Jan. 3 2024 08:11 AM

The evolution of the automated document factory to an AI-focused communication management factory


    In an era driven by digital transformation, the management of print communications may appear to be a fading necessity. However, for many businesses, the need for efficient, accurate and cost-effective print communications remains paramount. This is where the evolution from automated document factory (ADF) to the AI-focused communication management factory (CMF) plays a pivotal role.

    A CMF is a system that automates the creation, delivery and tracking of communications (not just transactional or print documents). It can be used to create a variety of documents, including invoices, statements, marketing materials and employee communications. Modern CMFs are software solutions driven by APIs with back ends that use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve routing and delivery of highly customized communications. A CMF fits within an enterprise communications processing (ECP) system to handle the delivery of communications through advanced technology, streamlining print communications and the capacity to integrate better preference management, marketing communications and digital and mobile channels.

    A Quick History of ADF

    The journey from ADF to CMF begins with an understanding of the role ADF played in revolutionizing document production and management. In the past, the creation and dissemination of printed materials, including invoices, statements, marketing collateral and transactional documents, were labor-intensive endeavors fraught with errors. ADFs stepped in as automation powerhouses, optimizing a range of tasks, from document composition to printing, sorting and mailing. Much of the success of ADFs was through the middleware post-composition tools that have now grown into fully featured ECP solutions. The impact of ADFs was profound, resulting in increased efficiency, cost reductions and enhanced accuracy for many organizations.

    The Need for Evolution

    Despite their undeniable advantages, ADFs had limitations. They primarily focused on automating routine tasks and lacked the capacity to adapt to shifting customer preferences and market dynamics. As businesses recognized the growing significance of data-driven decision making, they demanded systems that could harness AI and machine learning (ML) to deliver insights, personalization and cost-efficiency. With postage costs increasing faster than ever before, and the current struggle with staffing challenges, many organizations are looking to technology in order to further automate manual tasks and reduce the cost of print and mail through preference management, print deflection and mobile delivery solutions.

    Enter the AI-focused CMF

    CMFs boast 7 key components that build on those of its ADF predecessor:

    1. Enterprise communications processing (ECP) — CMFs leverage ECP as the core technology. This integrated approach revolutionizes communications management by uniting the power of AI with a comprehensive understanding of the communications lifecycle. It enables businesses to seamlessly manage, orchestrate and optimize communications across multiple channels, including print. Many organizations lack the ability to share preferences across departments. An example is where email billing is sent via print because they are unaware that a customer has chosen digital communication as a preference when signing up. This creates huge waste and poor experience for the recipient. FICO's research reveals that 43% of millennials feel their banks miss their preferred communication channels, emphasizing the need for integrated solutions.

    2. Print suppression and print deflection — CMFs excel in providing advanced print suppression tactics. Through AI-driven analysis of customer interactions (opens, replies, read rates), businesses can discern chances to cut print volume or shift to economical digital channels like email or web portals. This leads to significant cost savings in print operations while elevating customer contentment. It's important to dispel the misconception prevalent in various industries that a PDF statement, bill or letter in an application or mobile browser suffices for customers in 2023.

    3. AI-based rapid onboarding of files, jobs and applications — CMFs employ advanced technology to streamline onboarding, automating the indexing of print files and identifying crucial elements like address blocks and barcodes. This expedites file, job and application setup. Unlike the template-based approach of traditional ADF, CMFs offer diverse data formats, enhancing speed-to-value and enabling organizations to stay agile and responsive to market shifts.

    4. The role of eDelivery — In the digital era, eDelivery is increasingly vital. A strong ECP solution supporting the CMF framework is essential. Incorporating AI-driven personalization and predictive analytics ensures digital communications match print in efficiency, engagement and cost-effectiveness. The landscape now extends beyond print to various channels like SMS, MMS, video and personalized video billing. Modern consumers prefer multiple delivery options.

    5. Personalization and predictive analytics — An AI-driven CMF offers vital advantages for enterprises. It accurately predicts future print volumes, reducing waste and enhancing inventory management. AI also enables personalized customer communications, tailoring content to preferences. For instance, in healthcare provider selection, modern software uses personal data to offer customized options, akin to Netflix's content recommendations. This streamlined approach improves user experience and benefits businesses and customers alike.

    6. Compliance and security — In industries with strict compliance requirements, AI and ML can play a crucial role in ensuring that all printed communications adhere to legal and regulatory standards. Additionally, these technologies enhance document security, protecting sensitive information from breaches.

    7. Error reduction — AI-powered systems can significantly reduce errors in printed documents by cross-referencing data and identifying discrepancies. This not only saves time and resources, but also enhances the overall quality of printed communications.

    The Future of Communication Management

    The evolution from the automated document factory to the AI-focused communication management factory powered by enterprise communications processing represents a quantum leap in the domain of communications management. As businesses strive to balance the demands of physical and digital communication channels, these advanced systems provide the intelligence and cost-saving potential required to thrive in a dynamic marketplace. The capacity to offer better print suppression and greater mobile options, coupled with rapid onboarding, signifies that CMFs are not just adapting to change, but are actually shaping the future of communication management.

    The convergence of AI, ML and ECP within the CMF framework represents a fundamental shift in how businesses deliver and manage print communication. As technology continues to advance, the CMF ecosystem will evolve further, ensuring that organizations can meet the ever-changing needs of customers and the market while achieving optimal efficiency and cost-effectiveness in their communication strategies.

    A digital document industry pioneer, Ernie Crawford is President/CEO and founder of Crawford Technologies. One of only a small number of people worldwide with M-EDP (Master Electronic Document Professional) designation, Ernie has more than 30 years of senior marketing and management experience in the high-volume digital printing market.

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