Strategy Interview, BIT 4/2016
Questions to Harald Grumser, founder and CEO of Compart
Mr. Grumser, you have repeatedly stressed that not only is output management changing but also document processing as a whole, which in turn has to become the hub of customer communication. What prerequisites are needed to achieve that goal?
Harald Grumser: Ultimately it almost always comes down to working through the business processes, i.e., the customer or the company initiates a request, which is followed by a response. Preferably, the cycle iterates: Output generates input and input generates output. The most likely asynchronous form of this communication occurs on paper; a faster version would be email exchange, and a web portal would be even faster. We need systems that can handle the management and user-friendly preparation and access of data intelligently, centrally, and independently of the channel.
The separation of content and layout is therefore essential for transmitting data over all physical and electronic channels. What is Compart doing to contribute? How are you supporting businesses?
Harald Grumser: Using our formatting solutions, we take data and generate documents in A4 as well as in HTML. We can “enrich” and modify existing documents in any way using our conversion platform. Furthermore, our latest technology for de-formatting allows us to pull independent data from the layout of page-oriented documents. We therefore supply virtually every function for a modern communications platform.
In connection with HTML5 as a format for responsive documents, you often recommend that companies stop “painting” documents. What exactly do you mean by that?
Harald Grumser: Almost all traditional formatting solutions start with the question of page size. But if I want to display my documents on a smart phone, a tablet, a large monitor, and a piece of paper all at the same time, then I have to describe the document rather than paint it on an A4 screen. I can generate a page format from HTML5 relatively easily, but the reverse is extremely difficult. That has far-reaching consequences and it’s why we first have to explain to some administrators and IT managers that their desire to “have it just like in Word” keeps them stuck in in the old world.
At the last Comparting you said that “strictly speaking, applications should not even be language-dependent” and that “the goal of communication should be the exchange of raw data.” How can this goal be achieved?
Harald Grumser: First, this requirement helps with the thought process. If during application design I assume that the language of the correspondence will be set as a variable, the architectures that I create will be significantly better. Also, many businesses will increasingly need the ability to offer individual documents not only in German but in English or Turkish as well. Other countries such as our Swiss neighbors are already much further along in this regard. And even if I already exchange or record documents electronically, the initial data should not be lost.
Document processing remains strongly batch-oriented, and at the same time digitalization is driving up the volume of transactional processes. What changes and challenges are we generally facing as a result?
Harald Grumser: Interactive letter writing and web portals are driving our change in thinking. In essence, batch versus transactional processing is like paper-bound versus electronic presentation. In future, we have to master both. A4 will not disappear and other channels will come on board. In addition to the purely technical challenges such as throughput of individual transactions, we have to unite both worlds in the software architecture.
Many companies set up parallel worlds with completely different technologies for physical and electronic document creation. What’s wrong with that? Or to put it another way, what would be a better, more economical solution?
Harald Grumser: A parallel development makes sense as long as I’m offering only two applications on the web portal or if I want to gain some initial experience. But if I have to take care of hundreds of different business transactions in both worlds and want, for example, to address the versioning of the General Terms and Conditions only once, there can be only one architecture for both channels and it’s an obvious one: strict separation of data and documents towards the goal of flexible systems such as XML-based technologies.
Digitalization is spreading and changing business processes to an inordinate degree. Do you think that at some point paper will completely disappear in document processing?
Harald Grumser: As far as the next few decades are concerned, absolutely not. Paper will remain a premium product. And even if we no longer supply customers with a physical document, they will still want the option to receive an A4 version of their electronic transactions.
Can you finish up by giving us a glimpse of what we can expect at this year’s Comparting in mid-November?
Harald Grumser: We will share what’s new in the world of A4 versus HTML5, delve more deeply into our positioning on executing business processes, and of course address the day-to-day challenges of color printing and Unicode. For the first time, we will be offering additional breakout sessions to provide information on the application of our products. We definitely expect another major industry event with plentiful topics and even more fruitful discussions.
Source: BIT 4/2016 (Doxnet Issue)