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W.A. Wilde Company Uses Exstream Software's Dialogue to Deliver Highly Personalized Documents

  • July 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

REVIEWER: Robert Reeder, CIO/CTO at W.A. Wilde Company.

BACKGROUND: W.A. Wilde Company is an integrated direct marketing service provider based in Holliston, Massachusetts. The company leverages its 130 years of experience, its focus on customer service and flexibility to deliver turnkey marketing solutions for its clients, including mailing services, statement processing, direct mail response management, database fulfillment and e-marketing.

PLATFORMS: Window NT/XP. Print platforms are PostScript, AFP, PDF, VPS and HTML.

PROBLEM SOLVED: It seemed very clear to us that the path of print on demand was heading to "content on demand" and document self-assembly. We needed a technology that would respond to this way of thinking. At the same time, we also needed to find a solution that would enhance the efficiency of our production environment. With Dialogue, we are creating very sophisticated personalized applications, such as building entire 401(k) booklets that are in color and offer personalized fact sheets and enrollment forms. Its ease of use has made it possible to cross-train our production staff, allowing for a more cohesive and expanded labor pool. Since implementing Exstream Software's Dialogue, we have reduced operating costs and time to market, increased response rates for our customers and enhanced productivity with the same number of staff.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Dialogue offers a document engine that allows us to design applications once and deliver the output through multiple channels, the ability to pull specific resources at run time, a robust content management system that allows for the storing and accessing of variable objects for reuse across multiple applications and the scalability to execute future ideas we may want to implement. Dialogue uses a single shared architecture for the design, production and delivery of all personalized communications.

STRENGTHS: Dialogue is a true object environment which allows us to control each component of a document in terms of whether to use it and when to render it. This makes forward references, tables of contents and appending postal information after the documents have been constructed very straightforward. Additionally, because of Dialogue's ability to load content and images dynamically, we and our customers can maintain digital asset libraries and make updates without having to rebuild the application.

WEAKNESSES: Because Dialogue is so powerful and defines a document by its components, there can be a learning curve to "unlearn" the procedural way of defining a document and adopt the component-based method. This varies by individual, but once he or she is past the transition, productivity is substantially increased over the old method. Also, we have found that a formally trained object-oriented developer is invaluable in helping design the approach to implementing the document. Through training, the developer can take a problem and break it into its components and interactions.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We looked at many products, but most were engineered in a world that still viewed document creation as a procedural process rather than one driven dynamically. Our two main goals were to establish a more unified production environment and have the ability to dynamically build highly personalized documents. Dialogue completely removes us from the procedural flow, allowing us to step back and let the technology dynamically build a document almost as if by hand. Its ease of use and robust capabilities streamline our production departments.

DELIVERABLES: Dialogue provides us with the ability to easily design and implement difficult personalized applications by dynamically pulling content from a large library of variable text. Dialogue supports all the different output channels we utilize without the need to recode the application.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Exstream is committed to ensuring that Dialogue is performing at its best for our business. Their professional services team does whatever it takes to ensure that we are in production and maximizing our return on investment using Dialogue. Exstream offers an advanced set of online support tools including Resolve, which enables customers to submit and track any functional problems they encounter; Exchange, a knowledge base of procedures, tips and shortcuts; and a regression testing tool, Exact, which allows customers to submit their applications to Exstream to be tested before runtime to ensure the quality of output.

DOCUMENTATION: Exstream provides a wealth of documentation in the form of tutorials and reference manuals. The information is well-indexed and accurate. As with any large system, the documentation may not provide the exact steps you need. Individual organizations should develop their own "how-to" guides as they settle on specific standards.

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