Years ago, there was a serious effort to bring customer communications management (CCM) into the broader enterprise content management (ECM) fold. While CCM stood for component content management back then, the concept was simple: all content and communications need to be managed in one place. There was only one problem; it didn’t work.

Most of the larger ECM vendors bought a CCM provider and tried to integrate the technology into their core stack, crippling the ability of the CCM software to innovate and respond to the evolving needs of the market. Like web content management (WCM), the needs of CCM are too unique to successfully blend into the ECM platform.

"It isn’t simply a matter of collecting information from [customers]; it is important to be able to see every piece of communication that has ever been sent to them in a single context."

The issue is that there is a legitimate business need for CCM systems to work with the traditional ECM systems as part of an organization’s information architecture. That need is very obvious in the world of customer relationship management (CRM). When working with customers, it isn’t simply a matter of collecting information from them; it is important to be able to see every piece of communication that has ever been sent to them in a single context.

A look at insurance

Like most people, I have car insurance from a company that offers a wide variety of products. I routinely receive mail asking me to consider their life insurance option. Being a digital person, when I am interested in purchasing a product, I jump online to look at the various options. Being old-fashioned, I may break down and call my insurance company to discuss the product before making a decision.

I may not follow the instructions in the custom communication that I received, but that communication triggered my action by making me think, “I need to adjust my life insurance coverage.” If there was a special offer in that mailing, that information should be readily available to the agent on the other end of the phone.


As I proceed through the process for insurance, I may have a physical and an "inventory" of past medical problems for both myself and my family. All this information may be submitted as electronic forms, emailed as a scanned document or faxed.

Three months from now, I may compare the confirmations that I received and look at the original mailing. If I have a question, I will call my company to talk to an agent. If the agent doesn’t have all the communication that I have received and sent in at their fingertips, they are not going to be able to meet my needs. If I ask a question three years later, that same information will need to be available and not deleted or lost.


Thinking bigger

This is not to say that we should focus on systems that can do everything. What needs to happen is that we need to consider the bigger picture. What is the entire communications strategy with customers? What is being sent in print, over the Internet or through the phone? What are customers telling us, both individually and collectively?

External communications are a critical problem to be solved and, typically, with a specialized solution. It is important to remember that the content that is sent out has a role after distribution and that the definition of its role is dictated by the communications that customers, and partners, send back to us.

Do you have those systems talking to each other? Can you build that one picture showing you everything? That bigger picture, and how it can add value to your organization, is something that everyone needs to build and understand.