White Paper

The Benefits Of An Enterprise Report Management System: A White Paper Overview

A total business strategy for customer service, e-commerce, and knowledge management.

Enterprise Report Management — A Key Component Of An E-Business & Knowledge Management Strategy

The Opportunities For Enterprise Report Management In An Enterprise Computing Environment
Efficient and effective access to corporate information has become the adrenaline that drives companies today. Competitive necessity is mandating that any authorized user, at any time, and from any place, have access to all kinds of corporate information from a single user interface. Customers, vendors, and employees must be able to retrieve all of the information pertaining to a particular account, order, or series of transactions — even if they originated on dissimilar systems. Sadly, businesses are spending substantial sums to custom build a solution because they don't know that one already exists using time-tested, off-the-shelf technology known as Enterprise Report Management (ERM).

Despite changing its name from COLD (which cast it as an archival storage solution) to Enterprise Report Management, few organizations realize that this technology can meet this strategic mandate at lower cost, in Internet time, and without impact on the existing corporate operations. ERM systems have the unique ability to maintain a common index that references the entire collection of corporate documents.

Enterprise Report Management systems provide the perfect metaphor for presenting information in the format that people are familiar with — as an exact replica of the paper it was printed on. Enterprise Report Management (ERM) software is the most cost effective way to make transaction reports, e-commerce documents, bills, and statements available via the an internal intranet, a controlled extranet, or broadly over the Internet. Current Enterprise Report Management architecture allows an organization to electronically enable any printed document — you can index it, find it, retrieve it — all with access control and security. You can then distribute it to customers, vendors, and employees via email, fax, or the Web. Perhaps the greatest significance of this "universal" access to Enterprise computer information is that it forms a foundation on which a corporate Knowledge Management Portal can be established.

Organizations deploying Enterprise Report Management software have found it leads to enhanced customer relationships, increased sales and reduction in the cost of business operations. The return on investment in this technology is frequently less than 12 months.

Industrial-grade Enterprise Report Management systems can address a wide range of information technology problems. They can address the need to:
  • Integrate multiple applications across dissimilar computer systems
  • Provide Web access to current and legacy data
  • Link customer and supplier data
  • Provide easy to use ad-hoc report generation
  • Create business intelligence in the form of "report" mining.

Enterprise Report Management Architecture
Enterprise Report Management systems provide worldwide access to computer transaction data, bills, statements, and other output documents regardless of their origination point or system, by any authorized user at any time without major disruption to the existing IT infrastructure. The above chart illustrates the ability of ERM systems to capture data from diverse computers, create a central information warehouse, and output the data for a variety of users, including call centers. This industry paper describes the wide range of e-commerce applications that this off-the-shelf technology can cost effectively address.

Enterprise Report Management — A Customer Service, E-Commerce & Business Process Improvement Solution

E-commerce developers are faced with a significant engineering challenge. They must engineer a system that provides universal access, to vast quantities of information, by numerous corporate departments, each with a different need for information:
  • Employees want fast, electronic availability of computer transaction and financial data worldwide — with view, print and e-mail capability.
  • Operating managers want the ability to analyze and reorganize historical and current computer data in "real-time" to create different "ad-hoc" report views without programming and without extensive training.
  • Customer service management wants an immediate display of an exact replica of all of the callers' statements/invoices/bills to eliminate call-backs, reduce "talk-time", and the ability to e-mail or fax copies to customers during the initial call.
  • Customers want electronic, self-service access to statements and invoices 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
  • Business partners and vendors want seamless, easy, and instant electronic self-service access to purchase orders, order status, pricing, inventory status and other transaction data.
  • Governmental and regulatory agencies as well as internal accounting and legal departments within the organization are mandating seven or more years of electronic access to historical data documents.
These diverse needs for information access present the e-commerce developer with an engineering paradox. On the one hand, their systems must be designed to index and store vast quantities of historical transaction information. On the other hand, these systems must provide concurrent access by thousands of users. E-commerce information systems must deal with very high volumes of documents without deleting index records and without degrading performance. Enterprise Report Management systems have been engineered to be scalable for high volume management of the metadata index history file while also handling the high retrieval rate that intranet and extranet self-service entails.

Enterprise Report Management systems leverage the universal "document-centric" mode of communication to allow corporate data to be indexed, stored, retrieved, distributed and easily interpreted. Computer documents, created by operational databases, Web servers or data warehouses, are stored in a compressed form and presented with a surrounding structure (form) for easy viewing and interpretation by users

Enterprise Report Management — A Diversity Of Applications
This proven category of software, which incorporates high-performance, object server, metadata index management architecture and intranet/extranet document transformation and delivery can be leveraged to perform a myriad of applications.

