Q: When looking for a new CCM application which should we prioritize usability (ease of use) or integration with core applications?
This is a difficult question, since both dimensions of customer communications management solutions are very important. The priority might be different for each individual company, depending on their current environment and their intended use of CCM. Given that, here are some considerations and guidelines that might be useful as you go through the process of evaluating a new CCM application. These apply whether you are selecting a new CCM system to bring into the company or looking to extend your existing CCM solution into new areas.
CCM Application Evaluation Considerations
The first set of considerations is related to your planned usage, especially the balance between high volume batch output and interactive, personalized correspondence. One common use might be to generate a high volume of policies, statements, renewal letters, and other basic customer documents via variable data merge with a standard template. If this is the primary usage, then the integration capabilities might trump ease of use. You can always train a small number of tech-savvy individuals to set up the templates and manage the merge process. On the other end of the spectrum, companies might put the CCM application in the hands of hundreds or thousands of agents, adjusters, or others who will be interactively creating correspondence tailored to one policyholder or a small group of prospects or customers. If the usage is oriented towards this type of application, then ease of usage is vital, since users are likely to have a varying range of technical expertise.
The second set of considerations is related to the scope and difficulty of integration with other systems and data. We all know that integration is often the most challenging part of any technology project. The difficulty of integration depends on a number of factors. Which core systems/data need to be accessed by the CCM system for the business purpose in mind? One policy administration system? Multiple policy systems? Are billing or claim systems involved? Are there handoffs required from other CCM or ECM systems? The number of systems that require integration is important, but just as important is the technology architecture of those systems. If the CCM system needs data from legacy systems with less sophisticated architectures, then the integration may effort may consist of many point to point integrations – which can be costly and time consuming. If the other systems are modern and SOA-based, then the integration will be easier. When core systems are implemented as a suite with a common data model, that also improves integration. Finally, if any pre-integration has been done by the CCM vendor and the core systems vendor(s), then implementation can proceed more quickly.
CCM Application Evaluation Guidelines
Insurers looking to implement a new CCM application should assess the requirements for ease of use for their particular situation and realistically plan for the level of integration that will be required. A few useful guidelines for the evaluation process are:
- Make sure representatives of the user community are heavily involved in the evaluation.
- Map out the integrations and be realistic about the IT resource and the time needed to accomplish the implementation.
- Talk to others in your organization that are using the CCM solution or discuss the solution with other insurers that have installed it.
- Conduct a pilot or test period before making any final commitment.
- Plan a phased implementation approach, going after the business use cases that require fewer integrations and lower volume, yet still provide good business value (the proverbial low hanging fruit).
In an ideal world, everyone wants the solution with superior ease of use that is also easy to integrate. Rarely is that an option due to the complexity of most insurance environments, but these considerations and guidelines should assist in the evaluation and help to provide a CCM solution that provides the right balance for your organization.
Mark Breading, SMA Partner