A modern CCM platform facilitates speed to market without the need to ditch legacy systems

Mark Todes, Director and Co-founder of GhostDraft

Modern enterprises largely acknowledge that in the hyper competitive digital world, customers have options and remain loyal out of choice. With this in mind, it is crucial for businesses to invest in modern and agile communication tools. However, many enterprises are delaying this crucial move as they have either extended the life of their legacy systems or are enduring painfully long implementations.

It need not be an either-or discussion. There is no need to sacrifice modern customer communication because of a legacy core system or complex digital implementation. A modern customer communication management (CCM) system works equally as well with legacy core or modern integrated systems. Beyond this, it gives enterprises something akin to a superpower in competitiveness: Speed to market.

Before we look at what this all means, let’s look at what CCM refers to. CCM is not well-understood in the market and for many it represents an esoteric afterthought. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to Celent, one of the leading analysts in the market – especially for CCM and even more specifically for insurance – a modern CCM platform gives businesses the ability to produce and automate documents, the ability to integrate with existing systems, and the ability to create a workflow that automates not just the document itself but the whole flow whenever output is needed.

That’s a good starting point to conceptualise what we are speaking about. Now, if we zoom into what facilitates speed to market, at GhostDraft we believe it is a basket of tools that includes a natural language template authoring environment, data mapping tools for integration into the business backend, document production automation through flexible workflow tools, and specialised speed-to-market tools to expedite document design, review and testing.

Consider a core system such as SAP in the retail environment or a Policy Admin System (PAS) in the insurance industry. These core systems are fundamental to the running of a business. They are characterised by all the data and information processing systems baked into them.

With legacy and other core systems, document output was often an afterthought and then baked into the system in a way that it can’t be separated. This is the root of an enterprise’s fear or hesitation to talk about investing in modern communication tools because speed to market becomes complex, if not impossible, when considering changes to the core system. These businesses have strong core systems with great functionality but an innate inability to make changes quickly. Beyond this, we’ve all heard horror stories about implementations taking years longer than planned.

At GhostDraft we have circumvented this challenge by creating a separation layer between the core system and the CCM system. We do this by creating a data model separate from the backend database and forward-looking documents. Doing this enables us to map data from any backend source and in any format, while enabling a customer to keep document communication outside the core system.

What does this look like in the real world?

First, it means that companies do not have to contemplate replacing their legacy systems just because they need more modern communications. In the corporate world, the lifespan of legacy systems often gets prolonged because of the mammoth task of migrating to more modern systems. However, this doesn’t change their pressing need to modernise their communication to be relevant with modern consumers. The separation layer means we can create document templates with all the business rules related to the production of these templates contained within the templates themselves, rather than in the core system. Changes can be made in the document templates and need not be made in the core system.

While large enterprises embark on IT freezes at various times of the year, typically over the December holidays for instance, to make important updates and changes, what happens when there is a need to be agile, such as a change in legislation, for example?

One of SA’s biggest banks uses GhostDraft for the production of loan agreements. A few years ago, it needed to implement changes to the legal terms and conditions listed within these agreements. The instruction came from the legal department at 11:30am one morning and affected various aspects of the loan agreements. The template author was able to make these changes in the templates, create test documents and send them off for sign-off, immediately. The changes were uploaded onto the system and went live by 1.30pm that same afternoon. Seniors in the bank told us that in the past, changes of that nature – which were baked into the core system – would take between six to eight weeks to implement. Two hours versus two months. The separation layer enables this speed to market.

However, it’s not just the separation layer that breeds speed. A good data mapping tool that can convert data from any backend source, in any format, into the format needed for modern templates as part of the runtime process dramatically boosts speed to market. When changes are made to the backend database and core system, nothing needs to be changed in the templates. All that changes is the data mapping layer, making IT’s job considerably easier.

Natural language processing dramatically changes the game for business users. A customer once needed to deal with a piece of code that roughly stated: If x = 5 then insert this paragraph, else don’t. People scrambled to find the source, which was a piece of script in the backend database. Today, x = 5 does not exist. Instead, the actual front-end users work with a natural language instruction that reads: If the house has a swimming pool, insert these terms and conditions, if not, don’t. They can use similarly easy language to make changes to templates.

It is evident that a good CCM platform must have tools that make life for IT users easier – such as an intuitive and powerful data mapping tool, and tools that make business users’ lives easier, such as natural language processing and intuitive design tools.

Modern CCM facilitates the automated production of personalised communications so that no manual steps are required. This automation should ideally include the insertion of data from the relevant business system, the document logic and the output delivery to the end customer in the correct format.

This is the very definition of digital transformation and is all possible without needing to replace a legacy core system. However, once a legacy system is replaced, the CCM continues to function normally as the separation layer and data mapping tool, as explained, take care of the rest.