A custom enterprise publishing solution built by Typefi and Crema enables Lockton account managers to create brand-compliant client documents in minutes.

Video transcript

Lockton Companies is the world’s largest, privately-held insurance brokerage. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, Lockton provides insurance, risk management, employee benefits and retirement services to 60,000+ clients around the globe.

Lockton’s Design and Document Service (DDS) team creates tens of thousands of documents in Adobe InDesign every year, from day-to-day policy documents through to highly-designed reports and proposals.

The challenge: Reducing turnaround time in a high-volume publishing environment

A significant portion of the DDS team’s routine workload includes custom strategic planning and policy renewal documents, authored by account managers for Lockton’s clients. Account managers send content for each document to the DDS team—including text, Excel spreadsheets, charts and concept graphics—for layout in InDesign, and publication as a PDF.

While these documents generally follow a standard format, an average 30-page booklet still takes around 12 hours of manual production time over several days.

This sometimes leads to account managers on tight deadlines taking matters into their own hands, creating client documents in Microsoft Word or other programs, with inconsistent results.

“We have high standards for the work product at Lockton. Design matters.”

— Carly Thompson, Lockton

In 2018, the Lockton team began investigating ways to enable faster turnaround of brand-compliant documents, and free the DDS team from repetitive typesetting work so they could focus on more creative design projects.

“We were trying to come up with a way to get some of the busywork off the design team’s desks,” said Lisa Childers, Senior Graphic Designer at Lockton.

“Pretty much the only reason that the account managers can’t create these documents themselves is the fact that they don’t know how to use InDesign, nor do they have access to it.”

What if Lockton’s account managers could create professional client documents using InDesign templates created by the DDS team—without ever having to use InDesign?

Enter Typefi: Fast, automatic layout with Adobe InDesign

The Lockton team discovered Typefi while conducting online research. A global leader in automated publishing software, Typefi utilises Adobe InDesign Server for professional automatic layout.

Eric Damitz, Typefi Senior Solution Consultant, said it was straightforward to transfer Lockton’s existing InDesign templates into Typefi for automation.

“They already had InDesign templates built, so we understood their design very well,” he explained. “Then we got into how they create the content.”

At first, it seemed as though Typefi Writer would be a good way to handle the input. Typefi Writer enables authors to add structured markup to Microsoft Word documents, embed Excel spreadsheets, add links to images, and then send the content to Typefi with a click.

In just a few minutes, Typefi lays out the content in a nominated InDesign template, creates a PDF, and returns it to the author for review. Layout happens automatically behind the scenes, without the author ever having to open a design program.

However, with hundreds of account managers requiring training in the new system, the project team quickly realised that Typefi Writer was not going to be an efficient solution for Lockton.

“Working in Word isn’t an unfamiliar thing, but adding a layer of markup to it using Typefi Writer, there’s a learning curve around that,” Eric explained.

“The Lockton content is pretty complex. There are a lot of tables with a lot of numbers and data in them, all in Excel. So, instead of just writing all the content in one Word file, it’s coming from a lot of different places.”

Brian Roberts, Lockton Vice President of Operations, had an idea: What if account managers could simply add their content into an intuitive custom web-based UI and send it to Typefi from there?

Enter Crema: Custom publishing workflow software

Crema is a digital product agency that builds custom web and mobile apps for innovative industry leaders. Like Lockton, Crema is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri.

“What made Lockton and Typefi an ideal client for Crema was their innovative mindset,” said Brandon Blackman, Product Manager at Crema.

“Lockton was highly motivated to find something that could increase efficiencies within their organisation. Right off the bat, they were willing to try new things and experiment with new ways in order to make their business better.”

The Crema team worked closely with Lockton and Typefi to build a user-friendly front-end solution that would integrate with Typefi and allow Lockton account managers to author, store, manage, collaborate, and publish the documents they needed.

A series of screenshots from Lockton's Fuse Document Builder.

“We were able to collaborate very effectively using Slack,” said Carly Thompson, Technology, Digital Marketing, and Branding Consultant at Lockton.

“Crema created a channel where we were able to communicate with the Crema team and internal Lockton players from various areas of the company, as well as our Typefi teammates.”

The three teams also met regularly via phone and video conference.

“I don’t want to say it was easy, because it maybe trivialises it, but it was a very nice process,” Eric Damitz said. “Everybody understood what was going on very easily, and it’s really cool, what ended up getting built.”

After starting with a design and prototype phase, Crema progressed to building out a full app: The Fuse Document Builder.

Fuse allows account managers to choose the type of document they want to create, enter text, images, and Excel files via an online interface and, finally, click print to produce a PDF.

Behind the scenes, Fuse converts the input to Content XML, the data format used by Typefi to encode content, and sends it to the Typefi Server via API.

Typefi then automatically lays out the source content in the corresponding InDesign template, and returns a PDF to the account manager in Fuse in just minutes.

“By giving our account managers something that’s so fast and easy to use, it’s a lot easier for them than trying to create a booklet themselves in Word,” Lisa Childers said. “And as far as maintaining branding consistency, it’s already there, it’s built in.”

Fast turnaround, quality design, and more time for creative work

By mid-2020, the Lockton Design and Document Service team had set up six types of documents in Fuse, with Lisa creating the Adobe InDesign templates using Typefi Designer.

“The kinds of documents we’re putting into Typefi are those where the initial design template needs to be there, but the individual documents don’t really need a designer’s hand,” Lisa said.

“Once we’ve built up the shell, it’s pretty easy. I can do a 40-page template in 15 minutes or so.”

— Lisa Childers, Lockton

Easy template creation combined with a staged roll-out of Fuse to small teams means that each new user group receives training and templates optimised for their needs. Once onboarded, account managers can create the documents they need for their clients in minutes, instead of the 12 hours that it took previously.

Meanwhile, by removing the regular, time-consuming task of laying out large day-to-day policy documents, the DDS team can instead focus on more creative work.

“Instead of taking 30 pages of documents and turning it into a booklet, the design team can focus on creating better graphics and charts to illustrate the reports, as well as investing more time in designing one-off documents,” Lisa said.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a 2020 story without mention of COVID-19, so how did the pandemic and the shift to remote work impact on the Fuse project?

“It’s certainly made it more urgent that we get it going well, because we’re not in an office together anymore,” Lisa said. “People can’t just swing down to the design department and drop off a stack of papers.”

Shared successes make for a stronger team

An added benefit of the Fuse project has been increased communication and stronger relationships between business units at Lockton.

“It really is a group effort, because you need people that understand the business, you need somebody that understands it from the design side of things and how the programs work,” Lisa explained.

“There was a bit of a learning curve there” Carly added. “Like when Lisa talked about templates, I was thinking a template was something else. But once we got all that translated, it was a lot easier to communicate, and we could really start collaborating on solutions.”

When the project team was on the same page and speaking the same language, everything started coming together.

“It’s been pretty great to see it go from this sort of nebulous idea to actually having it work, and with people using it,” Lisa said. “I feel like we’ve really put together a good thing here.”