So let’s say you’re shopping for a new tablet device. The decision goes beyond which piece of hardware you happen to like the best. You also have to consider the ecosystem you’ll be buying into. Now if it happens that you want the device primarily for reading books, an Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble Nook may best suit your needs. (Both offer huge ecosystems of authors, content, and related technologies to enhance your experience.) If you’re more interested in apps, you may want to choose an iPad or Android device, again because of the massive app-related ecosystems that have grown up around these devices.
The same can be said of many software platforms. For example, adopt Salesforce.com as you’re CRM, and you’ll be buying into an ecosystem that includes the AppExchange—a marketplace for third-party add-ons to your CRM that will dramatically extend its functionality. SharePoint is another great example; an entire ecosystem of web part/app developers, system integrators, resellers, and content publishers has grown up around SharePoint, transforming it from a development platform to a full-blown ecosystem.
So what if you’re a law firm, bank, insurance company, or any organization that generates complex, rule-based documents on a volume basis? Which document generation platform should you invest in? The answer, of course, (in case you haven’t yet figured out where I’m going) depends on which ecosystem you want to belong to.
ILTA’s recent 2013 Technology Survey shows HotDocs with a whopping 60% market share among law firms that use document generation technology. Given that a thriving ecosystem is, to some degree, a function of a company’s relative girth, that 60% number is especially significant. Throw in Gartner’s Best-of-Breed and vendor to watch nods to HotDocs for ECM in 2013, a Gartner Cool Vendor distinction in 2014, TechnoLawyer’s A+ rating, and more than a million active users, and you can pretty much assume that HotDocs, among market competitors, will have the most highly evolved ecosystem.
HotDocs has long been a standard for publishers looking to deliver libraries of automated forms to their customers. HotDocs publishing partners include the biggest of the big (LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters) on down to bar associations, specialty publishers, and regional publishers. Likewise HotDocs has a vibrant network of resellers and system integrators, all of them providing goods and services within the HotDocs ecosystem.
Moving the Ecosystem to the Cloud
A couple years back, HotDocs embarked on a series of development initiatives designed to move all the stakeholders in the HotDocs business—from publishers to customers and everyone in between—into the cloud, an ambitious endeavor to be sure but one that is already paying huge dividends to stakeholders up and down the value chain.
HotDocs Cloud Services
HotDocs Cloud Services, a hosted document generation platform, exposes browser-based document generation to any organization, no matter its size or budget. The platform’s REST API enables organizations to embed HotDocs interviews in their own web pages, workflows, or other proprietary business apps, providing users with a completely custom experience. Perhaps those most interested in Cloud Services are third-party developers (case managers, practice managers, BPMS, ECMs, etc.), who see an opportunity to market their own technologies to the HotDocs user base.
HotDocs Document Services
HotDocs Document Services (a SaaS application that runs in any browser on virtually any device) allows anyone to upload HotDocs apps (templates) with virtually no setup or related expenses, entirely on a subscription basis. Among Document Services’ powerful features is its ability to let law firms (actually, any user) email lnks to interviews directly to clients. Document Services, of course, runs on the Cloud Services platform.
The real lynchpin to the HotDocs cloud ecosystem is HotDocs Market, an iTunes/AppExchange-like repository that allows publishers of any size to upload HotDocs app libraries for the purpose of publishing jurisdictional content to the sprawling HotDocs user base. Since HotDocs 1.0 hit the market a couple decades ago, HotDocs users have been requesting a way to leverage their investment in HotDocs development work by licensing it to other lawyers in the same jurisdiction.
With the launch of HotDocs Market (Spring 2014), this sort of micropublishing is now possible, enabling jurisdictional content to be developed by genuine experts and distributed to the HotDocs user base. Of course, mega-publishers are equally interested in the potential of HotDocs Market. For end users, a proliferation of highly relevant content developed by jurisdictional authors, offers a powerful value proposition. The fact that end users will be able to access the content within their own home-base applications (case manager, BPM workflow, etc.) is maybe the best part.