thunderhead NOW, communicationsIn a recent Forrester Wave on Document Output for Customer Communications Management Software, Forrester acknowledges the landscape for enterprise communications software is changing. They mention a number of vendors who are offering solutions that work in the areas of interactive, on-demand and structured.

The leading vendor in the interactive category was Thunderhead (news, site) with its Thunderhead NOW enterprise communication platform. CMSWire spoke with Christopher McLaughlin, Chief Marketing Officer and Neal Keene, VP of industry solutions about the enterprise communications market and its relationship with enterprise content management.

Structured Communications is a Dying Breed

Communicating with your customers is a critical aspect of any business. But the days of structured communications using batch processes is in decline. The use case is very different. Consider structured communications: highly automated communications with maybe 15 people in the backoffice using the software.

Now fast forward to today where you have a need for dynamic and personalized communications using a number of different channels. These interactive and sometimes on-demand markets can include user numbers of 15,000 or more, and these people are in the front-office (like the call center rep). 

First generation vendors of enterprise communication solutions are starting to recognize these new demands and that they need to bring new dedicated tools to the marketplace.

But Thunderhead is not a first generation vendor. It was founded in 2001 with the intent to provide solutions that met these new demands in the market. They had a good view of the current market and a great view of the new technology and what it could do. In 2003, Thunderhead NOW was launched and you don't need a Forrester report to tell you they are doing well.

Evolution of a Market

Enterprise Communications does not stand alone. There is an integration with enterprise content management that Thunderhead sees as necessary. Keene says that when they developed the Thunderhead NOW platform, they understood that communications happen in a much more interactive manner that necessitates the need for ECM.

McLaughlin agrees adding that any time humans are involved, processes have to be managed -- workflow processes become more complex and needed to be treated accordingly.

And this is indeed an very interactive market today. Customers understand how they need to work. Vendors need to provide the right tools to help them.

Multi-Channel Communications

Keene says we will see more integration with enterprise content management and business process management (BPM), along with a need for multi-channel communications with a single customer.

Customers want the ability to view data on what communications were produced and when, whether it was interactive or batch based, and they want to be able to report on it. They also want to use that information to personalize the next communication -- either by using a particular channel or providing particular information upfront.

An Open Platform

Thunderhead's platform is built on open industry standards like XML. They don't have a proprietary, legacy codebase to deal with. They also architected their platform keeping structured communications in mind, while ensuring an interactive solution was also possible, knowing what the future is bringing.

The design of their platform allows them to easily add new communication channels, like RSS and Facebook feeds. To Thunderhead, social networking is just another communication channel.

In support of Business Users

The Thunderhead platform is designed for the end user. Their moto: "getting it to the business users". IT owns the framework, but it's the business that knows what they need to do.

Keene says that Thunderhead followed a similar evolution path as that of the web content management system. It is all about enabling the business to do their work.

With that in mind, their platform offers several components: Design, using a Thin or Thick client, Management, including analytics and Collaboration.

Supporting eDiscovery

The design of their platform also makes the eDiscovery process easier. Information is easier to find, automated processes make it easier to expose information, how and what information is stored enables the tracking of what was sent, where it was sent and what rules and versions where used.

Part of a Larger Fabric

Thunderhead believes that enterprise communications are part of a larger fabric and offering. McLaughlin says there are a lot of different applications for this technology. Along with integration with ECM and BPM, CRM can definitely take advantage of this type of solution, as can ERP vendors.

Thunderhead has partnerships with a number of vendors, including IBM. They say enterprise content management vendors need to address this market. Which should make Thunderhead a logical acquisition target (consider EMC's acquisition of Document Sciences). Although it's not in their strategic plan,McLaughlin doesn't deny that if the right opportunity came along...

Although one of the youngest vendors in the enterprise communications marketplace, Thunderhead is one of the highest and fastest growing vendors in terms of license sales and they are on a trajectory that is pushing them ahead.

Learn more about Thunderhead and their enterprise communications platform Thunderhead NOW.