Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow--Green Business is Good Business
Sustainability by nature is about the future. It is about business practices that balance the interests of people, the planet, and profitability. Environmental stewardship is more than a fad or public relations stint. As more customers demand business partners that can prove their sustainability, green business is becoming good business. As a result, it's becoming easier to partner with companies that are focused on environmental responsibility.
Disaster Recovery for Transaction Print and Mail Operations
By Mike Ruffalo, BÖWE BELL + HOWELL
With the important role that transactional documents play in today’s world, it is notable that so many print and mail operations have yet to establish a robust and sustainable disaster recovery plan in the event that their operations cease due to natural or man-made disasters. While there are many resources on the topic of disaster recovery in general, we offer here a few things to consider that are specific to document processing operations:
The single most important thing that drives your recovery plan is the what?
A solid plan takes into account the type of event, but more importantly, what the effect of the event is on operations. Planning starts with an understanding of the contingencies that can be made in the face of: loss of workplace (floor, building, campus or region), loss of key personnel, loss of access to critical IT applications, loss of critical services (internal infrastructure and external suppliers) and loss of critical assets (such as printing and inserting platforms, servers, postage application systems, sorting and document tracking and workflow reporting). A loss of any one or a number of these functions requires a unique approach.
Best practice dictates that we manage the business continuity plan by function. Most print and mail operations can break down their functions into the following:
– Data management
– Production management
– Document management control/item management
– Customer service
Data management – things to consider:
- Who is my IT-sponsored data back-up provider?
- Where is my data back-up provider located?
- Does my IT department back up data files, print files or both?
- If print files are backed up, are they fully composed print-ready files?
- Who owns the print resources?
A robust disaster recovery plan includes providing fully composed print files to your disaster recovery document processing provider. If you are unable to do this, you should detail any print resources required as part of your business continuity plan. Make sure that any changes in print resources are updated and shared with your provider on a frequent basis. If a new application is added or changes are made to an existing print application, update the plan and let your provider know. The key here is continuous communications between you and your disaster recovery provider to ensure the plan is up to date.
Production management – things to consider:
Having your provider ramp up document production is a minimum requirement during a disaster declaration. Working with your provider in the establishment of mutually agreed upon Recovery Time Objectives is key in setting expectations. Your internal and external service-level agreements are only one variable in establishing realistic recovery standards with your provider. Cash flow, regulatory fines and possible customer cancellations should also be considered when defining production management standards. Once your recovery time objectives are established, work with your provider in providing relevant production reporting that ensure service-level agreements are being met.
Item management – things to consider:
Item management should be established so that each individual document that is produced by your provider is tracked in sequence. Item management requires complete reconciliation of the print file to the inserted output ensuring that all finished envelopes are accounted for. When damages occur it is important to establish re-print functionality that is error-free. Ask your provider if they are using vision systems, which enable envelope sequence verification, correct postage application and address verification. This technology is available and should be deployed as a quality standard.
Customer service – things to consider:
How will you handle how your customer service team communicates effectively with customers during an interruption of operations? A solid disaster recovery solution should be able to report what has been completed so that your customer service team can easily and efficiently discern where a particular document is within the life cycle and more importantly, with the advent of the Intelligent Mail® barcode, where it is within the USPS® delivery cycle.
Make sure you know what is critical—and what isn’t
When developing your plan, conduct a critical applications review to ensure that you have defined what documents are mission-critical. Tie each document to internal and external communications and service-level agreements that need to be considered before a disaster occurs. Just as important, you need to shed the documents that are not considered critical communications as time is of the essence and every moment counts. Critical external documents to consider include:
· Revenue impact
· Regulatory requirements
· Critical customer communications
· Checks/payroll/accounts payable, etc.
Critical internal documents to be considered include:
· Business intelligence reports
· Accounts receivable and reporting
As your company explores disaster recovery for print and mail operations, consider partners with commitments to creating a manageable business continuity plan, ensuring a secure environment and continuing to offer annual audits to ensure the plan is current.
An ideal partner should understand your business inside and out, demonstrating their ability to mirror your operations with the same precision and attention to detail that you employ each day. A business continuity team should seamlessly transition operations from your facility to theirs and eventually back again. The end result should be a concise, well-communicated plan that can be collectively implemented by both parties.
Mike Ruffalo, Business Development Manager for Business Continuity Services at BÖWE BELL + HOWELL, is hosting the webinar Mission-critical document processing for business continuity planning.
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