials. EOMS imply a certain level of volume and size of an organization associated with it. “When we talk about EOMS, we tend to focus on the processes and systems—the workflow. This is because the types of materials created tend to be critical in nature both from a communication perspective and brand and marketing perspective. EOMS doesn’t typically delve into the message, how the data relates or how it dovetails with advertising, marketing and customer experience messages,” he explains. “CCM covers all the process of managing customer communications including the messaging and brand across all touchpoints, both physical and digital. CCM, as defined originally by Gartner, was a strategic activity for improvement. From our perspective both EOMS and CCM are important. We see EOMS as more about what the system is capable of and what it can help a customer achieve as part of their overarching CCM strategy.”
EOMS encompasses long list of core competencies, which start at onboarding through to the final destination of a document. It is essential the these systems optimize processing speed, accuracy, and offer scalability to the workflow. dps
Jul2021, DPS Magazine