No Single Leader in Customer Communications SoftwareA positive customer experience is necessary for any organization. A key part of the customer experience is related to customer communications and how those communications are performed, in many cases as some sort of document output.

There are vendors out there that provide solutions to support the market for document output for customer communications management (DOCCM) and Forrester did an evaluation of 11 of those vendors to help you better understand their strengths and weaknesses. The report is called The Forrester Wave™: Document Output For Customer Communications Management, Q2 2009 and here's a look at what they found.

Understanding DOCCM

First, Forrester's definition of Document Output for Customer Communications Management: "Software used to compose, format, personalize, and distribute content to support physical and electronic customer communications and improve the customer experience."

Types of documents referred to here include letterhead, invoices, correspondence, employee kits, policies, statements and various marketing material. This type of communication is dealt with in typically one of three ways:

  • Structured: Usually done in batches, this type of communication is similar to a mass mailing for invoices and statements, usually runs at a consistent time and in a consistent format.
  • On-Demand: Can be triggered by requests from different channels such as fax, phone, internet and enterprise applications.
  • Interactive: Requires human input to put together custom data with a structured format.

Forrester DOCCM Categories and Applications

Not all the vendors in the DOCCM market provide a solution that meets these three processes for communications and for those that may, some are better at one process than the others.

Vendors analyzed by Forrester included Adobe Systems, Aia Software, Cincom Systems, EMC Document Sciences, HP, ISIS Papyrus, Metavante, Oracle, Pitney Bowes Business Insight, Sefas Innovation, StreamServe and Thunderhead.

Key Requirements for DOCCM Vendors

The days of printed communications, while not over, are certainly not always the first channel for customers. Vendors of DOCCM solutions need to provide multi-channel solutions -- that should be a given.

Other key requirements include the ability to personalize communications, provide an on-demand channel and integrate with enterprise content management. In addition, Forrester indicates that traditional DOCCM solutions often required IT support for changes like templates, business rules and workflow -- things that should be in the hands of the business, not IT.

The Evaluation

Forrester evaluated these 12 vendors on the following:

  • Current Offering: Evaluation across all three segments
  • Strategy: Planned enhancements, partnerships approaches, target markets, corporate strategy and pricing
  • Market Presence: Install base, revenues, tech partners, services and number of employees

The Results

What Forrester found in their research was that there was no clear leader overall three segments of DOCCM. There were clear leaders and strong performers in individual segments, but because the on-demand and interactive segments are still relatively new, no one vendor has had the time to build a strong model for all three.

Leaders in Structured Output

HP and Pitney Bowes Business Insight are the leaders in this segment. HP Exstream lead the category for authoring, post composition, output and production management support. They also got top marks for high-volume applications.

Pitney Bowes Business Insight is rated high due to a modular approach and very strong design capabilities. In addition, they have added ECM capabilities like archiving, workflow management and data access and management to their solution. Their ability to support marketing databases for "location intelligence" is another factor in Pitney Bowes' high rating.

Leaders in Interactive

Thunderhead, a vendor we've written about before, is the leader in the Interactive segment. This is due in part to their end-to-end XML support. Forrester notes that the XML helps organizations deliver communications more easily to multi-channels such as fax, email, print, SMS and HTML.

The analytics capabilities in the Thunderhead NOW solution was also recognized as a key component.

Leaders in On-Demand

EMC Document Sciences xPression is named the leader in the on-demand segment for customer communications. It has an open services based architecture that support multi-channel content delivery.

Dynamic content generation occurs via an integration between xPression and EMC's enterprise content management solution, Documentum. xPression also supports third party authoring tools such as MS Word and Adobe InDesign.

A Mix of Solutions Are Required

With no clear leader in all three categories, Forrester says that for the time being enterprise may need to incorporate a combination of solutions to give them the full functionality required to deliver on all aspects of customer communications.

They suggest using this report as a starting point, but to then go deeper, either into their indepth analysis or through their own vendor evaluations.

You can purchase your copy of this report here.