May 4, 2016

Enterprise Content Management as Customer Communication Management

By their formal definitions, an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system is distinctly different from a Customer Communication Management (CCM) system, although there are linkages. The first is a platform responsible for automating the collection and curation of content, largely unstructured documents, generated in the course of business. In its simplest definition, the latter is mail merge on steroids. In reflection, however, anyone responsible for the acquisition of an ECM should view it a Customer Communication Management system, as a large part of the value proposition for an ECM is the utilization of the content by customers.

In this context, customers should be taken to be both internal and external customers. An internal customer is an entity, a person or a functional group, that needs the information in an ECM to do their job. The knowledge workers in most departments in a corporation are internal customers for other departments. In fact, when corporate policies are factored in, all employees are internal customers. However, there is no need to go that far to know that the ability to leverage the content in ECMs is as important to businesses as having Accounts Receivable for cash flow. The retention of the information may be a de facto reason for the ECM system to exist, but it is not the driver of business value.

One artifact of the view of retention as a driver for deploying an ECM is the preponderance of attention on content acquisition, aka data capture. While data capture is key – an ECM without content would be pointless – the content is not inducted to the ECM merely for it to be a black hole, pulling everything in but not allowing anything to be retrieved or viewed.

Content is an asset that is leveraged by using it. The value is realized by putting the information contained in the content in the hands of knowledge workers – whether as part of automated workflows or ad hoc inquiries. This is a reason ‘data capture’ should be renamed ‘information capture’ as data without analysis is only of potential value, while information is realized value.

In practice, an isolated element of content, even if classified and augmented by appropriate metadata, is rarely of value in isolation. It is only when combined with other elements of content that the value of the information in the content starts compounding. And this is where there is a gap in many ECM deployments. ECMs are designed to deal with individual content items and the processing heterogeneous batches. When the patterns are not obvious and the data resources are large, Analytics and Big Data can reveal the hidden answers. But most out-of-the-box ECM deployments do not have the capacity for dealing with collections of content on the human scale – the ‘customer scale.’ External customers and internal knowledge workers need to deal with human-sized collections of content. Furthermore, humans being human, these collections are unlikely to be heterogeneous.

A good example of dealing with customer-scale content is the customer service rep in a call center who is dealing with a customer issue. The customer may be calling about a transaction on a recent billing statement but the crux of the issue could relate to a provision of their contract. Due to the time spans, workflow differences and, probably, departmental silos, the archive of the printed statement and the data capture of the contract are in different repositories and reside in those repositories in differing formats. Retrieval tools can present them to the customer service rep but they need to be communicated to the customer to close out the customer service call. Not just presented as a bulk retrieval, rather they need to be subsetted as to the relevant pages enhanced with the annotations added by the customer service rep linking the resolution to the document contents. And this needs to be done with process automation to free the rep for their next call. This is where the ECM needs to be a CCM; but ECMs do not natively have this capability.

Fortunately there is a solution to add customer communication capability to ECMs. Not surprisingly it is developed and supported by a company that understands both Enterprise Content Management and Customer Communication Management, Crawford Technologies. The CrawfordTech Riptide® family of tools is designed to automate the distribution, and subsequent analysis, of ECM content to internal and external customers in the format they prefer – print or electronic. When you find yourself with a ‘customer-scale’ problem where content in ECMs needs to be leveraged by cost effective, value-adding distribution - i.e. communicating with customers – contact us.