Customer Service — Call Center
ERM systems that are integrated with call center software eliminate the callbacks that are necessitated due to the current inability of customer service representatives to view or reprint statements, invoices, or other computer generated customer documents while the customer is on the phone. Customer documents — statements, invoices, confirmation notices, explanation of benefit notices, etc., are stored and displayed in the same format as they were originally printed. Electronic access by customer service representatives to an exact replica of the document that the customer is looking at means that productivity is increased and "first call" resolution is more readily achieved.

An exact replica document means that all of the information required to solve a problem or answer a question is immediately displayed on the screen. Requests for copies or reprints are also easily and instantly handled from the customer service representatives' screen without the delays associated with a reprint request to computer operations.

The capability to add electronic annotations to documents facilitates collaboration within the organization to achieve faster resolution of more complex questions. As illustrated in the following example, these same annotations insure an audit trail for future reference. An electronic annotation is affixed, time stamped, and inserted in the permanent ERM system record.

Statement Annotation

Customer Service — Self-Service
ERM systems enabled for the Internet, and with document specific security, provide document access that allows any customer (retail consumer or business partner) with a browser to access statements, invoices, credit memos, or any other relevant computer documents without Customer Service Representative intervention. Self-service in retrieving, viewing and printing of exact replicas of documents gives customers seven day a week, twenty-four hour a day, Extranet research capability.

E-Commerce — Electronic Bill & Statement Presentment
Enterprise Report Management systems provide middleware that can significantly shorten the time to implement business-to-business and business-to-consumer e-billing/e-commerce applications. ERM software easily transforms existing legacy bills for presentment in an Internet format. Existing print streams (IBM/Advanced Function Presentation-AFP, Xerox/Metacode, HP PCL, or line data) are instantly translated to new Internet formats (HTML/XML/PDF) — eliminating the need to write new code to web-enable legacy applications. Combined with the capability to provide bill distribution, long-term history, and fast access — ERM systems are ideal as the backbone of bill and statement presentment applications.

This same capability can be deployed for business to business purchase orders, invoices, inventory reports, order status and shipping reports — a back end to front end e-business solution.

The document-specific metadata index coupled with subscriber e-mail "push" capability will deliver bills, link to in-house customer PIN number security files, hyperlink to other Web sites, and provide business intelligence through the report mining module.

E-Commerce — Image Check Presentment, Distribution, And Warehousing
Banks are currently installing systems that create an "image check" to eliminate the process of handling paper checks for corporate and retail customers. An ERM system can be deployed to allow the check images to be directly linked to the retail customer's monthly statement. ERM systems are used in a check "image" application because of their high-performance metadata indexing ability. This performance level is necessary to meet the application requirement to insert metadata fields into the database for a seven to 10 year period without deletion.

The ERM software provides a retrieval methodology that allows the customer to identify a specific check of interest using a simple account number/PIN number access screen. Image checks provided to corporate clients can also be integrated with bill presentment applications to provide an electronic link between a bill and a customer check to verify payment or perform audits. The software will allow check images and electronic bills to be displayed side by side on the customer service screen.

Business Process Improvement — Intranet And E-Mail Report Distribution
Enterprise Report Management software provides the capability to efficiently distribute corporate reports throughout the enterprise. Users can be notified via e-mail to pull reports of interest via the Corporate LAN or intranet. Alternately, specific pages can to be "pushed" to authorized users without the necessity to transfer an entire report across a network. The metadata index is the key to network performance since, unlike file oriented systems, it allows a specific page or a document to be located and electronically disseminated. This means that there is a minimal amount of network traffic. For example, a "total" or "summary" page is sent to managers and the report detail is accessed only as needed from the server history file.

Business Process Improvement — ERM As A Business Portal
The goal of a corporate business portal is to provide the user with a consistent way to access a wide range of diverse corporate information. An Enterprise Report Management system provides a single browser-based view of computer information that offers front and back office, document centric retrieval, and analysis, regardless of the computer on which it was generated. Business partners can access warranty data, product data sheets, orders, sales history, commission status, and product pricing, which has been generated from any internal or external system.

This class of system may be referred to as a knowledge management system, an enterprise business portal, or an e-commerce corporate memory and can be implemented using ERM technology. As illustrated in the following chart, all document classes can be managed by an ERM system — computer data, text, and image.

ERM As A Business Portal

An ERM Added-Value Capability — Business Intelligence
The most basic information sources in a company are the invoices, statements and daily transaction reports generated by its host systems. These documents contain consolidated results from various operational databases — names, addresses, items purchased, amounts paid, dates, quantities, and calculated extensions and totals. It is both accurate and reliable data.

