Document automation is only a small piece of the puzzle in personalised communications

By Sean Manley, National Sales & Account Manager at GhostDraft

Document automation is only a small piece of the puzzle in personalised communications
Sean Manley, National Sales & Account Manager at GhostDraft

Producing personalised mass communication, like we see in the insurance industry, is a complex and time-consuming process, and many businesses have invested in document automation technology for this purpose. One of the biggest challenges in the overall process lies not so much in the actual generation of the final document, but rather in the initial time-consuming process between inception and implementation – where the language and structure of the document are designed.


This is why it is crucial to consider the entire lifecycle of customer communication. Indeed, in markets such as the US, the concept of customer communication management (CCM) seeks to do just that. In  the South African market, which prefers to refer to this process as “document automation”, it is still important for businesses to appreciate the entire end-to-end process, including the laborious activity preceding actual document generation, because when – through effective communication lifecycle management – this process is sped up by anything between 200% and 500%, it radically reduces time to market. That’s a compelling competitive advantage.

A recent study by well-known US market analysts Celent details the immense time lag between document inception and implementation in the insurance industry. In the report, the Celent analysts note that “Loading the change into the production system can also take some time. The typical timeline is about three to six months. In some circumstances, a change can be prioritized and loaded in much faster. But for complex forms [we refer to documents, in South Africa], respondents reported that upload time can stretch five months and beyond.”

To illustrate what this means for business, which will no doubt resonate with South African companies, Celent writes: “Let’s just walk through the timing. If required changes to existing standard forms are published on January 1, with an effective date of September 1, (i.e. nine months lead time),  those form changes need to be in the system ready to be used by June 1 in order to be applied to September 1 renewals, because renewal policies are typically issued 90 days in advance of the effective date. The publishers of these forms told us IT generally takes one to three months to make a change. That means IT needs to have all final requirements in place by March 1. That gives product management two months to complete their analysis and obtain all approvals. While some simple changes can be done fairly quickly, changes that include rate changes or are complex generally take much longer than two months.”

It is clear that the bottleneck lies in the complex processes between document inception and implementation. Why is this complex? Consider the following example: A product manager, who is looking to bring a new product and its associated customer facing documentation to market, has a set of requirements and passes this on to compliance. Compliance does its due diligence and produces a version that is shared back with the product manager, who reviews and tracks changes. This goes back and forth in many iterations until it is ready to be passed to an IT business analyst, who captures the implementation and automation rules, before needing to review and collaborate on these rules with compliance, who in turn need to review and collaborate with the product manager.

After as many iterations as required, the implementation and automation rules are approved and IT development is then brought into the picture. IT development marks-up the document or communication template in an automation tool and deploys for review. This needs collaboration with the IT business analyst, compliance and product manager through as many iterations as required until everyone is happy. Only now is the document ready for testing.

This is where businesses such as insurers can radically improve their systems and exponentially speed up their time to market. A good document automation provider, or – to use the term widely accepted in the US – CCM software vendor – provides technology to streamline, automate and accelerate the convoluted communication lifecycle between inception and implementation.

When a business specifies what needs to go into their document, an advanced CCM system can implement and automate that document into a template that can be personalised. A good analogy is to think about no-code applications – where the user specifies what they want and technology does the rest. This is a new frontier in customer communication because a business user can specify what a document should look like and include, and what personalisation it should have, and the platform does the rest automatically.

The ability to implement new communications exceedingly quickly using document automation software challenges the status quo in the life cycle of communications.

Technology has evolved to the point where commonly shared frustrations or bottlenecks no longer need to be endured. Businesses would do well to seek out experts in the customer communication life cycle that have the ability to automate every aspect of the process on a single platform that is easy to implement. With international pedigree and a deep understanding of the local market, the right partner can revolutionise what businesses thought was possible.