Strategic document outsourcing may have been around for over a decade, but its more recently acquired ability to facilitate third party publishing of all customer communications in whatever media the recipient prefers makes it a smart choice when costs are being cut.

At a time when companies are looking for ways to cut expenses and capital costs, it's perhaps not surprising that interest in strategic document outsourcing is high. The challenge of keeping overhead to a minimum while continuing to publish targeted, relevant communications and marketing collaterals is leading many organizations to consider outsourcing their document publication to a specialist provider.

Strategic document outsourcing is a subset of business process outsourcing (BPO) that focuses on the publication of customer communications and includes content creation, multimedia presentation and incoming document processing. Examples of outsourced documents differ from organization to organization and can include transactional forms, sales collateral and direct marketing materials. They can be published in physical or electronic media or a combination of multiple media.

Engaging a specialist provider shifts the labor, material and overhead costs to the provider, which, because of its expertise and aggregated volume, has the ability to publish the communications for less, even when a profit margin is taken into account. Another consideration is that strategic document outsourcing providers often have the latest hardware and software, in addition to the well-trained personnel necessary to implement targeted, relevant CRM-based communications.

Whether the communications are in print or electronic media, or are campaigns combining the two, strategic document outsourcing enables organizations to focus on their core products and services while entrusting customer communications to the specialist provider. As such, at the same time as offering organizations the opportunity to eliminate print- and mail-related expenditure, outsource providers facilitate the kind of targeted, relevant customer communications that can not only retain and grow the client base but also increase revenue.

The range of markets that an outsource provider can serve is considerable. From banks to financial services firms, manufacturers to retailers and utilities, strategic document outsourcing is delivering a broad range of customer communications, ranging from credit card statements and direct mail to full-blown marketing campaigns.

In-plant operations have, in some cases, the ability to output dynamic, contextual communications in multiple media, but the reality is that most do not. Employing a strategic document outsourcing provider to publish the communication enables organizations to focus on developing the campaign's messages and content without worrying about its execution.

This holds true not only for organizations operating in a limited geographic market but also on a worldwide basis. Several providers with multinational resources offer centralized coordination, production of targeted and regionalized content and "distribute then publish" capabilities through facilities around the globe. Organizations with a multinational footprint must consider outsourcing their regional and global document publication, whether physical or electronic, to a provider that has the footprint that matches their own to facilitate and maximize brand control and messaging while constraining costs.

Now is the time for private and public sector organizations to consider strategic document outsourcing. On the one hand, a benchmarking exercise may validate that the internal chargebacks are competitive. On the other hand, outsourcing document production may not only cut and control costs but also produce the targeted, relevant customer communications that improve cash flow and increase revenues.

Pete Basiliere is a research director at Gartner, Inc. and is the author of the Gartner report "Strategic Document Outsourcing Improves Customer Communications. The report is available at

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