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October 13, 2014
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October 20, 2014

How to Consolidate Your CCM Systems

Five things you can do to make sure you complete the consolidation of your customer communications management (CCM) systems and decommission the legacy environment.

Most organizations trying to consolidate their customer communications management (CCM) systems have failed to decommission their legacy CCM environments. Thus, rather than achieving the desired state of reducing (for example) six systems down to two systems (and the result reduction in costs), many organizations end up with still more systems, only increasing costs.

In this post, I’m going to provide you five things you can do to help you consolidate your CCM systems.

1. Start with a small set of predefined roles.
One important factor in the successful deployment of CCM capabilities is consideration for all of the potential uses of documents and contributors to documents. In the batch environment in insurance companies, for example, forms and templates are usually designed or modified by Marketing and Regulatory Affairs staff, approved or reviewed by Legal, and then passed on to IT for development. In the interactive environment, a similar process is followed, with variable data dependent upon input from the Customer Service representative. In this case, predefined blocks of text or suggested scripts might be available for use. In the e-forms environment, various users and their roles need to be taken into consideration during design.

The problem, though, is that many firms create unnecessary complexity by defining too many roles, particularly with newer implementations of systems with these capabilities. Beginning with a smaller set of predefined roles simplifies things considerably, which is particularly important during a migration, when resources are constrained.

Recommendation: Initially consider five basic roles: designer, reviewer, approver, IT developer, and author (system for batch, customer service representative for interactive, and user for e-forms). These basic definitions can subsequently be expanded as needed.

2. Consolidate your support functions.
Many organizations have separate teams of document designers, as well as IT support staff, spread throughout the enterprise. This approach is primarily driven by separate business units using separate tools. Typically, the desired state of a single CCM utility goes hand-in-hand with centralizing the support function. When the support functions are consolidated, management has a better opportunity to closely monitor conversions, identify skills gaps, and socialize best practices among a closer-knit group of individuals. Centralization also makes outsourcing certain tasks more manageable, as some economies of scale can be leveraged, from a procurement perspective.

Recommendation: Consolidate your IT support functions, or, at a minimum, some portion of the support functions. A portion of your current resources could be dedicated to new application development and conversion, while another team could focus on support of existing environments. With this approach, resources can be transitioned from maintenance to new development easily, without the need for departmental transfers and annual budgeting / headcount allocation approvals.

3. Set guidelines for forms redesign.
If the documents within your various CCM tools are highly diverse, wholesale redesign will be prohibitively expensive. One key success factor to adopting an enterprise-wide CCM platform is the policy governing the decision to migrate a document from a legacy system to the new platform. In most organizations, both the old and the new systems will coexist for some period of time. But the longer that period lasts, the longer it will take for you to realize any of the benefits from your system consolidation.

A best practice therefore is to develop stringent guidelines for when it is appropriate to authorize redesign. Changes to documents have tremendously different resource requirements. The best approach is to continue with small modifications in the older environment, while ensuring that any significant redesign efforts be directed toward the new platform, minimizing the opportunity cost. For example, changing the year on a form from 2013 to 2014 might best be completed using the old tool, while any changes requiring 60 or more hours in the legacy system are deemed significant enough to warrant using the new tool. Actively managing and monitoring the investment of resources becomes critical to an aggressive migration strategy.

Recommendation: Conduct a detailed assessment of your redesign requirements by document type; then define some high-level policies on resource investment and tool choice. In general, organizations that set a lower threshold for redesign in the new tool, even if it incurs a 30 to 45 percent premium for the effort, are able to decommission systems within 2 years. Firms that do not establish policies, leaving the decision to developers, are never able to decommission systems until end-of-life is announced.

4. Set guidelines for conversion versus rebuild.
Similar to the decision to redesign in the new CCM tool versus making minor changes in the legacy environment, you’ll need to establish guidelines on whether a conversion or rebuild is required. Due to cost or timelines, many firms choose to convert as many static forms as possible, since many CCM tool vendors and other third-party providers offer utilities for conversion. Yet conversion is only appropriate for static forms which have little or no variable information. For example, the first page of an insurance policy might contain variable data, while the other five pages remain static. In this case, the first page would need to be redesigned, while the others can be rasterized (converted to a TIFF effectively) and embedded in the document. In many cases, these converted documents do not even need to be refiled with state regulators. But for documents with variably formatted data, redesign is the best means of ensuring accuracy and flexibility for the future.

Recommendation: Set guidelines for conversion versus rebuilding. Most firms doing CCM system consolidation should anticipate a significant amount of redesign in their resource planning. Many companies set annual objectives, such as transitioning 10 percent of the documents to the new platform, and then let business units prioritize which documents to include in that 10 percent. Note that migration targets can be managed more effectively if you’ve centralized your resource pool (recommendation number 2, above). But unfortunately it’s very difficult to estimate the level of resources needed for migration without a detailed scoping effort. Some documents may require 20 hours, while others will require 1,000. Finally, in many cases, outsourcing conversion and rebuilding is the best strategy – but with the caveats noted in recommendation number 5, below.

5. Consider third-party service providers.
Many organizations making these kinds of system consolidation are increasingly considering the use of service providers to help with the migration effort. In many instances, these firms leverage offshore resources that offer 20 to 30 percent savings over domestic labor. In addition, as these providers service a growing number of firms revamping their composition tools, they are also able to develop additional conversion utilities and converters to accelerate their efforts. Yet experiences with third-party service firms in the CCM market vary tremendously, as the tasks that need to be completed in CCM migration are often highly specialized.

Recommendation: Consider third-party service firms to assist in the effort. Unlike other staff augmentation or outsourcing initiatives, however, large general-line service providers are not likely to have sufficient specialization. For this reason, your best bet may be to develop relationships with niche firms and contract programmers, which (unfortunately) will likely require more of your own resources to manage and monitor.

Rich Medina
Rich Medina
I’m a Principal Consultant and co-founder of Doculabs, and the resident expert in using ECM for information lifecycle management.