Image by: HAKINMHAN, ©2017 Getty Images

At this year’s DOCUMENT Strategy Forum (DSF), which took place May 1-3 in downtown Chicago, there was a notable theme—the emerging trends disrupting the status quo at many organizations. Every year, the DSF gathers hundreds of practitioners across the customer communications, content, and information management space for open and honest peer sharing on how to execute on superior customer experiences and effective information management strategies. While most companies represented at DSF reflect organizations with mature document strategies—those that reported an allocated budget for the enterprise-wide document strategy and one in which the strategy is led by the executive management team—it was apparent that there’s a need to re-think how we mitigate digital disruption, how we leverage data, and how we execute on our strategies.

Perhaps, due to shifting dynamics within the industry, we saw renewed energy and palpable excitement in all the conversations occurring at DSF. It was so noticeable that almost every person I talked to in Chicago mentioned it. They almost always followed up their observation with this question, “Why do you think it’s so different this year?” Wow, no pressure in answering that million-dollar question, right? I’ll take a stab at really addressing this question today. For several years, the DSF has taken a stand, calling for organizations to be much more holistic in their content and information strategies. Slowly, but surely, the specter of the customer-centric enterprise forced companies to re-evaluate these back-office processes. It should be no surprise that we find ourselves at the brink of change: Isn’t that what we’ve all been striving for? That electricity you feel in the air is the promise of real progress in acting upon those ideas. Here are some of the biggest topics that dominated a majority of conversations at DSF:

Are We Still Talking About Omni-Channel?

An exasperated attendee asked me this very question. Well, yes, we are. Why? Because it’s actually very hard and complex. According to Madison Advisors, an omni-channel strategy is defined by:
  • Companies that can send consistent, centrally managed messages across all channels
  • Consistency between channels with streamlined interactions
  • The use of multiple channels simultaneously
  • All channels employed work together, including physical and digital
  • Customer awareness of distinct channels dissolves
Raise your hand if you’re doing all of this. There are many challenges to coordinating effective communication workflows across all customer touchpoints simultaneously, including data silos, multiple lines of business, data extraction, multiple front-end and back-end systems, and incomplete preference management. The key to a successful omni-channel customer communications strategy is creating a central data warehouse for your customer data, making that data available across all of your channels, and keeping your outbound communications consistent across those channels.

#ICYMI, Office 365 Disruption Is Real

According to Doculabs, a majority of the Fortune 1000 will be on Office 365 in the next two years. So, the disruption is real, and the breadth of offering that comes with out-of-the box licensing is creating even more anxiety and uncertainty. One of the key challenges here is the fact that Microsoft will push out changes on the platform without warning, including new apps, functionality, user interface, etc. As a result, Office 365 may complicate your application portfolio, though it brings a lot of efficiency by taking away substantial overhead.

What It Takes to Execute on the Strategy

When it comes to building strategies, Forrester proposed the use of journey mapping to uncover gaps that create sub-standard experiences and outcomes. The power of storytelling to really improve the customer experience can’t be overstated—these stories can attract funding to your critical projects by showing the intrinsic business value they offer. While some attendees couldn’t agree if five-year plans were realistic in a time of quick wins, the consensus in the end was to set a long-term vision achieved in short-term increments. All this progress must be underlined by metrics—without it, you might as well be spinning your wheels. Today, analytics mined from technology can provide the metrics for process improvement.

While we write extensively about the importance of enterprise-wide strategies and securing buy-in from the entire C-suite, this is a tall order for many projects. To truly achieve cross-functional success, this is the foundation in which you must build upon. However, we recognize that some organizations might require a few baby steps to such a grand vision. To achieve those “quick wins,” define a single person or team in the organization that owns your strategy. This will help create consistency across your organization. Transformation projects can seem daunting in their complexity. To take that first step, focus on one area or process to make an impact.

Do You Know the Value of Your Data?

According to David Wellman at Myriad Genetics, one byte of data equals one grain of rice, a petabyte would cover Manhattan, and a zetabyte would fill the Pacific ocean. Yet, information is not measured as a business asset. According to Gartner, companies need to inventory their information assets, rank them in terms of value, and then apply analytics to extract value. Gartner identifies the following measures for information valuation:
  • Intrinsic Value of Information: How correct, complete, and exclusive is this data?
  • Business Value of Information: How good and relevant is this data for specific purposes?
  • Performance Value of Information: How does this data affect key business drivers?
  • Cost Value of Information: What would it cost us if we lost this data?
  • Market Value of Information: What could we get from selling or trading this data?
  • Economic Value of Information: How does this data contribute to our bottom line?
Here’s a last value to take with you: Information-product companies receive four to five times higher market valuation than the average company.

Measuring the Industry’s Maturity

Every year, we gather customer communication and information leaders to discuss their challenges but are hard-pressed to show the resulting effects. A critical aspect of demonstrating such progress is measuring the ongoing maturity of enterprise document strategies within organizations. Are we moving forward or stagnating? Are certain industries maturing at a faster rate? This is why we will be reporting on the state of maturity for document strategies in our special Summer 2017 issue. Annually at DSF, we will take stock of our progress in growing such enterprise-wide initiatives.

I hope you will join me at DSF ’18, to be held on May 21-23, 2018 at the Marriott Copley Place in Boston. Interested in attending, exhibiting, sponsoring, or speaking at DSF ’18 Boston, please contact Joel Dunkel at

Alison Lloyd serves as the Editor of DOCUMENT Strategy Media. She delivers thought leadership on strategic and plan-based solutions for managing the entire document, communication, and information process. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonYLloyd.

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