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    Customer communications management (CCM) systems are complicated to implement and maintain for a variety of reasons, but one of the most powerful external forces that adds complexity to these applications is politics.

    I have been in this industry for more than 20 years, which means I have seen my share of CCM systems. Some of the technologies that I encountered early on in my career or even coded myself are still in production. The fact of the matter is that any application older than 10 years faces numerous changes in the regulatory climate, profoundly impacting the data, design, and architecture used within these applications.

    For example, some industry-specific changes in the regulatory landscape include the ongoing legislative amendments to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PAACA) in healthcare, varying cybersecurity regulations at the state level, a push toward both de-regulation and increased regulation, fluctuating incentives and tax credit policies, and the handling of privacy data during a breach.

    More than likely, your established customer communications applications will start to look a lot like a decades-long game of Jenga. The communications generated by the system may look the same, but the underlying code has been changed in significant ways several times moreover to deliver the same output. As a result, these applications are running through thousands of lines of excessive code. At best, they don't run as efficiently as they could, and at worst, they may retain outdated code that can cause problems later on for a customer, the business, or a regulator.

    While your pre-sale communications from marketing have their complexities, they are refreshed often—unlike those that are used to close deals (e.g., quotes, proposals, and contracts) and those aimed at earning continued business from a customer (e.g., statements, onboarding, correspondence, and renewals). This is because a variety of federal, state, and local regulations affect the design, deployment, and testing of these critical communications. Not surprisingly, they are not refreshed until necessary and are commonly run on software no longer supported by the vendor. While these applications are well-maintained by your experts, they may not generally be updated and upgraded at a frequency that matches market expectations.

    The costs of upgrading have traditionally been very high, in no small part due to conducting parallel tests before putting upgrades into production. Since this rule requires the output of the new system to be identical to the previous solution, enterprises spend millions of dollars annually replicating outdated designs in exchange for a false sense of security.

    With so many regulatory changes still embedded in your application code, the best path is to rebuild on an entirely new foundation, starting with a baseline of the current regulatory climate. You can design your application to today’s design standards. You can rewrite your content to fit a modern customer experience-focused communication system. You can extend your application to all the relevant stakeholders. You can deliver your application to customers on a wide variety of channels. You can make it easier to satisfy your customer's expectations—which is the real reason behind everything we do today.

    Scott Draeger is Vice President of Customer Transformation at Quadient. His broad experience includes helping clients improve customer communications in over 20 countries. Follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger or visit www.quadient.com.