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Open Platforms: Where CCM, Digital Experience Must Go Blog Feature
John Zimmerer

By: John Zimmerer on July 22nd, 2016

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Open Platforms: Where CCM, Digital Experience Must Go

Customer Experience | Customer Communications

The biggest obstacle to delivering consistent customer experiences at every touchpoint throughout the customer journey is silos. Within many, if not most, large businesses, there are thick metaphorical walls between departments, lines of business, campuses, etc. And the separation affects everything, including people, processes and technology – and, in turn, it affects the customers.

As customer communications management (CCM) vendors, we feel those divisions quite keenly. CCM depends heavily on being able to share customer data and content across touchpoints and channels and on empowering business users in multiple departments to create, manage and track customer communications. We do what we can to facilitate technological integration and workflows and to train and support the people involved in customer communications to do their jobs well, but to really serve our clients’ needs, we in the business of digital experience (DX) delivery need to collectively do a better job of sharing customer data and content across the customer experience software infrastructure.

At Topdown, we’re doing our part and getting out ahead of this growing need in the DX software industry. We know that consistency cannot be accomplished at the departmental level. That’s why we’re developing our next CCM solution, INTOUCH®, as an open platform, using open standards and open APIs so that our clients will be able to much more easily integrate it into their CX architectures. This approach will enable companies to share data and content across their systems without having to duplicate them throughout the organization.

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What Does “Open” Mean?

We refer to the need for open platforms, open standards, open source code, and other types of technological “openness” all the time. But what do these terms mean? How are they different from each other? And why should a business user care? Here’s a quick overview:

  • Open platform: Using RESTful APIs, multiple applications can function within the same ecosystem, sharing data, content, and other assets with relative ease.
  • Open standards: These are publically available, non-proprietary content and data formats meant to be adopted widely in order to facilitate interoperability and data exchange among different products and services. Open standards like HTML5, CSS3, JSON, and CMIS are developed and maintained through a collaborative and consensus-driven process.
  • Open source: Open source code allows anyone to read, use or even modify the code. We like open source code because we don’t have to write it ourselves and reinvent something that’s already been worked out thoroughly. Plus, open source code is community supported, which acts as a force multiplier: the more people actively supporting the code, the faster new features and fixes can be added and tested.

Openness matters to IT departments because it minimizes their struggle to make all the disparate parts of a complex IT infrastructure and a proliferation of DX software work together efficiently. It also helps them choose best-of-breed solutions rather than being tied into proprietary closed platforms that will certainly have gaps they’ll need to fill.

Openness matters to business users because it means they can move much more easily between applications, use a single (or at least fewer) dashboard(s), call up data and assets that they can feel confident are current and consistent across the board, and track customer interactions across departments and touchpoints for a more consistent and satisfying overall customer experience.

What Does “Sharing” Really Mean?

To us, sharing means having access to the same constituent materials, delivery tier, and reporting/analytics capabilities and being able to coordinate at that layer. In an open platform, we have to be able to operate at both granular and macro layers. We have to be able to share reusable objects, create, collaborate on and deliver content, hand off communications to someone else’s delivery tool, and so on. We can do those things.

It’s also about the enterprise architect being able to determine a tool’s fitness for its purpose. That’s facilitated by using open standards and having a philosophy of openness as well. If you know that other DX applications and users might need to reach into your CCM application from time to time for shared assets and data, you need to know how your platform will react to that. Can users check content in and out from any application? Do you have version control? Are end users notified of changes? Can you produce an accurate report or audit trail of all customer communications in any and all channels, exactly as they appeared to each individual recipient? We can do those things, too.

An asset repository is the clearest example of this kind of sharing. You’ll want one built on open standards like JSON and JSR-170 so your CCM tool and other components of your DX platform have a read-from and write-to repository and can use any assets in it.

Want to know more about how Topdown is using open standards and open source code to build the most integratable and interoperable CCM solution yet? Subscribe to our blog. We’ll be covering the continuing development and eventual rollout of INTOUCH here.

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About John Zimmerer

John Zimmerer is the senior director of marketing at Topdown, where he leads market research and outreach efforts for the company's customer communications and customer experience products. Most recently, John has been researching and writing about the future direction of the technologies that power customer experience, and is regarded as a thought leader in this area. John has nearly 20 years of software product marketing experience. His areas of expertise include market research, analyst relations, public relations and digital marketing.

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