Getting a Handle on ERP Output

IBM Printing Systems and StreamServe team up to help customers manage the printed output from their ERP systems.

IBM Printing Systems and StreamServe Inc. announced an alliance Wednesday that should help customers get a handle on the printed output from their ERP systems.

A large company can have hundreds to thousands of printers managing communications output for a single enterprise resource planning system, according to IBM officials.

As part of the alliance, StreamServe, which makes business communication software, will integrate its Business Communication Platform with IBMs Infoprint Workflow and Infoprint Manager software to create a single platform for managing ERP communications.

The new product, Output Management System, sits on top of a companys ERP system and translates the outbound information into a specified format.

That information is then sent to partners in whatever format they specify, be it e-mail, PDF, HTTP, EDI or XML.

"Weve taken a hub approach, where all communications from all applications go through the hub and emerge in a specified format," said Nick Earle, CEO at StreamServe, in London. "For example, if Im sending an invoice, you tell me how you want it--PDF or Oracle format or blended with a bar code. So the recipient specifies the layout, and we handle the print management and workflow aspect."

Because StreamServes software is essentially a coding engine, it can translate within a matter of hours. Likewise, according to Earle, StreamServe components have 22 ERP connections, which covers about 99 percent of the commercial ERP world.

The OMS also translates legacy data output through a mapping process that utilizes a graphical user interface.

"Were not connecting at the transaction level; were connecting at the output level," said Earle.

Its also possible to have a bidirectional exchange of business documents to the ERP system. This allows a company to electronically receive information that would normally be faxed or mailed, such as a phone bill.

"We know that companies are doing about 90 percent of their [ERP] output through paper," said Rich Troksa, business line executive, enterprise output solutions for IBM Printing Systems. "Through this, companies can tune their output to the user and reduce their amount of printing. Also, this allows a company to begin to make the transition to electronic transport."

The Output Management System is available now. Pricing depends on volume and starts at about $100,000 at the low end, up to $1 million on the high end.