The GMC team is having many discussions lately about the future of communications, and we started talking about the exciting short- and long-term communication opportunities of wearables, Internet of things, personalized video technology, next-level social networks, security trends, three-dimensional (3D) communications and other cool technologies.

    While we would love to be ready to create the future today, in reviewing request for proposals (RFPs), feature requests, analyst reports and notes from conferences, we soon realized that these types of communication technologies rest on a shaky foundation. The future of communication is more about engaging across a variety of changing channels. The future will not be as much defined by the possibilities of devices but by the restraining forces of:
    • Slow pace of core technology upgrades
    • Rapidly shrinking device life cycle
    • Mergers and acquisitions in critical industries
    • Disruption by new social networks
    Let’s look at the future from the foundation up.

    1. The device cycle is faster than the infrastructure cycle.
    Depending on the industry and the region of the world, core systems are replaced at a rate much slower than the 18- to 24-month life cycle of mobile phones and tablets. Some insurance core systems in North America are more than 30 years old. European firms tend to replace legacy systems faster, but even that is still measured in decades. Asian companies upgrade the fastest in the market but still only every five to seven years.

    When the infrastructure that you control must support between five to 10 device life cycles, the communications you create must be operative despite your infrastructure. It is important to view engagement systems as separate from the data infrastructure.

    2. Devices are added faster than they are taken away.
    As consumers, many wonderful devices come into our lives regularly. When a new device shows up, we expect the full functionality to be quickly supported. In the last few years, we’ve seen Fitbits, Apple Watches, Google Glass, Nest thermostats and other devices enter the market. We haven’t seen too many leave.

    When it comes to using devices to communicate, you are expected to deliver optimized content for them as soon as they hit the market. In fact, HSBC bank customers in the United Kingdom were angry that Apple Pay was not supported on its launch day. While many devices have entered the market, when a new device enters, an old device isn’t necessarily retired. Today, we still have critical business systems that rely on fax-based communication. So, the future of your communications is constrained only by the oldest type of communication still in play.

    3. Mergers and acquisitions may impact your business.
    Banks and insurance companies have had nearly as many mergers and acquisitions as the service provider market. Every merger results in redundant core systems, multiple archive systems and complex information retrieval processes.

    Whether you are working for the acquirer or the acquired, setting up an engagement system that is able to integrate with data, content and composed communications that are created or stored in other systems is a requirement. Any future communications may have to blend assets creatively from systems that you are unaware of today.

    4. Important business/social networks are constantly created.
    Every few months, a new critical business or social network launches, relaunches or dies out. We have Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, SnapChat, SpaceTag, WeChat, Instagram, Google+, WhatsApp, Chatter, Meerkat, Yammer, and on, and on and on. When these communities and platforms grow, people expect different types and levels of communication and engagement.

    As you communicate across more platforms, it is important to understand the nuanced etiquette of these channels. An effective engagement system needs to rapidly integrate to the application program interfaces (APIs) and web services that plug your business into the places where your customers and prospects are talking about you.

    5. There is good news and bad news.
    The bad news is that you aren’t in control as much as you would like to be. There are market forces, corporate developments, gadgets, social networks and information technology (IT) innovations that will cause myriad troubles. There is no stopping these forces, and pretending they don’t exist is not a strategy that will guarantee long-term employment for you.

    The good news is that you can prepare for these events. It is possible to build a communication system that will continue to deliver effective communications in a changing market. To do this, find out if your vendors get excited about new technologies and are exploring and implementing them. Also, ask for release notes for the past few years. This will tell you how many versions they release, how soon new key technologies are supported and how often new developments are integrated into their offerings. This can give you a sense of how focused they are on a quickly changing future.

    As core systems, consumer devices, corporate mergers and social networks change, it is important to create a customer communication management system that can accept legacy data from multiple systems, flexibly access content, rapidly generate output for new channels and integrate with new information from new systems.

    While there are conflicting aspects to the future of communication, it is going to be a lot of fun getting there. There will be new projects, new etiquette, new integrations and new technologies to explore that will change how we do business. We are lucky to be in an industry that can make it happen!

    Scott Draeger is vice president of product management at GMC Software Technology, a leader in customer communications management solutions. For more information, visit or follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger.

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