The New Reality for Customer Engagement
At Simmons, company executives originally just wanted to cut publishing costs, but worried that research reports would fall into the wrong hands if Simmons were to distribute them more cheaply online. "You send stuff off to a client, but then, gee, he might be turning around and e-mailing it to his brother-in-law who works for your rival, who then forwards it on to God only knows who," Schad says. "We wanted to be able to control and specify who gets our information. We wanted to say they couldn't forward stuff or, in some cases, even print it out. We wanted to take control of our information."
At first, Simmons considered using digital content controls to prohibit all content from being forwarded. But after much discussion, the company decided that a few leaks might not be so bad. "We didn't want to put the handcuffs on so tight that the customers felt like, you know, our company has turned into Big Brother and people wouldn't want to do business with us anymore," Schad says. Indeed, "we wanted to see where this information was ending up, as a way to find out if there's other business out there that we should be tapping into." The company has been testing the technology for months, and later this month it plans to go live with a new e-mail system that tracks reports sent to clients. Schad expects to generate at least several hundred sales leads from the experiment.
Meanwhile, Schad says, Simmons has achieved its original objective, cutting publishing costs in half, or by about $150,000 so far this year. Next year, he says, it will be more. "We're a small company, and the economic conditions of the last year have hit most investment banking firms hard, so you're trying to go after whatever kind of cost-cutting you can," he says.
Digital content controls can also help speed response times to inquiries and requests for permissions, cutting by days, if not weeks, the time it takes a company to produce a new film, book or piece of music. Chan Preston, the managing director of the digital content management practice at KPMG Consulting Inc., says Net-distribution methods run head-on into paper-based processes that most organizations still follow to locate a piece of content's rights of use and ownership.
Preston says large companies might have literally millions of digital assets, each with their own set of usage rights and permissions filed in paper records. At Simon & Schuster Inc., for example, CIO Anne Mander has created a Digital Asset Library to centralize materials such as book jackets, author photos and sales sheetsdata previously stored on zip drives or in someone's file drawerinto a single database. Mander says it's eliminated the need for dozens of employees whose jobs were to simply find this information and copy it each time one of S&S's executives requested it. "Much of this information would be scattered all over the company," Mander says. "Now it's in one central place, and we're getting faster now at producing books as a result."
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