A large number of our enterprise clients and prospects are reaching out to us to ask about the direction of customer communication management (CCM) technology in general and about multi-channel delivery trends in particular. For the past 18 months, we've been tracking and reporting on the public's shift away from standard hard copy delivery to a variety of alternative channels, including web, IVR and SMS. Even the United States Postal Service has finally acknowledged that its business is in significant peril, primarily based on this phenomenon — something they've been in denial about for years.

    So, what does this shift towards e-delivery mean to the enterprise? In more and more cases, it means expanded document process outsourcing (DPO) services — services with a capital "S." We distinguish big "S" services by the depth and breadth of assistance firms are looking for from an external partner.

    Recently, I attended a major vendor's analyst briefing and found that 75% of the time was spent on its services offerings — an integrated delivery of the multiple functions along the vendor's entire CCM value chain — fully deployed and maintained by the vendor. Until recently, those functions were supported with software products that were more or less standalone solutions and any integration with other CCM offerings was left to the enterprise to work out. Implementation services have been offered by the technology providers to install new hardware or software internally to the enterprise, but increasingly, those limited integration services are insufficient in meeting the clients' demands for rapid deployment, multi-function integration and operational efficiency.

    Fortune 100 firms have the IT resources to build the systems platforms needed to support integrated, multi-channel CCM capabilities internally and are likely to do so. The rest of the market is starting to recognize that they lack the technical resources to fully support the transition to multi-channel CCM delivery and, more significantly perhaps, they are starting to question whether that should be one of their core competencies. As more and more functionality has been added to the CCM value chain, these enterprises have become more and more frustrated by the cost and complexity of integrating these multiple "point" solutions into their operations — while at the same time feeling more and more pressure from a customer service and competitive standpoint to do so. Service providers are responding to this challenge by developing comprehensive CCM outsourcing options.

    By integrating all of the separate features in the CCM portfolio into a single service offering, the service providers are able to offer a much broader set of capabilities — one that more fully meets the clients' need for multi-channel, cross media, customer communications with response and tracking metrics, campaign and message management and data acquisition and management.

    Comprehensive CCM services are now being offered by many of the large service providers, whether traditional label print service providers, marketing services providers, commercial or digital printers. The race is on, and the DPO market will expand rapidly in 2011, as more enterprise firms determine that hosting these complex platforms internally no longer makes sense. We'll continue watching these developments closely.

    KEMAL CARR [kemalcarr@madison-advisors.com] is the president and principal analyst of Madison Advisors, an advisory firm that provides thought leadership, strategic consulting and market research in the print and electronic communications space. For more information on Madison Advisors, visit www.madison-advisors.com.


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