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Americans have a well-known colloquialism called The Pottery Barn Rule: “If you break it, you’ve bought it!” In reality, it has nothing to do with the Pottery Barn retail chain, but the phrase is meant to remind shoppers to handle all store merchandise with care.

Similarly, the first rule of museums is generally “Look, but don’t touch!”  While a retailer can write off the cost of most merchandise, museum pieces are another order of magnitude more difficult to repair — if possible at all — let alone be replaced.

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, experiences are increasingly moving online with ever more people starting to telecommute. That move to online includes business processes where previous workflows required not just physical presence but also multiple interventions.

More than one business out there has developed ad-hoc workflows, even if these have simply evolved from habitual practices. These are ways of doing things that relied on people walking around the building, from device to device, screen to screen or room to room, performing incremental tasks towards the ultimate work goal.

Almost all of these develop organically.

The way we were…

Once upon a time, end users were accustomed to logging onto mainframe-attached, green-screen terminals. A worker — Sophie — would enter a transaction code, fill in some fields on one or more on-screen forms, and then submit the process for execution.  Somewhere, a printer would whir to life and spit out some pages.  Donna, the operator, would pull the reports from the printer and stack them nicely so Al from the mail room could come and collect them. Manila envelopes would get stuffed with the output and one of those would later land on Sophie’s desk, with the output of her computer job.  Regardless of what happened after that point, three people had already physically manipulated the print output.

Times change and business processes change as well. Al retired and the company saved money by decommissioning the central printer so that Donna can focus on client care rather than stacking print output. Sophie’s mainframe process is still there, but she fills her form out in a windowed application on her desktop now. The output is printed on a device just around the corner from her desk.

Losing touch without losing image

Sophie had read my colleague Massimo’s recent Blog post about Zero Touch Printing, so she taps her security fob at the device and grabs the paper output.

Eventually, Sophie needs to get that content into a new Server Application that is handling client output for her business. So, after collecting her printed output, she walks down the corridor to a scanner, drops the paper into the device and emails a scanned PDF of the document to herself.  That PDF is downloaded to her desktop and she uploads it into the new application.

Again, this is a sequence of many steps, each of which probably made sense as the workflows evolved over time. Anyway, all of that exercise was probably good for Sophie, right? But what happens when Sophie finds the need to work from home? Breaking that business process can cost a lot of money.

The solution: “Look, but don’t touch!”

Early in the COVID crisis, one LRS customer experienced just such a business process problem due to work-from-home mandates. When employees cannot get into the office, the printed output just sits on the spool and the whole workflow breaks down.

With LRS’s PageCenterX software, we were able to move the client to a View-not-Print model for this business-critical data process. Rather than printing the report automatically, the VPSX solution was configured to seamlessly transfer the output to a PageCenterX archive for storage. And using this PageCenterX software, the end user was able to view the document online and save printing costs.

But what about that 3rd Party Server Application that needed that PDF? PageCenterX software also came to the rescue there. The PageCenterX “Subscriptions” feature allows end users to receive an email containing a hyperlink to the document, or to have a document added as an email attachment. And text-based documents can optionally be automatically converted into PDFs by this process, on-the-fly.

For organizations who are security conscious about such emails, the email server can be configured to prevent users from sending such documents outside of the organization.

Today’s work-from-home “Sophie” now logs onto her laptop at her home office, performs her transaction, and within seconds has a PDF with a link to a PageCenterX repository and the text version of the report directly in her Inbox. What’s more, since the PDF file is text-based rather than an image, the file is smaller and searchable without the need for OCR. She can transfer the PDF to her server application.

And all she had to do was look, not touch.

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