by Craig Le Clair.

Often when I order takeout food, the restaurants know who I am right away — as if I was a member of the family. At some restaurants, my son placed the order regularly in the past and they will ask about him, "Is Justin okay? Why isn’t he placing the order today?" They will leverage the information in my record to make the order simpler. "So you take the plain nan with that?"

If these small establishments with limited resources have this kind of personalized service, why is it that the biggest financial institutions in the world seem to not have any idea who I am? And if I want to extend my business with them, why do I need to start from scratch?

Information managers I speak with struggle to address these pain points in external communications with customers, clients, citizens, agents, and stores; account opening is near the top of the list of pain points. It exists at the lonely edge of the business process where the company interacts with the client — where information bounces between a company’s firewall and the customer’s domain — but why is this so difficult?

For one, business must deal with more diverse use cases. These relate to the multi-channel environment and the diversity of capture options that now exist. The paper world, despite inefficiency, had one primary use case with a small number of potential variations. Everyone — customers and operations — were trained in the simple paper model.

Today firms are dealing with the Web, email, paper mail, faxes and more with each of these communication channels which frequently overlap despite different underlying technologies. In short, the number and diversity of use cases have grown immensely including the complexity of the back-end workflow.

And think of how bad it can be. As a potential customer, you are persuaded to take action. That exciting TransPromo document with the enticing one-time offer on your phone bill may have swayed you, or perhaps it was an email promotion that did the trick. So you search for and find the correct form and fill it out. Then you fax or mail it in and with any luck it ends up at right location. Further good fortune turns the paper or fax into an electronic fil and forwards it to an indexing queue. Here off-shore staff extracts the needed data and enters it into some transaction system. But corrections are needed that require circling back to the customer. It is re-processed with corrected information and finally a confirmation package is sent that of course requires a "wet signature". So, a second capture process is needed and final documentation is sent out.

There are lots of points where errors can be introduced — lots of systems that must interact successfully. And today there are 100’s of client-facing business processes that need to be improved.