Frequently Asked Questions

In addition to answering many of the questions raised by individuals interested in our products and services, the following is intended to help clarify our views on various subjects. Even if you are familiar with the topics raised in these questions, you may want to review them, to help you gain a better understanding of our position on these issues – our answers may differ considerably from the 'norm'.

When you're done, if you would like more detailed product information, or you can't find the answers you need, please let us know.

Perhaps a better question might be 'What does it do?'. Relevance is a software product that delivers information to a recipient, or 'clients', typically in the form of a document. Relevance knows how and where to access the raw data it needs to create the document, and uses that data to formulate a response that is not only relevant, but also complete, like an expert answering your question or providing information. And it knows how to present the results in a clear and concise manner by whatever means best suits the client. It can be used to respond to individual on-demand queries, or automatically distribute information based on a predetermined schedule, or resulting from external events or triggers.

It can be viewed as having many of the components of CRM, or as an enhancement to an existing CRM solution where the CRM system provides access to raw data and triggers the information requests, or as a standalone solution for highly sophisticated marketing-related applications. The problem with CRM is that for the most part, when it comes to communications, it tends to be narrow in breadth – 'Customer' Relationship Management = sales to customer, 'Employee' Relationship Management = HR to employee, 'Supply Chain' Management = purchasing to supplier. We feel that there are tremendous opportunities to improve communications between and amongst all of these 'clients', as well as forging less traditional lines of communications – accounting to customer, purchasing to sales, manufacturing to sales, and so on.

Unlike traditional document distribution systems that typically concentrate strictly on unidirectional messaging from sales and marketing, to customers and prospects, Relevance is designed to work with any source of information being sent to, or requested by, any 'client', whether that client is internal or external to the organization.

There is a significant difference between 'personalization' and 'customization'. Simple 'personalization' is essentially a 'mail merge' process – the direct replacement of variables with data – but if the data doesn't already exist in the contact database, or is undefined, or isn't in the exact form you need it, then there are problems. 'Conditional content' is just another form of mail merge – the direct replacement of an if/then/else statement with data chosen from a limited set of options – but that replacement data itself is not dynamically created, it is simply selected from a list of static, predefined alternatives. Personalization and conditional content methods are not without merit, but they are very limiting.

Relevance accomplishes 'true' customization through the use of 'universal' data access and an advanced scripting language developed specifically for document generation and communications. 'True' customization offers the ability to change anything you want – to query multiple databases outside of the contact database to get all of the information needed to make the proper decisions, to access data from the web, to have the intelligence needed to process and manipulate that raw data using math and string functions to help make better decisions and to build dynamic content based on that data, and to alter not only content, but also presentation – all without limitations.

Customization allows 'nesting' – any data, can itself contain customization, and scripts and rules can be dynamically created based on other scripts and rules. For example, a replacement paragraph might contain customization that changes 'he' to 'she' and 'him' to 'her', based the gender – you don't need separate male and female versions of the paragraph. With only 10 variables, there are over 3.6 million possible combinations of one or more of those variables – that's a lot of documents! Instead, we use 'smart' documents to make intelligent decisions that greatly narrow down the list of possibilities, making 'truly' customized documents a reality.

Although Relevance began as a 'document distribution' program, having mastered the 'distribution' aspect, our emphasis shifted to the 'document' components. How do you deliver a universal message, but in a uniquely personal way? What good is there in delivering a message in a language that the recipient doesn't understand? Is that effectively any different from delivering a message that the recipient doesn't relate to? If the message isn't concise, pertinent, and meaningful to a specific recipient – if it isn't relevant – it won't be effective. So how do you create a message so that it is relevant to each recipient? In a word – scripting.

