Why focus on content creep in document management?

Webinar Recording: How to Control Content Creep Once and For All

The Challenges of Document Management in Legacy CCM Systems

A Director of Digital Services at a F500 financial institution called us up. He’d volunteered (without any experience) to lead the modernization of his organization’s customer communications management (CCM) and customer correspondence operations.

He was overwhelmed by the time he called, and had the same challenges as many large enterprises:

  • Lots of legacy technology, or “technology debt”
  • Customer correspondence was riding on a mainframe that hadn’t been upgraded in 10 years
  • Changes to documents required labyrinthine approvals
  • Because of acquisitions, multiple, entirely separate document systems were running that didn’t talk to each other.

Most surprising though was the number of stakeholders involved. He needed to consider not just the content designers, but also subject matter experts, reviewers (Legal), delivery, and the people that needed to use the system.

But the biggest challenge of all? Content creep.

Webinar Hosts Brent and Greg

This webinar was hosted by Elixir’s Brent Augustus and Greg Tschida.

Brent is on our Solutions team here at Elixir. He has over 15 years of experience managing business process improvement with a specific focus on digital transformation and high-visibility analytics.

Greg is an experienced Elixir account executive with a track record of success in the customer communications industry, particularly in developing strategic partnerships and assisting clients in navigating complex issues.

What is content creep?

Content creep in legacy CCM systems

In this context, content creep is when the number of document versions increases over time. This happens because more and more variations might be required due to things like regional regulations, new markets, and business changes. This “creep” can happen slowly but over time the multiple versions and documents to track get out of control. It becomes harder, more time-consuming, and much more expensive to maintain necessary documents.

At a high level, document variation is a legitimate business need. For large companies, it’s not uncommon to have different versions of the same document for different parts of the world or for different applications. But when this variation becomes excessive, it can lead to content creep and all the challenges that come with it.

Content creep in regulated industries

In regulated industries like finance, the regulations vary from state to state. 50 different state requirements might mean a change from just two different versions of some document, to 100.

Content creep can happen in many ways — it doesn’t just happen due to regulation. You might want a bar chart version versus a text-only version. That’s two different variations.

So instead of having 100 documents, now you have 200 versions.

Imagine the effort required to make simple updates at this point, like changing a phone number.

This becomes an even bigger problem with legacy CCM programs running multiple systems, with multiple uncontrolled versions of documents.

For example, our caller had over 1500 different versions of one document alone! He intuitively knew that he could cut that down.

The negative impact of out-of-control content creep in legacy CCM

Aside from the obvious impact on productivity, content creep can negatively affect your org in these three ways:

1) Out-of-control content creep decreased speed to market

Out-of-control content creep can hurt an organization’s speed to market.

When you need to create new plans, documents, or change information in a template, rather than having to make the same update in multiple documents, you only need to make it once. For example, if a phone number in your footer disclaimer needs updating, by editing the template itself, all 50 variations will have the updated information automatically.

The time and effort required to manage and track multiple document versions can eat up large portions of the year’s latter quarters in some regulated industries. Additionally, regulatory changes can lead to even more document variations, which further delays product launches and other business initiatives.

2) Content creep and uncontrolled document versioning makes collaboration nearly impossible

With legacy CCM systems, it’s hard enough to get multiple departments on the same page. Significant content creep can make collaboration between these disciplines nearly impossible.

Colleagues like:

  • Business users
  • Subject matter experts
  • Marketing personnel
  • Compliance officers
  • And lawyers

All need to be able to work together and make changes to documents. That can be tough to coordinate in the multiple legacy systems that some enterprises are still dealing with.

Imagine the time required from different departments to approve hundreds of versions of the same document. The effort and time needed for this kind of manual process simply halts collaboration on anything strategic.

3) Content creep in legacy CCM muddies your compliance accuracy and audit trail

An audit trail is a chronological record of the sequence of activities that have affected the data over time. This is important for two reasons: to track data changes and to ensure compliance.

When content creep occurs, it can muddy this audit trail, making it difficult to track down who made which changes and when. This can seriously impact your ability to stay compliant with regulations.

Moving to #ComOps and away from legacy CCM systems

Business transformation away from CCM cost centers and onto ComOps platforms to create Centers of Excellence

A current client came to us with between 1200 and 1300 documents, but we learned that they only use a fraction of them. Our goal is to reduce that number down to 15 core documents that can still produce all the required variations and outputs–around 700 in total.

The “Sweet Spot” is the point where we transition from using these antiquated CCM systems to something more modern. Pulling out the core document set from a post-content-creep CCM is just the start.

Modern communication operations (ComOps) platforms like Elixir get all the stakeholders into the same software process or workflow. Managing required documents in one place this way allows organizations to turn costly old CCM systems into Centers of Excellence (CoE), where they can realize business objectives and see ROI.

Elixir’s cloud-based #ComOps platform increases:

  1. Speed to market
  2. Ease of collaboration
  3. Compliance accuracy and audit trail accuracy

What is #ComOps?

#ComOps is the discipline of communication operations. It’s a way of working that enables departments to collaborate on customer correspondence. ComOps improves speed to market, collaboration, and compliance accuracy.

With a modern ComOps platform, you can turn your legacy CCM cost center into a Center of Excellence (CoE).

ComOps gets everyone involved in document management onto one platform.

  • Brand/Designer: create beautiful and brand-compliant master templates
  • Operations: business rules to populate language, images or other elements that vary by demographics, region, or market
  • Legal: approvals and compliance, with huge time savings through automation
  • Business users: empowered to make changes in documents without having to bug IT constantly
  • Security/compliance: validates PII/PHI data security and reports on reduced errata

With a reliable ComOps platform like Elixir, you can use business rules to confirm the correct processes are happening. Not only that, but you can also determine which data should flow between different business systems, such as a CRM.

Business rules within document composition let your teams make informed decisions about how best to deliver content through template design, asset selection, dynamic content, and delivery method.

Transform to a high-performing ComOps process

A document is created, and the business rules are applied to bring in the correct information. The document is checked for compliance. Then it will go through reviews.

After the first reviewer has seen and approved it, they’ll promote it. Automated activities alert the next person in line. They approve it and send it to legal, who does the same thing. This repeats until the final check is completed and it’s scheduled to ship out of the door.

A good ComOps platform will also determine if an email (or other digital delivery method) was successful in reaching the customer. If it was rejected, it’ll be printed and sent off to satisfy that part of the regulatory process.


Content creep can be a real issue in legacy CCM systems, negatively affecting time to market and compliance. It can bog down multiple teams so much that they lose weeks or even months to basic document updates.

You’ll know it’s affecting your organization if you see an unnecessary proliferation of similar documents with minor variations. You’ll see it happening when a new version of a document is needed, and the only option in your current setup is to create yet another document.

These legacy CCM systems silo and overburden your teams.

ComOps platforms get every stakeholder onto one platform. They use templates and business rules to dynamically generate the right document for each member, simplify and expedite the review process, and ensure that members receive their communications. With the right platform, you can turn your old CCM cost center into a Center of Excellence.