Are you drowning in CCM systems? How many different CCM systems are in use in your organization? Have efforts to standardize on one CCM system failed to yield tangible results?
In the CCM market, the cost of software is only the starting point, and the biggest costs are usually in the application migrations, document design, configuration and processing rule definitions. That’s what costs the most and takes an enormous amount of time and resources.
Due to the large amount of effort and the costs associated with application migrations, most organizations of any size and longevity have accumulated multiple composition systems. The available design resources are typically put into developing new application documents and modernizing the legacy documents.
The dirty little secret is … efforts to migrate the applications to a single CCM system never get completed. They normally die in their early stages, due to a number of reasons not the least of which is that a business case fails to pass muster, usually losing out to more compelling projects.
Multiple CCM platforms served organizations well when there was a single channel for distributing the documents, that being printing the documents and mailing them through the postal system.
In recent years major market shifts have necessitated wholesale changes to these print applications. Digital marketing imperatives, customer aspirations and rising mailing costs have driven a revolution in customer communications. The distribution channels have ballooned. The old black and white laser printers are being replaced with full color inkjet presses. Digital channels began in the 1990s, and during the pandemic, their usage increased dramatically. Mobile usage is growing fast and most organizations have yet to fully integrate the new channels.
How did organizations end up with so many CCM systems? Many got there through mergers and acquisitions Some through decentralized line of business management decisions. Others have attempted to employ the newest CCM system with a vision to migrate all of their applications to it as a new standard. Often this new system will be used for all new applications going forward. At least until a newer, fancier CCM system comes along. But rarely do the legacy applications get migrated.
Why did they not migrate the older applications to a new standard CCM? There are several reasons for this. First, there are no automated utilities to transform the templates. Second, there are usually complex business rules inside the templates, that are not well documented. Often the analysts that implemented them have retired or moved on. Often the project to implement a new design template can take from three to six months to complete development and deployment. Since many organizations have hundreds of applications, the migration could take decades and cost tens of millions of dollars. Thus it’s cheaper to just maintain the various CCM systems and their associated templates and resources.
The Death of CCM
The challenges with having multiple CCM systems now surface in major ways. Since it is important to have all documents available to their intended recipients in a multitude of different channels all CCM systems need to have the ability to produce documents in all of the necessary formats and deliver them to the proper channels securely and on a timely basis. This requires the same development, testing and implementations to be done for each CCM system, or risk a poor customer experience and other issues. Since the functionality of each CCM varies, the results are usually inconsistent leading to customer confusion.
In order to avoid these issues, many visionary leaders have chosen to implement Enterprise Communication Processing (ECP) systems. The ECP system takes over the delivery functions from the CCM systems. The ECP system performs mail optimization functions, omni-channel, preference management, format conversions, delivery to channels and repositories. All of these functions are done in a single place reducing the implementation efforts and reducing the points of failure. This simplifies the document delivery at a time when this area of technology is undergoing rapid changes.
Taking the ECP approach lets organizations keep up with market needs, customer demands and rapid changes in technology. They largely relegate CCM systems to being composition engines, which, after all, is what they were designed to do and is what they do best. So in actuality, this is not the death of CCM, it is the rise of ECP.
Enterprise Communications Processing (ECP)
The term ECP was coined by Kasper Roos of Aspire in 2019. Other terms that have been used for this category over the years, such as Automated Document Factory, Post-composition software, Workflow systems or Communications Hub. The common trait is that they focus on taking composed documents, normalizing them, converting them to desired formats including Accessible formats, optimizing them, combining them, splitting them and managing the delivery to recipients via the selected channels. The various systems have different strengths and weaknesses, which we will not go into in this paper.
Enterprise Communications Processing (ECP) solutions provide a consistent architected layer between CCM and the document recipients. They can manage everything outside of document composition to process customer communications in print, digital, and accessible formats and output them to any communication channel, even based on individual customer preferences. They includes a comprehensive suite of intelligent middleware web services and APIs, sophisticated reengineering tools, proprietary high-performance document transformation engine, powerful content services capabilities, a hyper-automated, no-code workflow platform for processing customer communications and much more.
Why The Imperative to Deploy ECP?
Besides integration with multiple composition systems and document creators, ECP gives organizations one standardized system to normalize all communications and optimize the delivery to document recipients. With the recent (and ongoing) explosion of delivery channels, this is critical to the success of customer communication strategies.
Not only does ECP provide a single delivery point to focus on, ECP makes it possible to provide customers with a single set of methods for receiving all of their documents from the organization, greatly improving the Customer Experience (CX).
Without an ECP in place, customers can be stuck with a very confusing journey. For example, one of the banks we use, has a different login for each of their lines of business. To look at your savings account statements, you go to one site and login with one account number. To see your credit card statements, you use a completely different login site, userid and process. Wealth management another login, and so on. An ECP could greatly simplify and improve this bank’s CX.
Customers want a standard way of communicating with all of the organization’s lines of business and ECP can be instrumental in delivering this.
Why Not Do Omnichannel in CCM?
