According to Gartner, ECM is a technology class that spans five key functionalities: content generation, content processing, content distribution, content storage, and content access . What’s interesting about Gartner’s definition of ECM is that it seems to be an expansion on definitions provided by other organizations. For example, the governing body for ECM, the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), defines ECM as a technology class that encompasses the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. The key difference between the two definitions is content generation, which occupies a prominent slot for Gartner but is entirely lacking for AIIM.
Best of Breed for Document Generation
In a recent market trends report on ECM, two senior Gartner analysts, Tom Eid and Bianco Francesco Granetto named HotDocs a “Best-of-Breed” vendor and a vendor to watch within the ECM space. Given Gartner’s expanded definition of ECM and HotDocs’ core functionality (enterprise-grade document generation, commonly called document assembly), it’s easy to see the connection—when it comes to creating structured, rule-based content (contracts, incorporation documents, etc.), HotDocs is the market leader.
Other Contributing Factors to the ECM Connection
Beyond HotDocs’ leadership position for content-generation, there are a couple of other contributing factors that may place HotDocs in an elite group of niche, ECM vendors. First, many analysts see the ECM space as lacking standards, which lack contributes to poor interoperability among vendors across the various functionalities for ECM. Poor interoperability tends to stunt market growth. Second, many analysts believe that the inevitable migration to the cloud for ECM vendors presents a great opportunity for the emergence of and adherence to standards. Again, standards lead to interoperability, and interoperability leads to market growth.
HotDocs, a Standard for Content Publishers
As was already mentioned, HotDocs is a leader in the document generation space and is also a standard among publishers who build and market document generation process apps (templates). Examples include LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters, Bridgeway, Computershare, WealthCounsel, and many state bar associations, which collectively have hundreds of thousands of existing HotDocs process apps that are commercially available, with more libraries of HotDocs apps on the way.
Given the flexibility of the HotDocs Cloud Services APIs, any ECM vendor can make this commercially available content available to users of their own web applications, even within composite content applications and custom workflows built on ECM platforms. In an industry looking for standards to emerge, HotDocs brings a lot to the table.
HotDocs and Interoperability
Beyond the depth and breadth of the HotDocs logic core, which enables HotDocs to handle extremely complex document creation, HotDocs has highly evolved APIs, making interoperability with almost any third-party web application possible. Furthermore, HotDocs is a trailblazer into the cloud among document generation players. HotDocs Cloud Services, a one-of-a-kind, Document Generation Platform-as-a-Service (DGPaas), enables third-party ECM vendors (really, any cloud app vendor) to embed the HotDocs process engine in their own applications or web pages, providing an indigenous, completely custom experience for system users. That’s both powerful, and really cool, to use a still popular phrase within the high-tech community.
A Convergence of Platforms
HotDocs has traditionally been more closely aligned with the BPM space, HotDocs, itself, being a specific type of process platform. But by virtually all definitions, ECM is an umbrella moniker that tends to include everything that is content related. And Gartner, as was mentioned above, has already expanded the ECM definition to include content generation technologies, which encompasses process platforms specifically designed to generate structured, rule-based content, in other words, technologies like HotDocs.
It’s interesting to note that, while the broad ECM platforms are expanding their own workflow functionality, perhaps encroaching on the BPM space, none of the ECM vendors are making significant headway developing their own document generation feature sets. However, given HotDocs’ capability, its interoperability, and its existing integrated stack of cloud-deployment technologies, HotDocs can easily fill the role of standard for other ECM vendors looking to deliver advanced document generation capability within their own web applications.