This article appears in the Fall-Winter 2019 digital issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

    Image by: phochi, ©2019 Getty Images

    In January of 2016, Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, described the fourth industrial revolution as one “that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.” In it, we will see technology advancements fuse the physical, digital, and biological worlds, disrupting the way information is shared and communicated.

    Almost four years into this vision, we expect that customer communications as we know it today will evolve into more vibrant conversations. The cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), data intelligence, and robotic process automation (RPA) will have a dramatic effect on the customer experience and the operational efficiency of organizations. Together it will usher in powerful shifts within whole markets as we embark on this new future of work.

    Looking back at the trends that modernized the technology stack this year, both the enterprise content management (ECM) and customer communications management (CCM) markets were influenced by investments in the cloud, AI, process automation, and analytics.

    As we enter 2020, IDC sees three key areas of interest taking shape:
    • Data Intelligence
    • Unified Communications
    • Knowledge Networks
    Data trust will rise in prominence in the enterprise as data intelligence drives personalization, governance, and communications. This will require tracking information as it moves through the AI engine to understand the algorithms used as well as any bias that is introduced into the decisions that are being made on our behalf.

    Mobile will continue to be a key channel of interaction in the new year, but new channels in team collaboration, messaging, and social tools (like Slack, WhatsApp, and Microsoft Teams) are challenging the status quo. These tools will push a unification of communications, which includes new intelligent, conversational interfaces.

    Digital workspaces, whether delivered as a next-generation portal or an intelligent task manager, are entering the market. When tied into a knowledge network, digital workspaces present relevant information to employees in-task, rather than requiring them to navigate elsewhere to find it. IDC’s survey for cloud content management found that 29% of respondents want a more intelligent search, which can be addressed with implementing data intelligence, AI, and knowledge network systems.

    The landscape of interactive communications—steeped in data intelligence—is opening the door to a new age in CCM.

    CCM software took off during the third industrial revolution when digitizing paper processes became possible. However, the investment in CCM has slowed over the last few years, as organizations settled on a system of record for batch generation of structured documents. IDC estimates CCM’s modest software revenue growth of 6.3% in 2018 will grow to 9.2% CAGR by 2023. Deployments of public cloud CCM solutions will contribute 22% year-over-year growth through the replacement of legacy systems and expansion into new departments.

    While print will continue to be a mainstay of the structured CCM market, the landscape of interactive communications—steeped in data intelligence—is opening the door to a new age in CCM. Traditional communications will evolve into continuous conversations across new channels and social tools. As a result, enterprises will look toward cloud-based customer engagement and CCM platforms to answer their omni-channel challenges.

    With the fourth industrial revolution upon us, CCM can leverage data intelligence to better interact with customers via the many channels that are available today. If automation led to digitization in the third industrial revolution, then data will power the fourth industrial revolution through AI and data-driven decision making.

    In this sense, data is like water—fluid and required to sustain life in the new agile enterprise. Advancements in microservices and open APIs allow enterprises to connect people, processes, and data to transcend the traditional boundaries of an interaction. Data, which is captured from the documents, processes, and activities that occur in an organization, is untapped potential in a static state. After all, it is the communication that sets data and information into motion. It is the ability to communicate this data and insight that will enable the next era of fluid, context-driven conversations.

    Looking further into the future, expanded connectivity will lead to a more diverse use of CCM. As emerging technologies of the fourth revolution are embedded within the familiar apps of an organization, communications-as-a-service and intelligent knowledge networks will take shape. Adjacent technologies, such as conversational interfaces, intelligent forms, and next-generation capture, will help future digital/robotic workers to generate empathetic content on their own.

    For example, embracing voice technology is not about enabling Alexa or Siri to have access to any business data. It’s about enabling the applications that already have access to this data to provide voice interaction that replaces traditional document workflows or manual steps. These digital human interfaces need access to a knowledge base, which is powered by AI and natural language processing, to carry out a human-like conversation that is based on personal interaction preferences. CCM—as a centralized hub—has an opportunity to be a part of the knowledge network, contributing information and preferences to the knowledge base and ensuring consistency in branding and customer engagement.

    The channels through which we are communicating with one another is changing to improve customer engagement and operational efficiency. 2020 will be about investing in that change.

    IDC views the future of work as a sea change that empowers workers with new digital skills, adopting collaboration between humans and digital workers in a secure space independent of time or place.

    In our case for CCM, the channels through which we are communicating with one another is changing to improve customer engagement and operational efficiency. 2020 will be about investing in that change. We already see CCM technology moving to the cloud, executing on a microservices and AI-enabled strategy with plans to incorporate more data intelligence and trust into the system.

    Furthermore, organizational roles and technology budgets are also shifting. IDC found that organizations with a mature communication strategy are already investing in a centralized CCM system to target an improved customer experience. IDC’s CMO Advisory Council reports that more than 20% of the marketing budget in tech companies is tied to post-purchase engagement when spending is tracked along a customer journey model. Some companies are also experimenting with senior roles that divide digital communications or content ownershipacross a Chief Communication Officer, Chief Revenue Officer, or Chief Customer Experience Officer—either alongside or instead of the Chief Marketing Officer.

    CCM should no longer be relegated to the operational side of the business, with limited exposure to the rest of the organization. Executive leaders looking for an opportunity to bring their communications strategy under a single umbrella—integrated into departmental tools for easy creation and delivery of brand consistent customer conversations—should look to hop on the digital transformation train. Whether the project is positioned as a new future of work, modernization, smarter governance, or predictive engagement, the opportunity to change the conversation is now.

    Marci Maddox is the Research Director for IDC's Enterprise Content Strategies program and is responsible for content workflow and content technologies research. She has 15 years of experience working with content and process applications at companies like OpenText and IBM and has helped clients realize the future of AI, IoT, and cloud benefits. Follow her on Twitter at @idcmarci or visit
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