By Richard Huff
Organizations receive high marks for customer service when delivering personalized communications through multiple channels. However, the increased use of electronic channels for business communications, such as email and text messaging, presents a challenge to print-centered operations. Many now rely on electronic communications to deliver time-sensitive information to customers, but often experience challenges with managing and tracking them.
An Enterprise Output Management System (EOMS) plays a vital role in the customer communications process by managing document delivery. Multi-channel document strategies often start with data collection from customer service applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Data mined from these sources is fed into document composition solutions to create highly personalized customer communications. The newest document composition solutions seamlessly create output formatted for print and electronic channels. An EOMS manages delivery of the formatted output to a device, such as a printer, email server, or Web server.
Recently, Madison Advisors published its 2010 Enterprise Output Management Systems Market Study Update, which examines the software systems available to organizations looking to manage multi-channel delivery.
Many customers prefer to receive electronic communications instead of printed materials, citing the timeliness of communications as a key driver for adoption. For example, a minimum account balance notification delivered via text message enables a bank customer to shift funds between accounts before an overdraft occurs. Customers also note support for "green" initiatives as a reason to suppress printed monthly statements that do not require a response.
Businesses themselves also see benefits from multi-channel communications. Cost savings come primarily in the form of reduced postage costs when a customer statement or notice does not need to be mailed. Electronic communications allow organizations to generate highly personalized messages that quickly notify customers of product specials at nearby locations. Embedded personalized URLs direct recipients to unique Web pages featuring additional product information, coupons, offer codes, and store locations that result in added revenue for organizations.
While demand for multi-channel communications is growing, many EOMS products remain focused on print management. Customers use electronic channels to interact with businesses and expect them to respond in kind. As a result, a majority of large organizations have developed strategies to communicate with customers via electronic channels as an opportunity to improve customer service or reduce costs associated with printed materials. However, few EOMS vendors offer strong support for email, SMS message delivery, and social media.
How Does EOMS Work?
An EOMS provides organizations with the ability to centrally manage and control print and electronic output. The system consolidates input from different platforms and back office applications. In addition, an EOMS is used to manage output from desktop applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel. If necessary, it transforms the application output into a new format or size appropriate to the capabilities of the destination. For example, an EOMS that merges desktop output with mainframe output for centralized production would convert the output files to an AFP format for production printing.
EOMS is generally used to manage business-critical output from accounting, billing, reporting, or other financial systems. Most vendors provide specific integration to SAP modules, which allows an EOMS to correctly format the output from SAP. The role of the EOMS is to ensure each job prints successfully and completely. Wherever possible, an EOMS receives job processing and status messages from the output device and forwards the messages to the user that submitted the job.
Comparing EOMS Solutions
An EOMS generally supports centralized print operations with high-volume production printers or distributed print environments consisting of hundreds or thousands of desktop and workgroup printers. Organizations with centralized printing operations use an EOMS to receive print files and distribute production throughout the facility. Businesses that produce high volumes of print jobs every month rely on an EOMS to deliver the output to an appropriate printer, fax, or electronic channel across a distributed network. When comparing solutions, it is important to consider the organization’s requirements for one or both of these environments.
The EOMS market consists of many well-established vendors that offer similar core functionalities such as spooling, load balancing, and reprints. An EOMS typically supports a range of inputs and outputs and offers a graphical interface for administrators and operators. Job ticketing has limited application in centralized print operations, but remains crucial for distributed print environments. In its recent market update, Madison Advisors notes that EOMS solutions often lack features such as job scheduling and service level agreement management.
The EOMS market currently leans heavily towards print output management and only a few vendors offer strong support for multiple electronic channels. Some solutions provide fax or email servers that allow an EOMS to deliver output without requiring additional products. Several vendors also offer long-term archive capabilities as an embedded feature or through a companion product. These systems may be ideal for small- and mid-sized organizations without corporate document archives.
Workflow and integration represent an opportunity for most EOMS solutions. Many vendors provide basic job processing workflows or allow developers to create an external workflow using scripting tools. For centralized print production environments, select EOMS vendors offer additional software modules to create a complete automated document factory that manages the production workflow. While many vendors provide integration to SAP, few offer packaged integration to leading accounting software, enterprise content management systems (ECM), digital archives, and marketing systems. The sidebar above offers a look at select EOMS solutions and functions.
The Future of EOMS
A significant round of vendor acquisition and consolidation is expected to occur within EOMS providers, which will alter the overall landscape. The market consists of a large number of vendors providing similar solutions with little differentiation in core functionality. In general, EOMS solutions utilize proprietary database structures to manage jobs and destinations, which makes complex integration difficult.
Current EOMS solutions provide better support for print output than for any other channel. Future offerings will consolidate both data and content delivery along with print stream delivery to create a single source for coordinated communications. Stronger integration between ECM systems and EOMS solutions will enable vendors to focus on content versus document delivery and break out of a print-centric approach to output management. In addition, open database structures will allow an EOMS to easily share delivery data with ERP and CRM systems.
When planning an expansion to multi-channel communications, organizations should consider EOMS as one part of an overall document strategy. Additional software, such as workflow and job scheduling systems, are required to manage the end-to-end delivery of the communications to the customer. Integration with marketing and campaign management systems is required to track responses and trigger follow-up communications based on customer behavior.
It is important that every organization consider the quality of its customer communications strategy. Today, this often includes the support for multiple platforms. EOMS helps businesses manage the efficiency and effectiveness of their document delivery process. dps
Richard Huff is a principal analyst with Madison Advisors, an advisory firm that specializes in print and electronic communications. He provides project-based advisory services designed to assist clients with business strategy and technology selection decisions. Contact Huff via email at email@example.com. For more information on Madison Advisors, visit www.madison-advisors.com.