We have a mantra “don’t customize, configure” that’s driven by the sins of CCM’s past. What we know as customer communications management
(CCM) arrived in the mid to late 90’s. This is when vendors began producing platforms for mass customization of customer communications. The technology took a big leap forward in the late 90’s when high-end variable color printing hit mainstream. Today we have cloud SaaS configurable CCM.
Like most of the software of that era, CCM solutions were poorly architected, had crude user interfaces and were expensive to maintain. Most of the vendors in the market have either faded away or have slowly updated these platforms to more modern standards.
The problem with being early in a market like this is your customers become a blessing and a curse. It takes a lot of resources to support one-off solutions. Every year customers have new needs that require the devotion of developers and only benefit that one customer. This makes it hard to devote resources to improving the overall foundation of the platform (if there is a platform).
Vendors who have struggled to move to more modern architectures continue to rely on one-off customization. To make this sound better they’ve begun calling their solutions “bespoke” which is a term used in other industries to signify some form of exclusivity.
What is bespoke?
The word bespoke (/bəˈspoʊk/) evolved from the phrase “to speak for something” to its present usage describing something tailor made like suits or shoes. It has become a popular marketing term for high-end brands to imply distinctiveness. These brands offer to tailor their goods to your specific tastes, effectively creating something unique to you.
When you’re buying suits or shoes bespoke can raise their value. When you put it in the context of highly complex systems like CCM, it has the opposite impact.
Why would I not want something custom built for me, or bespoke? The simple answer; things change. Your foot size won’t change much over the life of a shoe, nor will your overall body for a suit. Your organization however will be faced with new regulations, people coming and going, and changing processes.
If your CCM platform is bespoke, you’ll be going back to the vendor every time something changes. This is expensive and tends to slow the speed of change. Bespoke solutions lack adaptability and flexibility and thus the term bespoke has the opposite meaning when it comes to complex systems.
What’s the alternative to bespoke?
Over the last decade the cloud ushered in a new set of vendors that offered Software as a Service (SaaS) creating what is commonly called the subscription economy. In order for SaaS vendors to afford to let customers lease their software on a month to month basis they needed the cost of implementation to be low. Most built a self-service approach.
Think about the early days of sales force automation or martech. To adopt those solutions, you simply went to the vendor’s website, signed up, and configured the solution. As SaaS solutions got more complex a cottage industry of vendors emerged offering to configure an instance of the solution for you.
SaaS vendors focused their resources on building more features and improving existing ones. This enabled these vendors to move much faster than traditional software vendors and all customers benefited from the new features.
Better yet, most of the IT cost went away. No more infrastructure to maintain, or Capex expenses. Customers no longer had to worry about keeping up with updates. Updates just automagically happened as part of their subscription. Most of the security burden also shifted to the vendor. Overall the customer benefited from a lower total cost of ownership.
The future is Configurable CCM
This brings us back to our mantra “don’t customize, configure.” A custom solution built be a vendor uniquely to your needs may sound attractive, but you’ll suffer in the long haul. Every time you want to make a change you’ll find yourself going back to the vendor and paying for custom development. This is a slow and expensive way of maintaining a platform.
Contrast this with a cloud SaaS solution that has configuration at its core and it is easy to see why there has been such a big shift to cloud apps. If regulations, your organization, business rules or workflows change you simply go to the admin interface and reconfigure. No more going back to the vendor and paying for custom code only to do it again the next time something changes.
Sound too good to be true? Request a demo and see for yourself.