Scripting allows you to create a distinct message – the physical entity – for each individual recipient, that presents your message – the essence of what you want to say – in a uniquely personal way, that simply can't be achieved with a single static message, or simple personalization template? Your message won't 'connect' with Bob from Chicago by saying 'Hi Bob, how are things in Chicago?', but if you can 'relate' to Bob's specific situation even if it doesn't apply directly to your message – 'Good morning Bob. Not even 9:00 yet and it's already 83°. I sure don't envy you having to put up with this heat.' or 'Hi Bob, sorry to hear about that Cubs loss yesterday.' – you're more likely to get Bob's attention – the first critical step in delivering an effective message.

Relevance has its own advanced language designed specifically for e-mail, Internet, fax, and voice message creation and communications. However, we can also execute and seamlessly interchange data between our language, and scripts and data written in virtually any server-side language such as Perl, PHP, and Java, as well as CGI programs. You can take advantage of existing scripts, and if you're already familiar with one of these other languages, you can use it instead of, or in addition to, our scripting language.

Relevance uses ODBC, OLEDB, and SQL technologies, making it compatible with most commercial databases, legacy desktop databases (DBase, MS Access, FoxPro, etc.), spreadsheets, and text-based files such as HTML or flat data files. Relevance can even launch Windows-based programs, and query, retrieve and manipulate data and content accessible through any web URL, whether static or script-base (PHP, Perl, Java, and ASP pages, and CGI programs).

That's where Relevance is most important. What's often more important than knowing that 'Bob' is from 'Chicago', is what can be derived from that basic information – is there something about Chicago, or Illinois, or the mid-west, or that zip code, like the weather, geography, the sports teams, local customer references – that can connect you or your product to Bob. That sort of information isn't available from your recipient database – at least not directly. It can however be derived, using our advanced scripting capabilities, to draw conclusions and make reasonable assertions based on very little information – like a good salesman would do if he or she had that same limited information.

One of our key concepts is to accumulate useful data as we go, so that customization of subsequent documents can benefit from knowledge gained through previous communications. The Relevance engine generates a wealth of information associated with a document transmission that forms the basis of the 'Virtual Touchpoint' database. Perhaps more importantly, other data can be generated and saved such as information related to the source of the request, or decisions made during the creation of the document. Moreover, data can be saved to any database, anywhere, and it can be saved as part of the document creation process or during the delivery and tracking process.

Segmenting narrows the list of recipients to whom a message is sent, to a subset of a larger group. This is typically necessary because the message is only suitable, or relevant, for a small subset of recipients. With Relevance, you can send a message to all of the members of the larger group, whether B2B or B2C, because the message itself changes so as to become relevant to each individual member of that larger group. This approach offers greater exposure to a larger audience, while at the same time increasing the effectiveness of the message. That being said, we also take segmenting to a whole new level, because the SQL 'statements' that define your target segments, can themselves be scripts, changing as required based on user-defined criteria.

There could be an enormous amount of data for any given client, of which, only a very small portion is really required to respond to a query. A sales person may need to access a subset of a client's 'accounting' data to answer the question 'What's the delivery status of my outstanding orders?' whereas accounts receivable may need to access a different subset of the accounting data to determine late payments – two very different views of two very different subsets of the very same raw data source. There are also issues of security – non-accounting personnel having access, and inadvertently changing or deleting the corporate accounting data – and how long would it take to learn how to operate the software in order to get the exact information you need. A 'smart' Relevance document could be designed to retrieve and present only that information that was pertinent to a particular request, and present that data in a clear, concise manner.

Relevance can act as a buffer – accessing and processing raw data and presenting information based on that data, without exposing the data itself.

The Relevance software is intended to be implemented incrementally, so by definition, it can be used by organizations of all sizes. You can begin with a small system applied to a single process or application, viewed through a single document, and work up from there. Each document you create adds value, and as documents begin to interact with each other, the overall value becomes larger than the sum value of the individual documents.

Integration and compatibility with business applications and processes is primarily an issue of reading and writing the data associated with those applications. These applications and processes can trigger Relevance using several techniques including the creation of simple text files, database entries, web URL requests, and DDE (Windows environments only), or a 'smart' Relevance document can be set up to automatically query application databases at regular intervals, searching for specific conditions that might trigger a communication.

