In an earlier post, Managed File Transfer (MFT) is about PEOPLE Getting Work Done, I made the off-handed comment that our customers “do not move files for fun”, and what I hope to do in this post is expand on that idea a little bit. What I was trying to get across with my glib comment is the idea that our customers use Managed File Transfer, (MFT) as a way to move files between themselves and their partners in order to solve larger business challenges.
Moving files from point A to point B is pretty much never an end in itself. Rather, files get moved in the service of larger goals and processes that bind business partners together: Things like order-to-cash, insurance-claims adjudication, or content syndication, to name a few. At some point in each of these business processes, one or more files move between parties. In fact, that file transfer may be the critical bit of connective tissue that ties the parties together. But the story never ends there.
MFT is all about moving files to get work done, and in many cases the MFT system is doing some of that work, whether it be to:
- Automate repetitive processes
- Intelligently route content based on surface or deep metadata in the files
- Process files to prepare them for the next step in a flow
- Integrate with other systems to bind transfer events directly to the back office
So how does all this play out in the business world? Consider the following examples, all drawn from real customers (whose names have been changed, to protect the innocent):
- A large healthcare provider does business with a nationwide network of hospitals that deliver employee time card information as scan files, using an automated-delivery client. When the scans arrive, the MFT system responds by checking the files, logging their arrival and other metadata, and then routing the files to a records-management system to be processed.
- An insurance company receives formal requests for claims information from outside partners, and responds by piecing together content from an internal document-management system. When request files arrive, they are processed and interrogated, and data from the claims is used to retrieve the correct content from their document repository. The result is delivered back to the requester as a package assembled using the APIs of the MFT system.
- A software services company utilizes secure MFT in order to move large packages of sensitive data related to technical-support cases back and forth between technical support and end customers. The files could be database content (with sensitive patient data or social security numbers) or executables too large for other means of exchange. When files arrive, processing in the MFT solution connects them to support records to maintain the continuity of the support experience and history.
Every one of these examples involves the transfer of files between parties, as well as the handling and processing of these files to achieve some greater end. In the case of the healthcare provider, the files are checked for validity, and then routed directly to a backend system in a straight-through process. In the case of the insurance company, the MFT system and the document repository interact with one another through an additional bit of custom code that utilizes the APIs of each to automate a process. In the case of the software services company, managed file transfer automation is used to intelligently bind delivered contents to records in a support system.
The patterns in these examples represent the rule with MFT, not the exception. It is never the case that the mere arrival of a file represents the end of the process. Typically, it is the start of a process, or the bit of tissue that links two or more parties in a business process.
That’s why a capable MFT system needs to support options that include:
- Basic file-handling operations like renaming, padding/trimming, and metadata augmentation
- Archive/package handling operations like zip/unzip, encrypt/decrypt
- Integrity checking operations like validation of structured documents, translation or transformation
- Data clearing operations like Anti-virus and Data-loss-preventions workflows
- Standards-based integration options that allow for custom interactions between MFT and other systems driven by code or scripts
- Basic Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) operations that allow content to be loaded into a data-base for further processing
How are you handling your end-to-end processes today when it comes to file transfer? Are you finding gaps in your processes because your file-transfer solution doesn’t support the range of tasks needed to ensure security and smooth file exchanges?