Centralize Stewardship over Message Creation and Standards

It’s undeniable: The market trend toward multi-channel communications and integrated customer experience is accelerating at an increasing pace. Organizations are rushing to keep up with the demand for change – and to the need to be faster, nimbler, and more responsive in a communications environment that’s grown far more complex.

Yet as these organizations strive to keep up with these demands, they face a number of inhibitors, in the form of:

  • Technology barriers – legacy systems and inadequate tooling
  • Process inefficiencies – siloed business segments and redundant processes
  • Organizational dysfunction – disparate teams, lack of ownership, and turf battles

One of the primary steps a firm can take to help address both the organizational and process dimensions is to centralize the oversight and control over message creation and communications standards.

We’ve found that many of our clients struggle with the topic of centralization versus federation of key customer communication functions. Business segments have different priorities and timeframes in which they need to transact business, which drives a need for autonomy in responding to market forces and business conditions. Yet the enterprise as a whole is trying to create a consistent experience across all business segments – an experience which includes multiple channels, devices, and media. Resolving this dichotomy requires some level of centralized control over customer experience and communications standards.

Most large organizations can’t or won’t centralize all aspects of the communications development lifecycle. But in order to drive consistent experience across businesses, channels, and devices, there must be a level of control and oversight that can be leveraged across the spectrum. Consider centralizing the following functions and activities:

  • Customer experience standards and guidelines
  • Writing standards and brand voice
  • Document layout and design
  • Enterprise control and oversight (governance)

Note that this centralization doesn’t mean one and only one team; in fact, the depth and breadth of skills will likely require more than one team. However, the teams need to be closely connected and potentially report up through the same management structure.

Development and delivery then is left to possibly be federated across the enterprise. This model enables a strong combination of central control to develop the consistent experience, while providing the flexibility of multiple development and delivery teams that can focus on the specific needs of their respective business counterparts.

A quick review across fourteen of Doculabs’ CCM clients in financial services and insurance sheds some additional light on the topic, from the perspectives of both organization and standards and guidelines.


  • The operating model employed for communications and publishing is predominantly centralized. Twelve of the fourteen firms (or 86 percent) have a centralized operating model.
  • Content authoring within the same group, is, however largely federated. Eleven of the fourteen firms have a decentralized approach to content authoring. This is understandable, given that product and other expertise is spread throughout the enterprise.
  • For all fourteen firms, reporting responsibility for the CCM program is directly to the C-level. It is also heavily concentrated through IT, 64 percent reporting to the CIO, 22 percent to the COO, and 14 percent to the CMO.

Standards and Guidelines:

  • Although only half of the firms in the sample set had established writing and customer communications policies, the other seven firms were in the process of establishing them.
  • All but one of these firms had established review and approval processes or periodic reviews that functioned through a governance or customer experience stewardship team.
  • Responsibility for the creation, care, and maintenance of standards and guidelines was split between Customer Experience/CCM Governance groups (70 percent) and Marketing (30 percent).

There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, but experience teaches us that it is next to impossible to develop consistent messaging and customer experiences without a level of centralized oversight.

Rich Medina
Tom Roberts
I’m a Principal Consultant for Doculabs with more than 25 years experience, focused on delivering strategies that improve clients’ enterprise content management capabilities, with an emphasis on customer communications management strategies.