By Stephanie Pieruccini
The state of customer communications has been a roller coaster of changes over the past decade with new communication channels and an influx of solutions for managing and delivering. Understanding the current market and what is expected of enterprises by government regulations, security certifications, and ultimately their customers, can be a huge undertaking for organizations.
This endeavor becomes even more considerable when trying to build an infrastructure of solutions to manage all of these requirements; and thus, has resulted in the current state of enterprise communications infrastructures consisting of a mix of integrated legacy and modern platforms, post-composition, data management, and point solutions designed to fill gaps or deliver communications to specific channels. Many of these infrastructures are managed solely by talented IT developers.
While the infrastructure for managing communications varies from organization to organization, the challenges are often similar. Madison Advisors’ recent research report, entitled Hosted Managed Services: Changing the Paradigm in Customer Communications Management (CCM), finds that the lack of a well-integrated solution may lead to a host of other challenges including enterprise core systems that produce non-standard data output, digital assets that are hard coded into the document applications or stored in multiple repositories, over reliance on post composition tools, multiple archive solutions for storing documents, and increased regulatory and compliance burden.
Enterprise Core Systems
Core application systems create output files in various data formats, including partially composed files that are also non-standard. These files are intended to act as the inputs to the document composition process. As a result, multiple data preparation and pre-composition processes are necessary in order to create a standard input file structure.
Digital Assets Hard Coded or Stored
Logos, signatures, and other variable content, such as regulatory text, are sometimes hard coded within the document, thus increasing the time to market and associated costs to make requested changes. Many organizations also maintain multiple content repositories across the organization, leading to redundant maintenance for common assets, issues with version control, and disparate workflows in the composition process.
Over-Reliance on Post Composition Tools
Post composition software is an important component of the CCM technology toolkit and can be useful when there is a requirement to make a rapid or interim change or to standardize output. The challenge comes into play when post composition tools are used as a cure-all because of the inability to make the required changes within the composition tool(s). This results in additional complexity that is difficult to understand and unravels when it becomes necessary. Some organizations have upped the ante by adding multiple post composition tools into the mix, further complicating the environment.
Multiple Archive Solutions for Storage
Customer communications are typically stored in PDF format for future retrieval, to support paper suppression, or stored as print data that is converted to PDF on request. Often, multiple archive solutions are used, which results in operational inefficiencies, redundancies in infrastructure to support the archive solutions, and higher resource costs. In addition, the entire content of the envelope is not archived if marketing inserts, privacy notices, and other documentation is included in the package and finished on the print shop floor. Compliance regulations and corresponding audit requirements continue to change and become stricter, thus requiring companies to re-examine their existing archival solution. It will no longer be sufficient to store a PDF version of a document in an archive; companies should also retain all metadata associated with document creation and delivery, including the associated audit trail for all changes and approvals. Frequently, on demand servicing documents are not included in enterprise archives, which prevents customer service representatives from viewing correspondence as received by the customer.
Compliance regulations and associated agencies such as SSAE16 (formerly SAS70), Sarbanes Oxley, HIPAA, Dodd-Frank, CFPB, and Gramm-Leach-Bliley have been given expanded reach and impact. Data security breaches continue to make headlines. Penalties for non-compliance and the price an organization pays from a financial and reputational perspective after a data breach or a compliance violation have caused senior management to evaluate CCM technology decisions.
To solve these challenges, enterprises are inclined to purchase yet another tool. However, multiple tools and content repositories also tend to make it harder to communicate with customers using a consistent voice and brand. A new service delivery model is needed, one that combines the features of these tools with a fully integrated suite of technology services engineered to support the end-to-end customer communications lifecycle. This is where a new category of service providers with a focus on closing the gaps found in failed CCM implementations has emerged. Madison Advisors has categorized these types of solutions as CCM Hosted Managed Services (HMS). There are three primary players in the CCM HMS category—Cedar Document Technologies, DataOceans, and NEPS.
So What is CCM HMS?
Madison Advisors considers the seven capabilities depicted and defined here as the essential components of a CCM HMS platform. The offerings of the previously mentioned service providers include these elements although each provider has its own, slightly different approach as to how these items are addressed. These elements also align quite well to the consistent workflows found in communications management and include data aggregation, content management, account profile and delivery preference management, separate document composition and post composition, multi-channel delivery, archive, and dashboard and reporting.
CCM HMS providers set up their systems in parallel to the existing communications infrastructure, working hand-in-hand to keep the communications flowing while implementing a framework that will support how communications are managed in the future. Their services range in options from advising on documents design, to complete document conversion projects, which is significant for many large organizations dealing with significant, aging legacy infrastructure still outputting communications every day.
In addition to migrating and redesigning applications to the new workflow, CCM HMS providers go further upstream to manage the whole communications creation process all the way through delivery of the communication in the channel of the customer’s choice. Preference management is typically an offering as well, enabling the enterprise to manage customer delivery preference. Transparency is key and CCM HMS providers aim to deliver with a dashboard designed to manage the communications flow, from enabling change submission and tracking to monitoring where communications are in the workflow and providing an interface for approval management and proofing. Some also offer dashboards and/or analytics tools to dive deeper into understanding customer behavior or tracking metrics such as postal delivery times.
With a CCM HMS model, the provider maintains a separate instance of the software and database for each client. Infrastructure may be shared or each client may have its own dedicated set of servers, which could be hosted externally or internally by the service provider. Each client has its own instance of the software and can choose to take updates according to its own schedule versus the Software as a Service model where all clients receive the same update at the same time. In a CCM HMS model, the software can be configured and customized based on an individual client’s requirements without impacting any other client. In addition, with a HMS approach, deployment, integration, and support of all related technology and services become the responsibility of the provider and as such, they become accountable for the results.
Organizations have many options when it comes to choosing how to manage communications. No matter which path is chosen, the key is to have a strategy that includes creation, tracking, and delivery. CCM HMS providers have gained success in helping enterprises successfully execute on their strategy, improving the management of communications in a way that provides more end user control and less strain on IT resources. dps
Stephanie Pieruccini is the VP of research and enterprise and technology consulting services at Madison Advisors. In this role, she is responsible for directing the firm’s research agenda as well as providing guidance to enterprises and software technology providers.
Mar2016, DPS Magazine