When it Comes to Documents…Trust is Good; Verification is Better

 

Quality, Assured

Change is difficult. Very few people would argue with that simple statement -- and almost no businessperson ever would: change is difficult. That’s a fact.

But businesses must change. Business processes must change. Businesses are always under pressure--from competitors, from monetary and economic vicissitudes, from changing technology-- to change…the more nimble or agile the company is with regard to change, the better able they are to survive and advance. But change is so difficult that even agile organizations struggle with it.

You know what else is difficult? Communication. Businesses struggle with communication. Cultural or perceptual differences create noise, which obscures meaning and intent. Things get misinterpreted. The channels of communication are plentiful but each has its own nuances so that messages are lost, sent through the wrong channel to the wrong person, or just dissolved in the clutter. More communication isn’t necessarily better. But that’s exactly what marketing and advertising and social media and multi-channel and omni-channel communication often creates: more, not better, communication.

Customer communication, for example, is SO IMPORTANT. A good customer experience is largely dependent on good, clear, timely customer communication. In business to consumer sectors like financial services, insurance and utilities, clear and welcome customer communication is the cornerstone of a good business model. Without it, consumers find other vendors to serve their needs. A solid customer communication strategy should be foremost in the minds of business leaders.

And yet, and yet, and yet…it often is not. Sadly, it often is not. Business leaders don’t always appreciate the value of their communication vehicles like a bill. Or a statement. What other touchpoint is more regular? What other communication is more often opened and read? What other communication needs to be so clear, concise and well-timed? And yet changing a statement or a bill is incredibly difficult.  Making even the smallest change on a statement, for example, can take weeks or even months. Adding a simple barcode is fraught with peril. Bills are timed—they must go out on a regular schedule. The billing cycle is short—and to those in IT, who have to make these changes, the cycle no doubt seems even shorter.

Often, many departments and many systems—each with its own distinct processes, procedures and requirements, each operating in its own silo—must somehow come together to create different parts of a bill or statement. Sometimes it seems like no one is in charge of all of it. And sometimes that is true—no one, single manager “owns” the billing process. Amazingly, many organizations continue to rely on legacy systems (external link) to conduct this strategically imperative process. And so making changes to a bill or a statement takes time, expends resources and relies on special expertise that all too often only exists as a part-time job—just one of many— of an over-taxed, underpaid, overwhelmed IT person.

Thankfully, there is help. We have technology that works miracles for many organizations. A company like Prinova (external link) can re-design statements in a way that makes them more customer-friendly, more attractive and more useful to the entire organization. You are certainly encouraged to view the work and learn more about the software. Every step along the way from composition to delivery can be optimized.

But what this article is all about is the last step in the process. Just as most tightrope walkers fall just when they get to the end of the rope, so too do organizations making changes—significant or minor—most often fail when they get to the end. The failure to test, test, test is often the weak link in the chain. Quality assurance is paramount in the change process.

Test, test, test

Yes, for many Insurance organizations, quality assurance is the be-all and end-all. The smallest error in invoicing can have unimaginable financial consequences. Modifications to the statement often make inadvertent changes. This makes it even more critical to have a reliable and efficient checking process to compare documents and identify changes in content and layout. In the old days, a printer would hold a couple of documents up to the light to see the changes. But with higher volumes and greater consequences for the slightest mistake it pays to automate document comparison and identify each and every change, including those not quite detectable by the naked eye. As one professional put it, you need “the ability to compare documents at the visual as well as textual level to reveal even the smallest differences, even in complex documents of several hundred thousand pages.”

Back in the day, we would create a proof, print it, review it, make changes and then repeat the process over and over until we got it right. There was even a light table where you could overlay one version on top of another and check for variance. So what is needed now for automated quality assurance is actually a digital light table. And we have one, called DocBridge Delta.

Delta helps the document production process even before a document is generated, formatted, and printed; you can check the data stream for content and position of the saved objects. Reports are generated that list all changes or interruptions, without stopping production for every deviation that shuts down the printer. This translates to high process reliability, particularly in the pre-processing of print-ready formats (AFP, PCL, PDF, etc.), where upstream systems such as SAP, PDF Creator or other formatting solutions generate the print data. An invoice number or address, for example, is always located at a defined position and must have a specific length. If the system detects that it is incorrectly positioned in the data stream or has eight characters instead of ten, production stops. This prevents the need for re-printing jobs, saving time and money. Detecting fault lines in the data stream allows the IT organization to fix the problem while the operation continues with other jobs. Users are simply guaranteed that any changes to the layout are automatically checked before too long in a way that does not impact the overall operation.

Automatic comparisons via regression tests need to be conducted during the development phase. This makes the implementation of change requests more effective and more reliable: what needs to be changed—and only what needs to be changed— gets changed. The production process becomes infinitely more efficient—without sacrificing accuracy.

To learn more about automated Quality Assurance and how our friends at Prinova (external link) use it in their Messagepoint platform.

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