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Jun 1, 2000 12:00 AM

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Printing is just one of many value-added services for this firm

We view ourselves less as a company that puts ink on paper and more as a company that manages data that our customers want to put in the hands of their audience," explains Jeffrey Riback, CEO of Data Communique International. The business, which is a subsidiary of Havas Advertising, Diversified Agencies was launched in 1996 and is based in Carlstadt, NJ. By 1999, it employed 185, and reported sales of $31 million.

The current structure of the company is the result of acquisitions made a couple years prior. In 1998, the company bought Waldon Press, a printer servicing the financial sector, and Data Communique, a business offering database publishing. In 1999, the company assumed its present name.

Riback likens his company's structure to that of a three-legged stool-its core competencies are electronic publishing and document database management, output and distribution. These focuses are meant to carry the client's project from its inception to its intended audience. Most of the company's customers are in the financial and pharmaceutical industries.

The company specializes in data repurposing, which involves building a data repository from client information and linking it to smart document templates. From there, the data can be output to such media as the Internet, a CD-ROM or a printed piece. Or, the repurposed data can flow into new generations or different versions of documents.

Riback provides the following example of a typical repurposing job: A mutual fund company produces fund fact sheets, which are typically glossy coated marketing pieces that tout a particular mutual fund. The fact sheet contains data from a variety of sources, such as a custodial bank, the fund's accounting, legal and marketing departments, etc. Data Communique International builds a data repository and interfaces with the sources. It then builds fund-fact sheet templates, into which data from the repository flows, without the need for typesetting. Data Communique then adds any graphics; once complete, the document is ready for proofing and publishing.

Much of the data in the fund fact sheets is repeated in the mutual fund's semiannual and annual reports. To repurpose the information, Data Communique takes the necessary figures from the repository and flows it into a new document template.

"We're taking mutual fund fact sheets that take people a month or longer to do and doing them in a week," says Riback. This, in essence, is Data Communique's secret to success: "The key is cycle time reduction. The more we can show people how to reduce the time it takes to get their information out on the street, the more in demand our services will be."

Communicating the advantage of automated data repurposing can be a daunting task-although the advantages are obvious, it would be easy for a prospect to get lost in computer terminology. To combat this, Data Communique salespeople engage in "process mapping." A potential customer is asked to map out every step of its document production and distribution process. Then, the salesperson shows them the timeline for the same process automated.

"We're not out there mass-marketing ourselves," says Riback. "We target key customers who we know could benefit from an automated process."

By reducing the customer's cycle time, or the time it takes to get its information to market, Data Communique has the opportunity to offer its other core competencies-printing and distribution.

The company owns three web and five sheet-fed presses, including two Xerox 6135s and a DocuTech. One of its specialties is print-on-demand, a service it mentions when relevant but doesn't constantly pitch. "We don't talk about a form of output," explains Riback. "We don't go in and say, 'you should be doing print-on-demand, you should be doing print, you should be doing Internet.'" Rather, the company tries to get an understanding of what the prospect publishes, the process involved, how long it takes and the ultimate results.

"Who knows? Maybe there will be an invention in a few years that will have nothing to do with print or the Internet, but the data will be doing something else. Our job is to have the data and the client and figure out where it's going from there," suggests Riback.