As companies look for ways to cut expenses and capital costs during the economic downturn, interest in strategic document outsourcing has grown, according to Gartner.
However, organisations must ensure that outsourcing print and electronic document publishing improves customer communications without sacrificing quality, efficiency and confidentiality.
Strategic document outsourcing is the subset of business process outsourcing focused on the publication of customer communications, including content creation, multimedia presentation and incoming document processing. The outsourced documents may be transactional forms, sales collateral, direct-marketing materials and more. The documents may be published in physical or electronic media, or a combination of multiple media.
"Strategic document outsourcing offers organisations the opportunity to eliminate print- and mail-related capital expenditures while potentially reducing material and postage expenses," says Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner. "Outsource providers facilitate the targeted, relevant customer communications that can not only retain and grow the client base but also increase revenue."
Engaging a provider shifts the labour, material and overhead costs to the provider, which, because of its expertise and aggregated volume, has the ability to publish the communications for less, even when a profit margin is added onto its costs. Equally important, strategic document outsourcing providers often have the latest hardware and software, in addition to the well-trained personnel, necessary to implement targeted, relevant CRM-based communications. These providers can reduce the number of generic messages that organisations send, replacing them with fewer and more powerful communications that generate increased responses and higher revenue.
However, organisations that engage a strategic document outsourcing provider must realise that producing highly customised solutions may drive up the provider's costs and prices. Limited paper choices, envelope window locations and other standards enable the provider to efficiently produce a high volume of a variety of customers' applications while also providing appropriate business continuity processes. Certainly the provider understands and supports brand differentiation, but an insistence on
customized solutions for non-differentiating business processes drives up provider costs and drives down the quality of service.
Several providers with multinational resources offer centralised coordination, production of targeted and regionalised content, and "distribute then publish" capabilities through facilities around the globe. Organisations with a multinational "footprint" must consider outsourcing their regional and global document publication, whether physical or electronic, to a provider that has the footprint that matches their own to facilitate and maximise brand control and messaging while constraining costs.
"While certain kinds of marketing materials have long been outsourced and to produce them in-house would be an anomaly, business communications have been outsourced only when management felt potential issues of control, confidentiality, tight deadlines and the mission-critical nature of the work would be assured," says Basiliere. "Whether the communications are in print or electronic media, or are campaigns combining the two, strategic document outsourcing enables organisations to focus on their core products and services while entrusting customer communications to a specialist service provider."