The Relevance engine runs under Windows 2000 Pro, but can integrate with virtually any application anywhere, that allows ODBC and/or OLEDB data access either locally, or over a network, including the Internet.

Data can be formatted for distribution by e-mail, Internet, fax, or voice (telephone), saved to files and databases, FTP'd to a web-server, or displayed through a web browser.

Yes. Not only are all document components (main documents, cover pages for faxes, attachments for e-mails, etc.) fully customizable, but so are most of the 'fields' that are used to save the document setup. For example, the main document or attachment 'filename' can be a script that evaluates down to a filename, and the SQL 'statement' that determines the recipients can be a script that ultimately results in an SQL statement.

Yes for e-mail, in a manner of speaking that is. Click-throughs are not a delivery-related function – they are an after-delivery web server function. Relevance can however imbed data into a document so that it can be tracked by web-based programs that will process the data returned when an e-mail is opened or a link is clicked. Relevance also has extensive capabilities relative to the confirmation and logging the delivery of e-mail, fax, and voice messages.

Relevance will send an alternative text message that can be viewed if an e-mail recipient can't receive HTML. It can be a separately specified text message that can be completely customized, or one that is generated automatically – the HTML message with the fonts, colors, images, sounds, and so on, removed. If a user's profile indicates a preference for text e-mail, instead of sending the HTML message, Relevance could include the fully customized HTML message as an attachment, along with a main text message informing the recipient that the full HTML version is attached.

Different versions of your message can be created based on the e-mail service, or user profile information (ie: text versus HTML).

With e-mail messages, objects such as images and sounds must generally be downloaded from a web site when the e-mail is opened or previewed. Not only does this cause delays, but requires that the images and sounds be available on the web site for extended periods of time. With Relevance, you can 'imbed' these objects into the e-mail itself, so that they are delivered along with it. Since these objects are essentially downloaded with the e-mail itself, your complete message is presented in its entirety whenever the e-mail is previewed or opened. You can use this technology to include with each e-mail, not only images, but also any object, such as a completely customized voice message that plays automatically whenever the e-mail is opened.

The only 'expertise' required is really related to the one-time process of document creation. A user that is familiar with the concept of a mail merge and can create HTML documents using a standard package, such as FrontPage, can create customized documents. Since the Relevance scripting language allows code can be imbedded 'in-line' in the document, like HTML tags, a user familiar with simple scripting concepts can create very sophisticated custom documents. If the user is familiar with more advanced server-side scripting languages such as Perl, PHP, or Java, then scripts can be written in those languages as well, with scripting languages and the data they create, being intermixed. In conclusion, documents with personalization and simple customization can easily be created by a user familiar with word processing mail merge, with full customization falling to users with skills in, or at least a propensity for, scripting – like your typical web designer.

Relevance is basically an engine that generates and delivers documents. Deliveries can be pre-scheduled, like a marketing broadcast, triggered automatically by external events and criteria, such as every time an order is entered, or manually requested on demand. For manually requested on-demand documents, Relevance is web enabled – the interface is your web browser, so that for example, a sales person can get order status updates from accounting, even while off-site at the customer's location.

For prescheduled and automatically triggered deliveries, there is no user interface per se – the requests are generated automatically, or programatically, and your 'user interface' is the application program that generated the request. For example, a sophisticated order acknowledgement might be sent to a customer, not just simply thanking them for the order, but indicating if any items are back ordered, offering options for short shipping, or recommending replacements or up sell items for out-of-stock or long-delivery items, and so on, however, the user doesn't need to access the Relevance software. Simply entering the order – without any other action required on the part of the user – triggers the Relevance software to automatically generate, transmit, and track the order acknowledgement. The user may not even know that an order acknowledgement was sent – aside from a happier customer!

There is a Relevance 'administrative' program however, which is used for the one-time process of specifying the parameters for delivering a document – when, how, accompanying documents, the recipient database, the SQL statement, scripts, etc.

If you would like more detailed product information, or you can't find the answers you need, please let us know.