In the broadest sense, “transformation” means retiring manual, legacy business processes and systems and replacing them with a reimagined, more efficient and effective process and modern tech stack. Sometimes these initiatives are driven by the need to move off systems that are no longer supported by the vendor. Most often, however, we see these programs driven by a desire to improve the customer experience by achieving greater alignment with the brand promise or to incorporate digital channels into customer communications. In fact, with so many working from home, the demand for digital transformation is coming into sharper focus.

The primary challenge in making that shift, however, often lies in the transformation itself. When it comes to customer communications, migrating to a new system can be complex and there are a number of issues that arise in the process:
• How to review and sort existing content and communications that you may or may not want to carry over to the new system
• How to efficiently develop and update messaging that drives consistent, memorable and relevant customer experiences
• Which communication technologies suit customer preferences, but don’t create operational and technological silos

It’s not uncommon for large enterprises to have five, 10, even 20 systems that are being used to manage customer communications. Managing content across multiple systems not only creates process inefficiencies by having to update the same content in multiple places, but it can lead to inconsistencies across the customer experience. Ideally, as organizations develop transformation plans, they will do so with a view toward streamlining management to drive efficiencies, as well as potential improvements to the customer experience. Given the complexity of the process of transformation and the myriad of potential paths, inevitably, organizations turn to partners for help.

Transformation partners ease the transition
Finding the right partner to assist with communications transformation is not always a straightforward process. Different types of companies will provide various types of support. A software vendor will typically offer services and training relating only to its solution; whereas a boutique agency may have more expertise on how to improve aspects of the communications to improve the customer experience; while some traditional print service providers will often be focused on retaining and maximizing their print business, rather than on true transformation. Some consultancies will help you to reimagine your communications infrastructure, as well as re-authoring your communications as you migrate them from a legacy environment into the modern world, including delivering your content digitally through multiple channels. Conversely, others may be limited to only moving you from one platform to another. Their involvement does not include driving or supporting the entire strategy—they’re merely providing the assistance to “lift and shift” your existing data and content.

Given all these different options, when choosing a partner, it is best to start by identifying your goals in modernizing. Questions to ask include: Are you simply migrating from your legacy systems with few other changes or are you looking for a new digital experience with improved efficiency and faster, less costly operations? Is the main purpose to provide a better customer experience? (If not, please rethink your goals.) Ideally, your transformation should be part of an overall communications strategy that supports your company’s goals, with enough flexibility and/or scalability to serve you well into the future. You won’t want to do this all over again in five years, so choose your partner carefully.

Choosing wisely
It goes without saying that the partner you select should have a background that demonstrates expertise in the areas you most need it. Companies that work largely in the consumer retail space have different requirements and issues than, for example, a property and casualty insurer. The partner you choose needs to have a proven understanding of your space and the markets you serve, particularly when it comes to updating your content and communications to improve customer satisfaction.

It’s also important to pay attention to how the work will get done. For example, some providers will rely on less expensive offshore resources that do the work manually using more traditional methods to both analyze and migrate your communications. While this might appear to be a solid strategy, it ignores the fact that there are AI-based solutions available in the market today that can do this work faster, with less cost while producing more accurate analysis and ultimately better outcomes. AI solutions are particularly effective at ingesting content, analyzing it to tag it appropriately, and identify similar and duplicate content, outliers, issues with reading comprehension, brand alignment and sentiment to accelerate the work of migration and optimization.

Consider the role you want your partner to have in the future. Some consultancies or print service providers will focus on building a solution that transitions into long-term service engagements. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, it’s simply critical that you understand before you take that path how much freedom and independence your organization wants in the future. Are they building a set of systems they will be required to operate and maintain? Will your team have direct access to create and update communications or will your marketing and communications teams still be reliant on third parties? Are they building a system that centralizes your content into one hub where it can be managed and controlled or are you recreating the network of five, 10, 20 systems—only now using newer technology and digital channels? If content optimization is part of your transformation initiative, how will you maintain that optimization going forward? Are there AI capabilities baked into your new system to automate the process of content optimization on a continuous basis?

That leads us to the question of whether you want a partner for the duration of the migration or longer term, one that will continue to work with you after implementation? If you are looking long term, it is important to assess your potential partner’s core competencies to determine whether you can count on their longevity. One strong indication is a company’s history of innovation. In the modern world, being able to create and/or deploy new approaches and technologies is the norm and any partner who can’t keep pace or locks you into one particular platform may not be able to support your needs for very long. Which is why this thought bears repeating: You won’t want to do this all over again in five years, so choose your partner carefully.

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