Working with many of the largest insurance and financial services firms in the U.S. and Canada over the last several years, I’ve seen many great successes and continued struggles with the concept of effectively restructuring the thousands of documents, messages, and templates the respective organizations use in their customer communications. And I have some insights into why many of these organizations fail to effectively restructure their customer-facing document content.
So why have some firms had great success, while others continue to churn?
One of the biggest reasons is that the successful firms have a person with a new role on their Customer Communications Management (CCM) or publishing team: the Document Architect or Message Architect. The individual in this role has become a key player in designing and driving a successful content refactoring or restructuring effort.
What is a Document/Message Architect?
A new concept for many organizations, the Message Architect is role that lives within the publishing team – usually in a business department such as Marketing, or in the Operations division. The focus of the Message Architect is on optimizing the publishing assets and processes to most effectively and efficiently produce and maintain the variety of documents and messages used in customer communications. The role is analogous to many architect positions that IT generally has for disciplines such as database management or networking, and it has responsibility for leading the design and structuring of content assets to optimize the writing, design, and production of communications across business units, products, delivery channels, and formats.
But I’ve never seen an architect role defined outside of Information Technology.
True – this is a fairly heretical concept. If the idea of an architect outside of IT doesn’t fit in your organization, use a term like Communications Strategist, instead. Regardless of the name or title, the responsibilities assigned to the role are the same.
Where does IT fit in, then?
It is vitally important that the Message Architect that lives in the business or publishing department be partnered with a technical lead or architect on the IT side who is charged with optimizing the technical implementation in the composition tool or tools being used. The combination of optimizing the content, organization, structure, granularity, and usability across the both the business team and technical team is absolutely a must-do. The two architects or leads from the business and IT have to proceed forward arm in arm to ensure success. Unilateral decisions made by either group tend to usually be single-sided and don’t achieve the same level of combined business and IT benefit.
What are the key activities and responsibilities of the Message Architect?
The diagram below provides a high-level view of five key topic areas and some of the core activities to be performed and or facilitated by a message architect.
Finally, an action item for you:
If you don’t have a message architect position on your team today, seriously consider putting one in place. Your next big challenge will be to determine if you’ve got someone internally with the right skills and capabilities to fill this role.