An Outcry for Output Management
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Output management was once an obscure IT initiative within a few select companies. Today, it has become a mainstream IT initiative. IT executives are getting smart about print technology and are focusing management’s attention on output systems as a way to drive strategic business value and save millions in hard costs and productivity. They’re also realizing that overlooking their output environment across the company can bring about substantial mission-critical issues that can hinder business operations. Consider these real-life mission-critical examples:
• A company’s mainframe print system broke down for three days during its critical year-end reporting period, effectively halting the printing of year-end business reports and the distribution of mission-critical data to users.
• Another company spent millions of dollars and several years to implement an ERP application to link critical business systems and allow for remote printing of payroll checks. When the company went live with the ERP application, they couldn’t print checks on the new system. IT eventually had to re-route the ERP system data back through the mainframe and produce the payroll checks using the old process on centralized production printers.
• In a related example, a company couldn’t output its pick lists and warehouse distribution forms. This output problem halted shipping of its product, reducing product availability during its key selling period that negatively impacted company sales and revenue. Additional print management problems abound. And recent trends only increase the probability of these mission-critical issues occurring, therefore creating a critical sense of urgency to integrate and optimize enterprise printing.
The information explosion continues to inundate companies with volumes of digital information from the Internet, Web and e-mail. This information flows to users on the desktop and is output on distributed printing and imaging systems. The amount of digital information will grow at unprecedented rates. By 2004, 70 percent of all business information will be digital. Yet, this digital overload is expected to double the printing volumes in distributed environments. This trend is apparent as companies implement digital based e-mail systems for the first time and see their distributed print volumes triple. And so waves of digital information sweep over aging, unmanaged output infrastructures that are no longer able to handle the strain.
That’s why complex documents and mission-critical processes are being deconstructed and redesigned to take advantage of electronic distribution and digital imaging. E-distribution and imaging enables companies to accelerate access to information and speed business transactions. Companies migrate mission-critical reports off production printers and distribute them to LAN printers close to users. ERP applications also re-route critical output to remote LAN printers.
In some situations, companies will rely on printers designed for DOS to print high-volume, complex graphic documents. And a lack of standardization and control impacts overall performance significantly.
Unfortunately, most companies’ output infrastructure is composed of distinct, separate islands of digital output that delays, rather than speeds, information delivery throughout an entire enterprise. For example, mainframe or host print environments are not integrated with LAN printing. And ERP applications are not optimized for printing.
In Through the Out Door
The key to effective information delivery throughout an enterprise, then, is an integrated output management system. "In any industry, a company that can harness the output of digital information to speed up its operations is going to outperform competitors, create new standards, and make a lot of money," says George Stalk of the Boston Consulting Group.
As IT managers recognize the urgency to upgrade aging print infrastructures, optimize digital technology and define the role of output in strategic business initiatives, such as ERP and e-commerce, companies are seeking partners who can define strategy, design enterprise print architectures, integrate information delivery systems and lower the risk of a transition to new output management solutions.
HP’s Digital Workplace Services is a professional services group that teams with customers to help them optimize their printing and imaging environments. A prominent forest products manufacturing company with plants geographically dispersed throughout the United States, needed to upgrade the servers that managed their business-critical applications. Server performance and capacity were inadequate to the point that user productivity was being affected.
The migration path dictated by the server upgrade required the company to replace its existing output-management solution. Any new output-management solution had to integrate seamlessly with the company’s SAP R/3 infrastructure as well as several UNIX standalone applications. In addition, given the business-critical nature of the output generated by the company, the new solution had to be transparent to the users.
HP Digital Workplace Services was brought in to provide the customer with an enterprisewide infrastructure and output-management solution that ensured reliable delivery of mission-critical output. HP’s consultants provided the company’s project team with extensive knowledge of enterprise printing, output management and SAP R/3 applications. The consultants designed and tested a real-world model that reflects the company’s unique output-management needs.
A Dazzling Display
This effort led to the early companywide deployment of Dazel’s Output Management solution with no interruption of business-critical functions. The HP consultants helped manage the implementation of additional output-management solutions to ensure high-availability and backup.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) was having difficulty managing and maintaining the reliability of its distributed host print system, which involved several generations of distinct host print solutions and data streams. Several full-time IT resources were required to keep the system up and running. The organization wanted a unified enterprise print architecture that would integrate host printing into LAN printing.
They also needed to simplify and consolidate the solutions and printers in their output environment. HP consultants designed a new enterprise print architecture, identified an ideal solution to provide them the standardization and control they lacked, and then implemented the output-management solution across their enterprise.
HP offered us more than HP product expertise by providing the ability to analyze our entire printing environment, regardless of the software and hardware brand we were using to provide us with an integrated, enterprise solution. They also brought the industry knowledge to bring in the right solution partner," says Jerry Bassett, administrator for IDHW’s Information Technology Services.
AN OUTLOOK ON OUTPUT
Here are a some questions IT executives can ask themselves to assess the state of their output environment:
• Am I looking at my output environment as a way to drive strategic business value?
• Do I have an enterprise print strategy that will link disparate islands of output and implement an output-management system?
• Does my output environment currently use different print systems, print streams and protocols that create a complex enterprise print environment to support and manage?
• Is our company ERP implementation optimized to ensure that business-critical output will be generated at the right time and the right place and in the right form?
• Do I need to eliminate legacy data streams (XES/UDK, etc.) or migrate print solutions from SNA to TCP/IP?
• Is my IT support staff or Help Desk spending too much time on printing issues?
• Do I have an old, aging printing and imaging infrastructure that is inadequate to meet the information exchange needs of the company?
– John Curtis (email@example.com) is the Consulting Services Manager for Hewlett-Packard’s Digital Workplace Services.