Is Document Composition a Forgotten Function?

By: Clement Barbe

Customer communications management (CCM) is poised for a major transition. Today, the task of producing customer mailings is still largely an unsung, batch-processing job, dominated by print, but changing customer expectations, the emergence of new technologies and the need to reduce costs are set to turn CCM into a powerhouse of real-time, multi-channel and personalized communication.

That heralds major changes for the way the job of document composition, in particular, is organised. The changes are likely to be wide-ranging, covering skills, technologies, organizational changes and financial investment, but how much of this is still hype today, and how much is reality?

To find out, Saggezza commissioned Liminal Marketing to conduct a qualitative survey of 10 executives responsible for the document composition portion of the CCM function in their organisation.

The research suggests that while customer-facing organisations, large and small, have established a document composition function, that function is not necessarily recognized as a separate entity in its own right. 

That’s largely down to fragmented patterns of ownership and influence. In its primary role as "processor" of statements, bills and correspondence, document composition is dependent for its inputs on multiple business systems, typically billing platforms owned and managed by information technology (IT).

Its outputs, on the other hand, are owned and influenced by a mix of other departments, from marketing to finance and legal and compliance. This fragmented setup can result in document composition becoming lost and forgotten between other business functions. 

Document composition almost becomes the forgotten bit of the organization, because it’s taking the system outputs, which are heavily IT, and turning them into a marketing document, but it’s not quite marketing, so you end up with a bit of a skills gap in between, because the marketing teams aren’t too bothered about it and the IT teams aren’t bothered because it’s not the core business. As long as the IT systems stand up, then they’re OK.

In some organizations, the setup is further complicated by the presence of third-party suppliers. It’s common for external print firms and marketing agencies to be responsible for the actual document output (if not the design, creation and programming of the templates), creating a new layer of influence over the function’s role and direction. 

Lastly, there appears to be a tension between the aims and objectives of marketing, which is keen to push customer communications forward into the multi-channel, real-time world; with procurement, which wants to keep costs down; with IT, which is concerned with making existing systems and processes more efficient; and with the document composition function itself, which is concerned that every document is compliant with legal requirements: something that’s a whole lot harder to do in a world of real-time, multi-channel, personalised document composition.

As a result, the overall picture of document composition that emerges from the research is one of a process that requires close collaboration between parties that do not always co-exist particularly well.

For more information on the full study, visit

Clement Barbe is global marketing manager at Saggezza, where he covers customer communications management.