Originally Written by Christian Rodrian
When addressing Customer Communications Management (CCM), enterprises usually seek a quick and effective project.
This post delves into 2 technical issues that play a key role in implementing and running such a system.
Predefined Interfaces Help Cut Costs
In CCM, one big issue is that of interfaces and connectivity. In other words, how does one add and retrieve data from connected systems into a document; for example, adding the customer information stored in a typical CRM system to digital correspondence?
3 solutions to this issue are explained below:
1. Pull strategy
The CCM software retrieves (this is known as the “pull process”) the required data in real time from the source such as the CRM system. This process is preferably deployed on two fronts: for on-demand documents, composed in a call center or on a Web portal, and for interactive documents, which can be highly personalized by adding information retrieved from a CRM system.
2. Push strategy
The source system hands over (this is known as the “push process”) defined data packets to the CCM software in an XML format or as a flat file. This approach needs only to be defined once, and then delivers the best performance. In addition to composing interactive documents, this method is best suited for personalizing mass mailings in stacks or batches. One refers to these as “structured documents”, with one example being monthly phone bills.
3. Combination strategy
This takes the best from each of the two aforementioned strategies. Based on the application, specific data is handed over to the CCM software while other dependent data can be retrieved in real time via a pull process. This approach functions well for highly personalized interactive documents and for mass mailings or batch processing.
These 3 strategies cover the majority of cases, but custom solutions can also be created and used to handle special configurations. For example, Internet services can also be integrated into the CCM software in the area of SOA.
Standard Technologies Offer Security
Usually, the use of reliable, standard technology eliminates dependence on software manufacturers and their release cycles. The OOXML data format is one good example of a standard application used for customer communications.
OOXML – A Standard for XML-based File Formats
Microsoft developed the OOXML standard as one means to store documents using XML- based file formats. This format was released in 2008 as the ISO/EC 29500 standard for data exchange between different applications. It is an open format.
CCM systems use OOXML for generating various documents. The CCM software interprets the data per defined rules, variables, and dependencies, in order to create documents in the OOXML format or as a print data stream. The resulting correspondence can be delivered to a customer in either printed or electronic formats. Print data streams are languages used by printers to control the entire printing process, and are commonly called PDL (Page Description Language).
Systems using the OOXML format as a standard for data processing offer two decisive advantages:
- Security through ISO certification
- An open format for full compatibility
The second aspect is really useful for handling data. If the internal data format of a program is “open” for CCM purposes, it means that all companies on the market have equal access to the software without facing any legal or technical restrictions that could limit further development. With OOXML, it is also possible to reuse the data or content for printing or other electronic output formats.
Seamless Integration of Legacy Systems
Using data formats based on the OOXML standard, a company can connect any prior system(s) they have. However, problems may arise in using or connecting a third party system that is proprietary (i.e. neither free nor an open source). One thing is certain – avoiding standard technologies makes it more difficult to find appropriate consultation, and leads to increasing dependence on software manufacturers.
It is evident that CCM software offers the greatest possible flexibility for accessing incoming data, and the implementation effort remains reasonable.
About the Author
Christian Rodrian has been with the legodo ag, an Actuate Company since 2008 and participated in all of their activities on the emerging CCM market from the very beginning. Prior to that he worked for a leading technology company in Germany and China. Today he is responsible for the legodo Product Marketing department. Christian holds a Bachelor’s degree in technical writing and a Master’s degree in information management from the University of Applied Sciences in Karlsruhe. In his free time he enjoys every minute on the badminton court and the time with his little son.