Have You Considered How Automation Can Impact Your Workflow?

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 01:00

Financial services, insurance, pharmaceutical, healthcare and other industries are grappling with the challenges presented by heightened government scrutiny. One key challenge is to ensure that critical compliance and marketing documents get where they need to go - on time and accurately. Automated publishing technology is a critical tool in replacing outdated manual publishing processes and addresses these concerns - particularly in the reporting and publishing of financial data for mutual fund companies.

Editor: In our last interview you discussed the benefits of automation on the lives of legal professionals. You also discussed how Data Communiqué has experienced organic growth with existing clients.

Smith: Yes, we have. Due to the significant initial and ongoing ROI realized by departments first to implement the system, Data Communiqué has been working with other departments within these clients to expand the reach of DocuBuilder.

Editor: Could you highlight the ROI that these clients have realized by moving to automation?

Smith: There are many benefits for clients moving to automation - a significantly streamlined process, speed to market, cost savings, control over documents maintained in-house, audit trails and integrity of disclosures, and data and branding in must-communicate documents.

Editor: Are the clients and departments you work with concentrated to a particular industry?

Smith: Historically, our core clients have been mutual fund companies. These companies produce many must-communicate documents that have a regulatory overlay and are produced under strict deadlines. Prior to moving to an automated system, these documents were produced in an antiquated system that was complex, manual and repetitive. The documents we automated include prospectuses, statements of additional information, shareholder reports, fund facts sheets and other quarter-end marketing materials.

However, there are many industries and documents working under similar circumstances that have yet to tap into the benefits of automation and we are determined to continue to seek them out.

Editor: What should a potential client, or a new department within an existing client, look for in their documents when considering automation?

Smith: There are specific document characteristics which lend themselves to automation that result in the highest level of return.

Document automation benefits clients whose documents: (1) share a significant amount of common language; (2) require regular updating, and (3) have a regulatory component, such as government review, approval or filing. Mutual fund prospectuses and annual reports are two obvious examples. These documents require updating at least once a year and the majority of the disclosure is re-purposed within multiple funds in the mutual fund family. Fact sheets and other quarter-end marketing materials are also good candidates for automation.

The goal is to help clients organize the many different departments involved in the system, determine ownership of disclosures and leverage off one central repository. This creates a streamlined process, consistent message and branding, integrity of data and cost control.

There are many examples in other industries that fit this same scenario. Insurance companies, law firms, and audit and consulting firms have discussed automation with us with regard to their own documents or on behalf of their clients. We are continually assessing new documents and processes for automated enhancement.

Editor: Is your solution tailored to mutual fund documents so that you need to build new solutions to accommodate new industries?

Smith: Not at all. DocuBuilder is not a template-based system. In working with mutual fund complexes we realized the importance of customization. We understood the amount of time and money invested in developing branding guidelines and document style. Although much of the disclosure required within these documents was standard, each company had its unique way of formatting disclosure. In addition, it was important for clients to work within a system that could adapt with them as branding and/or disclosure requirements changed.

Data Communiqué's goal was not to take the client's disclosure and fit it into a template style we dictated. Were that the case, we would not have been successful. DocuBuilder is a dynamic rules-based system with a content management library. Therefore, just as the system may be adapted for the many different documents within a mutual fund company, it may just as easily be adapted for documents within other industries.

Editor: Could you explain how a rules-based solution differs from a template-based system?

Smith: A rules-based solution is one that is created on a series of business rules developed together with the Data Communiqué implementation team and the client. These rules allow for output that is exactly to the client's unique specifications.

Documents are broken into a series of components. A component may be as small as a word or as large as several pages of text. Components are housed in the content management library and rules are applied to the components to determine to which document(s) they will apply and in what format. Components from the content library and uploads of financial data are married together into the client's required output in a matter of minutes. Users are able to focus their energy on the disclosure and not on formatting.

In an automated system, various departments are able to collaborate on documents and share disclosures. The same component may have multiple rules applied to it so that it may be re-purposed for several documents. A rules-based system, unlike a template-based system, makes this possible. The system is able to apply portfolio holdings information as a list in shareholder reports, and a pie chart in fact sheets using the same data source without any extra work on the part of the user.

Editor: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Smith: Automation is just beginning to hit its stride and there are tremendous possibilities for growth. The challenge is helping teams realize that there are alternatives to age-old practices. Companies still accept current methods as secure and appropriate because they were considered so years ago; however, upon closer examination, one discovers that these processes have become archaic and are now fraught with risk. Automation can modernize methods and reduce risk once again. Data Communiqué offers consulting services across all industries and is glad to work through this process with clients and develop a plan for automation.

Please email the interviewee at esmith@datacom-usa.com or call (617) 449-0963 with questions about this interview.