Commentary & Analysis
Software Overview: Exstream Dialogue
By Nancy Ingalls The demo showed it to be an easy to use solution for businesses to create any kind of personalized document in any volume and deliver it through multiple print and electronic channels.
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: June 14, 2004
By Nancy Ingalls The demo showed it to be an easy to use solution for businesses to create any kind of personalized document in any volume and deliver it through multiple print and electronic channels. June 14, 2004 -- I recently attended the DMD New York Conference & Expo in New York City. DMD of New York provides a forum to teach marketers how to deliver messages more effectively. The show floor was populated by hundreds of service suppliers demonstrating the latest technology and innovative solutions that can help marketers fulfill their communications needs. As I put my corporate hat on and walked the floor, I saw many solutions to choose from and if one does not do their homework, one certainly could spend way too much money on solutions that would only do part of the job. Don't get me wrong, there are many solutions worth noting and worth the investment. In my quest, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Exstream Software and got a detailed look at what their Dialogue product does and can do. Background Founded in 1998 and Headquartered in Lexington, KY, Exstream Software developed a solution to create personalized communications. In 1999 the company launched a modular software suite called Dialogue. Dialog enables businesses around the world to connect with the "eGeneration" through higher quality, fully personalized customer communications whether delivered by mail, email or the Internet. In 2003, Exstream introduced Dialogue WebVerse, a complete web environment that is integrated with Dialogue allowing marketers to rapidly build and deploy electronic fulfillment and online self-service applications. They have four international offices spanning different parts of Europe and the Pacific Rim. With the opening of an office in France, Exstream acquired a full suite of AFP products, which is now part of their solution mix for global distribution. From its inception, Exstream's vision was to offer enterprise personalization products that allow companies to reduce costs and get to market faster. Exstream attributes much of its success to a providing exceptional customer care that provides numerous opportunities for its customers to become part of the Exstream's ongoing development process. Products/Services Dialogue combines personalized document creation, campaign management and tracking, multi-channel delivery, and web application development in one fully integrated software suite. The demo showed it to be an easy to use solution for businesses to create any kind of personalized document in any volume and deliver it through multiple print and electronic channels. Dialogue seems to accommodate the needs of many industries by providing a relatively sophisticated solution allowing marketers to produce targeted communications containing effective messaging without having to learn more complex programs such as QuarkXPress or InDesign. A big bonus for enterprise solutions is with the software's ability to produce materials quickly which can help increase revenue opportunities and reduce costs. As with any tool for creating variable content documents, Dialogue is dependent on having clean data, and this requirement is a good thing: it shows companies first hand the critical importance of having well-constructed databases and clean data. It's a clear side-benefit that may well help support further growth variable data printing. What's in Dialogue for a Print Provider? Ok, how does this product help the digital printer? As the demand for customizable and highly personalized marketing and mission-critical customer communications continues to grow, marketers will undoubtedly produce more short-run communiqués annually. Some corporate networked print engines may not be able to produce the volumes required at the quality level marketers expect. But Exstream's software can produce the documents on any printer, so the marketing professional can submit their print jobs electronically to their chosen print provider. Taking off my corporate hat, the converse of this is the downside I see for print providers. Exstream targets marketing professionals in corporate America (rather than print providers), enabling them to produce targeted marketing communications printers in house. The mailers, newsletters, and collateral materials produced may not have the quality standards normally expected, but this may ultimately be a non-issue. Color and image quality available on many office laser printers may be more than adequate for many direct marketing needs. And companies like Canon, HP, KonicaMinolta, Océ, Ricoh, and Xerox all have a variety of office and CRD printers that provide excellent quality. And for the smaller mailings involved, the U.S. Post Office has plenty of support for companies seeking to do their own bulk mailing. All the more reason for savvy print providers should look for ways to add value to their services, or perhaps even adopt Exstream Dialogue in ways their customers can use it to create and drive business to the print provider.