Automated Document Factory
The Automated Document Factory 2.0 (ADF 2.0), also known by its earlier generation as simply ADF, is an architecture developed by Gartner to address the unique problems encountered in high volume document production environments especially but not limited to printing and mailing operations. Enterprises use the ADF architecture to provide the foundation for document production operations, such as transaction printing (bills, checks, policies, etc.) and/or marketing collateral (brochures, literature, etc.). Hardware and software technology providers use the ADF 2.0 architecture to frame the products and features they offer to the print operations.
History of the Automated Document Factory
The conceptual work which eventually became the Automated Document Factory was originally developed by Jay Ingalls while he was working for Aetna Life and Casualty. He was charged with the technical responsibility of developing what was referred to as an "Electronic Publishing" system. At that time Aetna, as was the common practice, used manual processes controlled by multiple organizations within the company, to produce its billing/policy materials. Mr. Ingalls conceptualized a methodology using bar codes to transfer intelligence from a printed page to an automated process. Then, as he began to construct a schematic to describe that process he recognized the need to expand that schematic to all the processes involved in high-volume document production and the first ADF type architecture was born. Mr. Ingalls then worked at John Hancock in Boston where he was charged with the technical aspects of developing their check production environment. In building this production environment he became deeply involved with AFP (Advanced Function Printing) and discovered an exit which allowed him to design a method for tracking check production to reduce the potential for losses. These early experiences provided the groundwork for what was to become the Automated Document Factory.
The notion behind the Automated Document Factory (ADF) concept is to provide an architecture for efficiently and cost-effectively producing internal and external printed transaction documents. Documents as defined here are - information structured for human comprehension. As such it includes hard copy documents and digital documents. When properly applied it allows entities to produce high volumes of individualized documents delivered over multiple channels including hard copy and electronic display.
ADF as a named architecture was introduced to the world when first published by Gartner Inc. in 1996. Initially Jay Ingalls, Ron Betrand and others within Gartner slowly unfolded the architecture demonstrating the value to Gartner clients of using the ADF architecture as the foundation for creating and delivering any company's mission-critical, high-volume printed documents with less emphasis on digital documents initially but including them as the increasing need to provide for them was seen by Gartner even at the beginning of the ADF's introduction.
The ADF architecture uses long established factory like production techniques and applies them to document production to ensure lower costs, higher quality, integrity and process controls. The ADF concept expanded quickly as the early adopters who were subscribers to Gartner collaborated with suppliers to develop, implement and refine the necessary tools to make ADF. The vendors recognizing that ADF provided a wonderful way for them to market their products brought the products to XPLOR which at that time was a large international user group of people who used high-volume document production equipment. (Jay Ingalls was a past member of the Board of Directors of XPLOR International.) The widespread acceptance of the concept by both the vendor and user community of the Automated Document Factory concept combined with Garter publishing additional research propelled the ADF architecture forward.
Automated Document Factory defined
The original ADF concept comprised four modules set out with the first three in a linear fashion covering data and material received by the factory through production and delivery. The fourth module sat over the other three and through bi-direction communication with the other three modules controlled other modules and addressed the need for management reports regarding the operation of the factory:
- Input — where all the data and the instructions needed to transform the data into documents enter the ADF
- Transformation and integrated output — where the data and instructions meet and the documents are produced in the appropriate media
- Delivery preparation — where documents are prepared for delivery to the recipient
- Control and reporting — which manages production aspects of the ADF
The modules were tied together with "interfaces". The simple elegance of the ADF architecture lay not in the modules where the architecture defined the "work" required for document production but in the interfaces. Jay Ingalls, in his numerous speeches around the world on behalf of Gartner, always stressed the importance of the interfaces. Defining the input requirements of each module and ensuring that the output of the preceding module matches those requirement insures that the document factory functions perfectly. Mr. Ingalls often said that, from a pure management perspective, control of the modules is far less important than control of the interfaces.
ADF 2.0 - the next generation
ADF 2.0 was unveiled by Gartner Inc. in November 2007 with the publication of Introducing ADF 2.0, the Next-Generation Automated Document Factory by Pete Basiliere and Ken Weilerstein. ADF 2.0 extends the existing four modules with two more:
- Document design and content integration — where designers and design tools integrate with operations management and variable data printing tools
- Response management — which comprises integrated response analysis techniques
Print and mail facilities must be able to produce high volumes of personalized and relevant communications. The ADF 2.0 strategy provides technology providers and print service providers with the framework for developing and implementing the architectures and tools necessary for 21st-century communications.
The ADF 2.0 architecture is the foundation for numerous applications of personalized variable data printing. Printing companies with an ADF in place are able to smoothly compile, print, mail/ship and analyze a wide range of marketing and transactional communications including CRM-based printing and trans-promo (or transactional-promotional) printing.
Subsequently, Madison Advisors also noted the evolving ADF handles more than just document production. "ADF now includes data management, content management and integration, color management, and document composition functions previously found upstream."
ADF 2.0 vendors typically provide software that processes data through three or more of the ADF 2.0 modules either with its proprietary software or in partnership with another provider. Several firms also have software capable of accepting and repurposing (if needed) content from multiple applications and integrating with third-party hardware and software.
- Introducing ADF 2.0, the Next-Generation Automated Document Factory by Pete Basiliere and Ken Weilerstein (Gartner Inc., 2007)
- Automated Document Factory (ADF) by Jay Ingalls (Gartner Inc., 1996)
- Creating a True Transactional ADF
- Emerging Trends in the Automated Document Factory
- OutputLinks - High Volume Transaction Output articles on ADF