Even if your organization has only one CCM system, there is still an imperative to use ECP for delivering documents to their recipients. The key reason is because of sequencing. When your documents are composed, you do not know how the customer wants their documents delivered. Thus to implement multiple channels at composition time is either very restrictive or very expensive and convoluted. For example, a customer would need to declare that they want digital delivery before their documents are composed. This would restrict them from getting to documents composed prior to their declaration. The alternative is to create and store documents in all formats, which will get very complicated as many channels and formats are needed to meet market demands. For example, in addition to the print files, viewable PDF, HTML, and accessible formats would all need to be created at composition time and stored, significantly increasing storage complexity and costs.
Mobile usage is growing fast. Today over 60% of internet usage is from a mobile device. When a user needs to look at a document from their mobile phone, PDF is not the right format for delivery. HTML5 is the preferred format for delivering documents to mobile phones. Again, when the documents are composed there is no way to know that some day the recipient is going to use their mobile phone to view them. So ECP can solve this by converting the document to HTML when the customer is on a mobile phone and wants the document there. This can be done automatically or by customer option.
Even for documents being printed and mailed, ECP provides many benefits. Instead of adding printing, finishing and mailing controls during composition, these are better done downstream closer to the actual printing facility to be used. This allows those controls to be standardized across all applications, greatly simplifying the print and mail operations management. This can facilitate the use of multiple print centers and outsourcing to print services providers.
Compliance and Security
In this day and age securing documents containing private information is critical, whether at rest on servers or in cloud-based systems or in transit between systems. CCM systems do not provide this functionality, so a good ECP system is required that provides the ability to keep print files encrypted at all times. This is required for compliance with PCI-DSS, and recommended for HIPAA, SOC2 and HITRUST.
For organizations that need to be compliant with Sarbanes-Oxley, retention of customer documents in archival systems is required. A good ECP system will provide a standardized conduit to ensure that all documents are safely stored for future retrieval when needed. When implemented properly, these archival systems also double as a repository for digital channel delivery.
For organizations that need to be compliant with accessibility legislation, such as S508, ADA, AODA and other regulations in place globally, an ECP can be instrumental in getting all of your documents to be compliant with the applicable standards, whether they be WCAG, PDF/UA or HHS.
The number of digital channels has ballooned over the past 20 years. The basic ones are the organization’s portal, email, SMS, digital mailboxes, file sharing systems. There are in excess of 8,000 channels that a customer might want to use. A good ECP will provide the ability to deliver documents through the key channels that your customers desire. We don’t believe that everyone will support all 8,000 channels, but it is good to keep in mind that new channels are created every day, and it is difficult to predict future marketplace directions. This makes it important to have a flexible ECP that is extensible to different channels.
Having support for multiple distribution channels requires you to provide a way for document recipients to express their preferences for where and how you should deliver their documents. A strong and flexible preference management solution that is integrated to your ECP will make this capability a reality. The organization can direct documents to the channels that the individual prefers, thus improving the customer experience. If the customer does not want to receive documents delivered by the post office, then printing and mailing costs can be reduced when the ECP suppresses printing them. Savings will grow as more recipients move to digital channels.
In document composition, design work done to build maintain templates for each application. In ECP, there are several main steps, the first is integrating the software, hardware and the channels you will be using for digital deliveries. Then you will set up your standard workflows and configure your desired output channels. These are usually one-time tasks, except when you add channels.
Once the integration is done, you then need to migrate all of your applications into the system. The most time consuming portion of this effort is that of analyzing the print files, to determine where each document begins and ends, where the customers’ name and address fields are and how to extract all of the key fields necessary for the workflow to be successful. With modern personalized documents, that may involve looking at hundreds or thousands of documents and designing the rules needed to correctly find all of the required information. This can take hours, or days, and possibly even months for each document type.
SmartSetup provides a shortcut to connecting the CCM applications to the ECP. SmartSetup brings this analysis down to a few seconds for each application. This saves an enormous amount of time and costs when adding applications into the ECP. When there are hundreds of applications to support, possibly coming from multiple CCM systems, this makes the setup very easy and fast, saving enormous amounts of analysis work. By using SmartSetup with the print files as a method of inter-process communication, it allows one ECP to communicate with a multitude of applications from many CCM systems and normalize them to a common distribution methodology.
With the preponderance of digital delivery channels that are needed to keep up with today’s customer expectations, a strong ECP system is needed to manage the functions that are needed. Essentially, ECP enables multi-channel and omni-channel delivery of customer communications in ways that CCM software cannot.
See the Crawford Technologies website’s Resources section for Success Stories that describe how organizations globally have implemented ECP with CrawfordTech’s software. Customers with CrawfordTech ECP solutions in place include over 1,800 organizations, including the biggest banks, insurance companies, healthcare and communications companies in the world.
SmartSetup enables ECP to be integrated with CCM systems and delivery channels in a cost effective and timely manner. Together, SmartSetup and the CrawfordTech advanced ECP capabilities enable organizations to move forward quickly addressing their customer expectations in these fast-moving times.