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No one cares about ECM (Part 3)

February 8, 2010

In the last post, we looked at two ways to articulate the benefits ECM has for an organization that are compelling to the C-level decision makers: storage and e-discovery. In this post, we examine two additional ECM benefits that have strong appeal for business users at many organizations: customer communication management and contracting.

Customer Communication Management

Customer communication management (CCM) refers to an organization’s capability to manage its communication with its customers as a strategic asset at the enterprise level. It encompasses everything from the origination of communication content (such as customer service emails, marketing collateral, web site content, or bills and statements), the editorial review and approval process, formatting and production work, to the delivery of the content across multiple channels (e.g., paper, email, mobile devices, IM, internet, phone).

Benefits in the CCM space come from a number of areas:

  • Content development and production. Developing customer communications, whether marketing collateral, web site content, or administrative messages (such as bills and statements) is some of the most labor intensive, siloed, and inefficient content production at an organization. Manual processes dominate the space: content authors who use Word, the production staff who work in a variety of desktop applications (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, FrontPage, Dreamweaver, FrameMaker, etc.), both of whom save their work on shared drives, hard drives, or portable media (CDs, DVDs), emails back and forth to outside authors, editors, and production staff—all of which is typically duplicated in multiple marketing and creative services departments across the organization. Even in cases where an organization has invested in more robust document composition tools ,frequently we find that they have adapted these tools to their inefficient content creation process rather than optimizing their process to take advantage of the increased capabilities of the tools: for example, they use templates, but have 14,000 of them in use across the enterprise…which all but cancels out any savings they might have gained from adopting a templatized approach to CCM.
  • Logistics and postage. Delivering print collateral to customers is a process rife with inefficiencies and waste at many organizations. Variation in paper size, fold method (two, three, or none), and envelope type (window or label) can significantly elevate postage and handling costs, often without any tangible or meaningful business benefits.
  • Increase traffic to higher margin/lower cost products and services. The ability to target customers by media and message can lead to significant savings and/or increased revenue by driving them to products and services that are less costly or more profitable to the organization. For example, a pharmacy benefits manager might use an enterprise approach to CCM to drive customers to mail-order pharmacy (a higher margin service) through web, email, and administrative and marketing collateral messaging—all of which can be coordinated more effectively through CCM. Or a high-tech manufacturer might encourage customers through multiple communications channels to utilize online help documents before calling a customer service helpline, thereby lowering support costs.

Given that a $10M CCM spend across all channels at a medium-sized organization wouldn’t be atypical, there are big savings to be had through CCM even for productivity gains of two or three percent.

Improved ECM technologies, processes, and practices contribute to CCM savings by streamlining the content creation process, by making single-source, multichannel publishing easier, and by enabling more targeted communications with customers. And although improved ECM doesn’t directly impact postage and logistics costs, the work done to improve CCM using better content management technology, processes, and practices often inspires a parallel effort to standardize mail operations.

Contracting

The contracting process is a great candidate for ECM improvements for a number of reasons:

  • Cross-functional – a t the very least, it spans sales and legal, but depending on industry and product, it can span more (sales, legal, account management, RFP response team, implementations, IT, customer service) – keeping all the content related to single contract together across multiple groups is a serious challenge.
  • Customer-facing – contracting activities are front and center with customers, so problems and issues have immediate bottom-line impact.
  • Mistakes are expensive and visible – errors during the contracting process can result in fines, lost business, and lawsuits…all of which are highly visible to upper management and executive leadership.

As an example, let’s consider a large health care insurance organization: their contracting process is linked to plan implementation, i.e., the agreements between sales, legal, account management, actuarial, and underwriting during the negotiation of a contract must be accurately reflected in the implementation of the employer plan in the insurer’s claim processing system(s). A single discrepancy in how claims are adjudicated once an employer is online can easily run into tens of millions of dollars (and potentially compliance and regulatory problems), so the ability to find an email received by the implementation coordinator in the rush leading up to go live that confirms relevant decision points with the client can save the organization not only substantial dollars, but maintain the relationship with the employer plan on good footing.

Although many organizations use contract management systems to reduce the risks and costs associated with the contracting process, the reality is that contracting doesn’t happen in a vacuum: even with a contract management system in place, employees will continue to use email and IM to communicate, shared drives and C-drives to create and edit documents for ease of use (and offline capabilities), and so on. A contract management system cannot on its own remedy these general content management risks at an organization, which is where broader ECM improvements can fill in the gaps and make a positive impact on the contracting process.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, each organization is different, not only in the areas where ECM improvements will have the greatest impact, but also in the tendencies of its executive leadership to spend or not spend for different kinds of projects. At some organizations, legal mandates are compelling and require no ROI to get the green light; at others, every project must show healthy returns even if it’s required by legislation or regulation; some are motivated by centralizing control over business processes, others leave decisions about these to individual business units. But whatever the case is at your organization, hopefully these posts have given you a starting point to begin finding ways that improved ECM can benefit your business.

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