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The Vital Role of E-Presentment in Online Self-Service

By Stuart Butts
Jul 31, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Driven by competitive pressure to improve the customer experience, organizations are moving toward an online self-service model that pushes the boundaries of electronic information presentation, or e-presentment. Yet as they embrace this model, new challenges await, including how to ensure customers have seamless online access to relevant and accurate information in the format they want.

The Vital Role of E-Presentment in Online Self-Service

E-presentment is the process of delivering traditionally paper-based documents online in electronic formats. Its most significant application has been with high volume transaction output (HVTO). HVTO includes customer-facing documents such as statements, bills, policies, explanations of benefits and customer correspondence.

HVTO documents are usually produced in very large batches on a recurring basis, and have been typically designed and composed for paper-based fulfillment. With the advent of e-presentment, HVTO has become the highest value online content delivered through self-service environments. It is now an important factor in the overall customer experience.

At the Core

At the core of any e-presentment architecture is an enterprise content management (ECM) system.While most ECM systems can archive corporate information and automate content-related processes, there remains a disconnect between how and where information is stored and how it is retrieved and formatted for e-presentment.

HVTO documents are produced in print stream formats such as IBM AFP or Xerox Metacode -- the languages of large production printers. But AFP and Metacode are not "human visual" document formats. In order to present these documents online they must be transformed into alternative formats such as PDF, TIFF or HTML, using what is known as "print stream transformation technology."

Transforming HVTO formats into visual formats before loading into corporate archives would seem to answer the challenge of visual online presentation, but this approach brings its own challenges.

HVTO print streams and line data formats are relatively small in size when compared to visual presentation formats such as PDF and TIFF. Transforming documents to visual formats during the load into an ECM solution, prior to online presentation, can lead to significant additional storage requirements with documents growing exponentially in size as a result of the process.

Furthermore, by transforming documents prior to storage, organizations may be exposing themselves to potential compliance issues if legal requirements demand that unaltered originals of produced information be available for extended periods of time.

One solution, however, is to store native document formats within the corporate ECM system and transform documents "on the fly" to visual formats when documents are retrieved. This requires high-speed document retrieval and subsecond print stream transformation to deliver an optimized online self-service experience.

On the Fly

Document transformation on the fly uses single instancing concepts to reduce document storage requirements, especially for PDF and native print streams. Document storage reduction (DSR) is a data deduplication solution used to separate the transactional content within HVTO documents from the common resources that are duplicated, such as company logos, branding, graphics, fonts, forms, and marketing messages.

Saving a single copy of the composed resources can reduce storage requirements by as much as 90 percent. However, document reconstitution and any subsequent transformation or repurposing must occur with tremendous speed and accuracy when the document is requested, and the entire process must be unnoticeable to the end user.

Another major challenge for organizations moving toward e-presentment is dealing with the actual presentation of online information. Many organizations hold information in multiple electronic formats and in different physical locations to meet various internal business requirements. This presents a challenge when attempting to integrate this information with corporate portals and Web presences, and assuring that online document delivery performance meets corporate service level agreements (SLAs).

Often, the technology chosen for e-presentment must bridge the architectural gap between the presentation layer and the storage layer. Web service integration is offered by many of the leading ECM solutions in order to address this issue. The technology investment must, however, be scalable and provide configurable repository adapters that take advantage of resource caching solutions and connection pooling, as it is not uncommon for self-service environments to support millions of customers online.

Other Benefits

On top of financial and the obvious environmental benefits, e-presentment provides other benefits for companies looking to differentiate themselves through an online self-service model:

  • Content repurposing for straight-through processing: The statements currently produced by many organizations are no longer static printed documents. Many companies are already offering content extracts of previously static information in structured data formats such as XML or CSV. These structured data extracts can be directly imported into back-office applications in a straight-through processing manner or manipulated by individual recipients within personal spreadsheets. Content repurposing offers a massive reduction in downstream manual processing and results in real benefits -- including cost savings and error elimination from rekeying -- for both internal and external end customers.
  • Dynamic content consolidation for a complete picture: With dynamic content consolidation, multiple related pieces of information can be merged or linked together to provide an expanded and/or supportive view of a single transaction or holistic customer position. Think, for example, of a bank statement where all relevant check images are appended to the end of the statement or hyperlinked within it and then made available online. The time savings for end-users who would have to search for supporting materials is tremendous. Providing customers with a consolidated view of all their transactions across multiple lines of business, or over expanded periods of time, provides an immense feeling of personalization and exceptional service.
  • Post-processing composition: In post-processing composition, previously produced and archived documents are manipulated in real-time based on changing customer preferences, changes in corporate branding, and advanced analytics. In an online world, customer profiles are constantly updated, and what was true at the time of document production may no longer hold true at the time of presentation. With post-processing, composition documents are recomposed, assembled and presented online in real-time. These documents reflect the latest possible customer information and can take advantage of up-to-the- minute analytical trending reports extracted from corporate data warehouses. The online documents produced reflect the most current marketing messages and offers that are personally relevant to the consumer.
  • PDF Document Decomposition: HVTO documents that are produced in print stream or PDF formats offer a static presentation of information to the end customer. Advanced integrated document solutions promote the use of sophisticated business logic within an end-to-end process flow that combines print stream transformation with structured data translation in order to break down the static documents into individual XML elements. An HTML style sheet is created and applied to the extracted XML content, resulting in a very interactive customer experience.

    For example, a mobile phone company wanted to completely differentiate itself from its competitors by allowing residential and corporate users to sort and extract their call transactions dynamically within their self-service portal. By allowing users and corporations to manipulate the content in real-time and extract to repurposable formats, the company saved its consumers tremendous time and effort and offered a truly exceptional customer experience.

In order to effectively benefit from e-presentment and enhance the overall customer experience, organizations must evaluate their current and future needs. They must also analyze the competitive landscape and invest in an adaptive technology framework that will meet their immediate and ongoing business requirements.


Stuart Butts is chairman, CEO and president of Xenos, which provides solutions to process, extract, transform, repurpose and personalize high volumes of data and documents for storage, real-time access, e-presentment, printing and delivery in numerous formats across multiple channels.


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Is "too much screen time" really a problem?
Yes -- smartphone addiction is ruining relationships.
Yes -- but primarily due to parents' failure to regulate kids' use.
Possibly -- long-term effects on health are not yet known.
Not really -- lack of self-discipline and good judgement are the problems.
No -- angst over "screen time" is just the latest overreaction to technology.
No -- what matters is the quality of content, not the time spent viewing it.