While our enterprise budgets for 2019 might be on track, it’s important to look at the projects that often don’t make the annual plan year after year. Customer communication management (CCM) consolidation, migration, and design upgrade projects are complex to successfully deliver, which makes them difficult to plan.
In order to succeed, CCM projects require budgets that span multiple departments and uncommon teamwork to bring diverse skillsets together. In fact, DOCUMENT Strategy Editor Allison Lloyd expertly outlined the increasing complexities of system integration that will be required in her recent article. As a result, they are commonly deferred to next year—or even indefinitely. However, some of these unfunded communication projects may be quietly making things more expensive for you in 2020 and beyond.
Let’s explore some common reasons why your communication projects failed to make this year’s budget and how to combat these common objections in the annual planning process.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”This is usually the objection from finance, with passive support from the information technology (IT) team. This perspective accepts sunk costs without question. It moves last year’s maintenance payment to the next year, trims the training budget, and continues to make the same investment for a similar outcome. This dismissal ignores the advances that your competitors are making and allows smaller, channel-specific communications to create shadow IT projects, which usually begins as a work-around but quickly increases communication costs.
“We’ll get to it next year.”I live near Chicago where Cubs fans have been uttering “next year” for 107 consecutive baseball seasons, and I’ve been in enterprises where “next year” has been used for more than two decades. The trouble with “next year” is that it becomes perpetual, because the first step toward next year’s budget is to simply copy the current one into next year’s template. If you don’t have the money today, it won’t be there next year. Each time you kick the can down the road, it adds cost to your future migration.
“We’re going in a different direction.”If you hear this excuse, you’re probably not going anywhere. Instead, you’re committing to going in about 10 or 15 different directions at once, with each solution stack operating without an awareness of other projects in the enterprise. Well-intentioned employees will continue to make decisions to solve their problems, but they usually see these problems through a limited lens, which will make it more expensive for you in the long run.
“It’s not on the CEO’s radar.”You might get the argument that customer communication isn’t a top CEO priority. Perhaps increasing profitability is the primary goal, so any perceived “expense” is deferred. If this claim works at your company, then the CCM team isn’t defining their success in terms that the executive team understands or cares about. Start measuring the revenue impact of CCM with the same words that the executive team uses. Forrester’s Tom Mouhsian covers this well in his research report, “Hardwire Customer Experience to Financial Performance.”
“It will never work.”When we believe this, we have a failure of imagination. This line of reasoning is a lack of confidence in the project. If you hear this, argue that what you’re doing today isn’t working. This slight change of position puts the executive team on the defensive, especially if you can demonstrate that other companies have benefited from implementing a similar project. Look at competitive communications, NPS scores, design awards, and Customer Satisfaction Index scores.
“It doesn’t meet our ROI requirements.”This is a difficult one to address, so I saved it for last. If you hear this, it’s your fault. This dismissal of your customer communication program means that you’re looking to defend a spend rather than to advance your company’s performance. You’re playing defense when other departments are playing offense. In January, we covered the basic costs of a CCM strategy. While it’s important to understand what’s being spent, it’s also important to quantify the value you’re bringing to the organization.
Most of these objections are often reflex actions, unquestionable truisms, and bits of ancient wisdom in a tough budgeting process, but they need to be challenged in order for your company to create the future they want. So, let’s not accept that our 2019 project was deferred. Let’s go and recast it in terms of the positive impact on performance. We can certainly do better than doing nothing for one more year. Let’s get out the calculators and do something in 2019. Your customers will thank you.
Scott Draeger is Vice President of Customer Transformation at Quadient. He joined the digital document industry in 1997, after graduating from UNLV. He started as a document designer using a collection of hardware and software technologies, before moving to the software side of the industry. His broad experience includes helping clients improve customer communications in over 20 countries. For more information, visit www.quadient.com or follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger.