"Comply and Get Personal" says Peter Aylward, Managing Director at RedDot Solutions, UK

Compliance has been a real driver for content management but its much more than a mandate, and can yield benefits far beyond keeping the regulators happy.  Peter Aylward (pictured), Managing Director, RedDot Solutions explains.

Better usability. Productivity gains. High availability information for customers, employees and partners.  Competitive edge. Not statements you would naturally associate with compliance. But businesses have an opportunity to drive web engagement by extending the investment they have made in content management for compliance, to deliver personalisation to customers, partners and employees.  

This is no marketing tactic. Ovum identified search and personalisation as key tools to help users take control of the vast amounts of information available to them.[1] Other major social trends - including new working practices and personalisation - are having a real impact on the way organisations do business. And there is no doubt that consumer expectations are high in terms of engagement quality and information availability.  But, enterprise IT is falling behind, in part due to the constraints of budgets and legacy systems.[2]  

The result is that rapid technology consumerisation is having a dramatic impact on the expectations of your customers, partners and employees.  Interaction quality is vital, both for productivity and loyalty, and is often used as a benchmark for competing offerings.  Gartner predicts that: the technological empowerment of end-users within the organisation represents significant challenges to the enterprise in particular, employees and customers will own and manage their own information.  So, personalisation comes of age.

The good news is that understanding users preferences and responding with the most relevant content is no longer the domain of high-end e-commerce sites and enterprise portals.  The technology to build user profiles, identify relevant content and data and deliver it securely is now available. 

Compliance and Beyond
The bonus for those businesses that have adopted ECM for compliance is that it will have helped businesses to redefine new business processes, implement new management policies, overhaul storage, agonise over structured and unstructured data, and document everything.  In short, the foundations for personalisation will have been laid.  Specifically:

  • Roles and permissions of staff and user groups have been confirmed; this may extend (via LDAP, for example) to your immediate supply chain business partners, members, investors and customers
  • Records, document and content management implementation has guaranteed access to the right information, at the right time, by the right people
  • Implementation ensures standardised treatment of future records, documents and content
  • Unstructured data has been augmented with keywords and metadata for improved discovery and retrieval.

Getting personal
When you compare the achievements outlined above, it is clear that the first two steps to define and deliver personalised experiences to stakeholders have been done: 

  • Confirm or improve current systems for assigning and managing permissions (profiles) for employees and external stakeholders
  • Confirm or improve data quality.  Is it accessible, searchable, permission tagged / structured?
  • Define your requirements in terms of:

                        Explicit personalisation (software controlled based on user profile)

                        Implicit personalisation (software controlled based on the users past click-stream)

                        Customisation (user controlled).

The market is pushing for personalisation, but building from the user engagement experience back will help to shape the strategy.  Stakeholder examples clarify the opportunity:

A multitude of roles, needs, challenges, information requirements and productivity objectives typify the employee challenge.  To use a functional example:  a Finance Manager with authority for three of his companys seven market regions, has permissions set within Active Directorys Finance groups, and also for the new product development groups in which he participates.

Every page of the intranet can contain content that is specific to his profile.  The same system may also offer him customisation options such as his preferred look and feel, and selected inclusion of news from across the organisations other new product development groups relevant to his level of authority. 

However, it is vital to get implicit personalisation just right, so that it adds rather than detracts from the user experience.  As it is based on past click-streams, it should be remembered that the user might not want the same experience today as yesterday.  Nevertheless, if the Finance Manager regularly navigates to the company pension scheme section of the intranet, it makes sense from a usability and productivity perspective to add a shortcut or teaser to his homepage.

Personalisation should not stop at the intranet.  The employee benefits are clear, but the compliance foundation can help to deliver a personalised extranet to your partners. 

A partner portal integrates the content and applications the partner needs to work with your organisation more effectively.  It will integrate search with full-text retrieval functions that take the users authorisations into account at the same time.

To give an example, Webasto, a world leader in the supply of roofs and air conditioning systems to the automotive industry, operates a portal to communicate and interact with dealers, suppliers and car manufacturers.  Customer enquiries are directed to local Webasto dealers via the dealer portal, who can then calculate quotes and order the necessary components from Webasto.  Suppliers can view their supplier rating, training announcements, and search through all documents covered by their access privileges.  These suppliers can also access backend business applications, such as a tools database or quality assurance tools.

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is another example of the benefit of compliant document and content management to personalising websites.  By tagging content at page and element level as searchable, integrating an existing LDAP directory for secure member authentication, and integrating the Verity search engine, members can find what they are looking for easily and quickly.  Explicit personalisation allows localisation at country level, including site translation into local language, and integration with a CRM back-end application, enabling individual explicit and implicit personalisation.

Customers may be businesses or public sector organisations, but everyone is a consumer and expectations will be high whatever the interaction requirement. The University of the Arts is one example.  Home to five of the capitals creative centres including London College of Fashion and Chelsea College of Art and Design, the Universitys website allows each College to manage its own content and identity.  It uses personalisation to provide visitors with a tailored view of all offered courses at a glance, which has proved invaluable in recruitment drives, especially around August Clearing. Higher education is an extremely competitive market.  The engagement experience is vital, particularly for a young, consumer audience with sophisticated technology awareness.

New Levels of Engagement
The business drivers are clear, but how can a business quantify improved engagement? Increased employee knowledge, reduced burden on subject matter experts and improved communication flow are some of the key indicators.  Partners gearing up their relationship and expertise using highly available information will have a positive impact on productivity and relationship management.  Reduced time to market by providing the supply chain and business partners with timely information updates also provides further benefits.

Finally, for customers, how effective is implicit knowledge of customers in locking them in? Can your customers serve themselves more effectively, reducing the impact on your call centre staff?  Loyalty and engagement can increase sales, reduce marketing expense and deliver greater customer lifetime value.

Close the loop
Like compliance, personalisation is a journey rather than a destination.  Measuring success, using the data gathered to improve stakeholders experience, is key.  And its possible.

Using connectors to export click-stream data to your business intelligence system will reveal real-time insights into the way stakeholders engage with intranets, extranets and websites, identifying opportunities for improving the experience.  It may also provide data contributing to advance / lead indicators within an organisations Balanced Scorecard or similar corporate performance measurement system.

One thing is certain; personalisation will not remain a differentiator for long.  Rudimentary personalisation is rapidly becoming a qualifying feature of good intranets, extranets and public websites, and best practice is ever advancing.   Its just as well compliance can deliver a head start.

RedDot Solutions is exhibiting at Documation UK in partnership with AIIM. It is the largest dedicated exhibition of its kind in the UK covering end-to-end enterprise content management. It will address the latest issues in information management, including web content, email and fax management, document management, records management, storage, business processes and compliance. Olympia 2, London, 18-19 October 2006 www.documation-uk.com

[1] http://www.ovum.com/go/content/c,377,34837

[2] http://www.gartner.com/press_releases/asset_139280_11.html

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