Report mining is essentially a new form of business intelligence software. The ERM system becomes an object server datamart for the warehoused report data. Report mining software (that does not require programming) lets users query and analyze the historical report repository to create new report formats or "normalize" fields for export to online analytical processing (OLAP), spreadsheet or other database software. New reports can be created from old reports, to eliminate legacy programming time delays in creating new report formats. Invoice history can be mined for marketing and sales analysis data such as product sales by geographic region or by sales representative. Report mining requires no new database, no reengineering, no additional human resources, and no significant additional cost because report-mining software leverages the existing report infrastructure. For example, all credit card statements could be analyzed to find all credit card holders that have more than $5,000 in card usage in each of the last six months. Similarly, credit card statements could be searched to find all of those people that have purchased a ticket on a particular airline in the past six months.

Report Mining
The example above illustrates a search of the warehouse history to analyze petroleum companies, their revenues and their market share. This data is contained in the existing report obviously not easily determined. The report mining software extracted "petroleum" companies, their "revenues", calculated the revenue percentage and created a new report and a chart — without programming.

Characteristics Of An Effective Enterprise Report Management System
There are a number of core components and characteristics that an ERM system should possess if it is to be used as a key component of an Enterprise Computing Strategy. The most significant are:

  • Access screens should be intuitive and allow any user to locate documents without training.
  • Metadata must be page-oriented for efficient network retrieval, printing, and transmission of documents, particularly for lengthy transaction reports. One to "n" pages must be able to be selected, transmitted, viewed or printed.
  • Retrieval of documents and specific data within documents should be easy, using a range of search capabilities including key field, full text search, and Boolean column search.
  • A forms overlay must be incorporated in the software to let customer service and customers on an Extranet, view and print an exact replica of documents.
  • Retrieval by customer number or other account identifier across document types to allow all statements, bills, credit memos, electronic applications, and related report data to be available in a virtual electronic file folder. For example, a broker could enter the customer account number or social security number and have instant access to statements, confirmation notices, and year-end 1099 interest and dividend notices without returning to the main screen to re-enter the individual document search criteria.
  • Transformation of documents for delivery through the Internet must be fast and transparent to the user. Documents (reports and bills) should be selectively "pushed" to any subscriber.
  • Annotations to documents to facilitate internal communication and responses to follow-up customer calls.
  • Fill-in-the-blank extraction software that lets non-programmers "tell" the software which fields to extract from document applications to create the metadata index database. Extraction of metadata index fields must exist for operational (line data) reports as well as statement and bill (all-points addressable intelligent print data stream) formats such as AFP and Metacode.
  • The metadata index must allow linking of different document types in the repository without a user requirement to return to the main retrieval screen. For example, invoices should be automatically linked to credit memos and check images.
  • The performance of the index database must not degrade as the history warehouse expands over a seven- to 10-year legal document life.
  • Query software that does not require programming or complicated SQL search rules should be available for mining the history warehouse. An easy to use capability should exist to extract and normalize data fields and export them to spreadsheets, data warehouses, multidimensional online transaction processing software (OLAP) or create new (ad hoc) reports.
  • Administration module with individual user statistics (accesses by user, by document, and the time it was accessed).
  • Security at the document and page level must limit access to documents i.e. Broker "A" should not be able to access Broker "B"'s customer's statements. This field specific index must also link to the enterprise Internet security server to insure authorized access to documents.
  • Must allow any document from any system to be retrieved, viewed, printed, faxed, e-mailed or transformed and sent to an Internet browser.
  • Long-term history must be available for customer service, legal, accounting, and business intelligence functions. A system must therefore be capable of storing and indexing millions of documents without performance degradation.
  • ERM systems should be capable of accepting, indexing and storing print data file formats from heterogeneous (legacy, ERP, or other disparate) computer systems.
  • ERM document metadata must be integrated with workflow applications allowing them to automatically control and route documents throughout a department or enterprise to improve business processes. An example of a Workflow task is a credit card bill that needs to be forwarded to another department for adjustment or for review for a credit line increase.
  • An application programming interface (API) should let users link to other information sites to enable seamless links to image or text document repositories, workflow, application servers, collaboration software or object servers, such as voice or video data stores.
Workflow — Leveraging The Universal Access Of ERM
As described above, ERM plays a critical role in providing access to the full range and diversity of corporate documents. Augmenting ERM with workflow technology allows an organization to manage and improve the movement of that information.

Workflow electronically monitors and controls the flow of documents throughout the life of the work process. Work folders can be created to assemble multiple documents, which are used by others in the organization to collaborate on a project or a specific task. For example, when a bill requires another person or department to apply a credit adjustment or send a refund check, workflow rules are invoked to send the bill and the associated instructions to the proper individual.

The facilities for bookmarking, annotation, Web access, and security are features of ERM, which allow integration with workflow systems. When ERM is integrated with workflow, that software can move and manage all of the company's information, both that which comes from outside in the form of letters and faxes and that which comes from inside, the reports, statements, and transaction logs.

Mason Grigsby