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Ensuring the Integrity of Shared Information
Dynamic documents extend the lifespan of your work.
Posted Jan 19, 2009
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In industries where data constantly changes, working with out-of-date information carries a high price. Yet financial services, manufacturing, life sciences, and other companies risk paying that price every time they use static documents to collaborate and share dynamic information. The data in these static documents grows stale as soon as the documents are published, giving recipients a snapshot in time rather than a current view of business.

Most companies accept the immediate obsolescence of their documents as an unavoidable cost of doing business. It's not. When dynamic documents replace static documents, users can bring together disparate, distributed data and content and combine it in a single document that is always accurate and up to date.

Dynamic documents blend the rich context, persistence and portability of traditional, static documents with the live data and an interactive user experience of business applications. In turn, dynamic documents promise to transform information sharing and collaboration-and other document-centric promises-in any industry marked by constantly changing, mission critical data.

Information Sharing In Action

In the air. An airline pilot's electronic flight bag, or interactive electronic technical manuals (IETM), are perfect examples of the rapid, constant change that dynamic documents can handle. Airlines must share the most authoritative, up-to-date information with their pilots and maintenance crews. The cost is too high to deliver anything less.

The challenge here is twofold. First, ensuring that the documents are absolutely up to date when the documents themselves comprise hundreds or even thousands of data elements that may be changing. Second, ensuring that only the most relevant information is provided, so people in complex roles and under pressure to turn aircraft at the gate do not have to comb through pages of irrelevant information.

Dynamic documents ensure the information presented is literally always up to date-not since the last publishing, but since the last refresh or local print. Dynamic documents also store the application logic in the document itself, so it is highly aware of its environment-imagine a document invoking a Web service query about local weather conditions and dynamically rendering the policy and procedure for icy conditions, windy conditions, northerly winds, etc.

At the bargaining table. Dynamic documents also deliver value in more collaborative processes, such as a manufacturer's sales and operations business processes. Here, sales, marketing and operations departments jointly grapple with issues that cross departmental boundaries, including forecasting demand, coordinating production, and making tradeoffs in profitability by dynamically matching demand and production.

Today, this process relies on multiple static spreadsheets with nearly constant confusion about the latest versions. With a dynamic document, each participant gets the latest version with up-to-date XML links to pricing, procurement and other variables stored in ERP, CRM, SCM and other enterprise systems of record. No more manual reconciliation and validation and no more anxiety about whether the information is right.

In the supply chain. Another collaborative issue dynamic documents address is seamless information sharing in trading partner relationships. Imagine a high-tech manufacturer with hundreds of suppliers and with a contract manufacturer that actually assembles the manufacturer's product-a common business model in high tech.

The manufacturer has supply chain management software, but not all of its suppliers do. Instead of requiring every supplier to install costly supply chain software, the manufacturer utilizes dynamic documents, so they can collaborate around demand forecasts, inventory data and production schedules.

A supplier receives an email from the manufacturer with the dynamic document attached. The supplier uses the dynamic document to access the latest information, spots a potential shortfall in the manufacturer's inventory and quickly addresses it before it becomes problem.

Likewise, the same high-tech firm could seamlessly share forecast data with its contract manufacturer in a dynamic document. In the same document, the contract manufacturer could share its capacity data and production schedules. Manufacturer and contract manufacturer could collaboratively align capacity with demand to maximize revenue and minimize cost and risk.

While the examples are endless, the point is clear: Dynamic documents provide the only information sharing and collaboration medium that can counter the high cost of static documents with data views that are appropriate, accurate, and current for employees, partners, and customers.

About the Author

Jake Sorofman is senior vice president of marketing and business development, North America and EMEA, for JustSystems, and ISV specializing in XML and information management technologies. Learn more about JustSystems at http://na.justsystems.com, and contact Jake at jake.sorofman@justsystems.com.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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