HotDocs: Compliance Software for Low Code Environments
For a casual onlooker, categorizing HotDocs might be difficult. Compare, for example, ILTA’s 2013 Technology Survey, which showed HotDocs as the leader in the document assembly class, with a 2013 Gartner market trends analysis that referred to HotDocs as a “best of breed” vendor within the ECM space. In 2014, Gartner reinforced its classification of HotDocs by naming the company a Cool Vendor for content management. Muddling the classification issue even further is CIO Review magazine, which just named HotDocs one of the twenty “Most Promising Compliance Technologies” of 2014.
All of it together raises a couple of questions: First, how is it that HotDocs seems to fit into so many different software categories? And second, what’s happened to cause this recent surge of interest in HotDocs?
The answer to the first question is easy: HotDocs is a rapid application development platform (RAD). In other words, you can use HotDocs to build your own templates. HotDocs apps are most closely associated with the generation of transactional legal documents. But they don’t have to be. Thomson Reuters, for example, uses HotDocs primarily to create sequences of interactive, data-gathering forms (called interviews) in its flagship product, Interactive Decision Tools on Checkpoint. In this application, HotDocs interviews walk tax professionals through legal quagmires to arrive at correct opinions regarding their clients’ tax problems. There’s some document generation involved, but more than anything, the Thomson Reuters solution is about compliance. In fact, at some level, almost all HotDocs apps are about compliance—ensuring that complex legal instruments are in compliance with existing laws and regulations. It’s this functionality that recently caught the attention of editors at CIO Review. The point is, HotDocs is not only powerful; it’s also flexible, allowing enterprises to create a range of software solutions.
The answer to the second question—why all the recent hubbub about HotDocs?—has to do with something called HotDocs Cloud Services, a document generation platform-as-a-service (DGPaaS) that enables HotDocs apps to be embedded in 3rd-party web applications and web pages. The fact is the market for cloud-based point solutions is becoming ever more complex. Customers need existing systems combined with new web services and wrapped into composite applications that do it all. Put another way, business units within large enterprises want their own custom SaaS applications, and they want them built to spec, under budget, and delivered yesterday.
The wrappers for these composite apps are what Forrester calls low-code platforms. Among the emerging leaders in the low code space are BPM vendors, which makes sense, given that BPMs have long been used to wrap business applications in automated workflows, creating, in essence, on-premise composite applications. According to Forrester, AgilePoint, K2, Micropact, Nintex, and Software AG are among the leading BPM vendors in the low-code, point solution space. And if I were to guess, I’d say ECM vendors that are already morphing in the direction of BPM will be eying the low-code space as well.
This new world of complex point-solutions demands modularity and interoperability. And herein lays the reason why HotDocs is winning awards. Powerful APIs and predefined software objects make embedding a sophisticated HotDocs interview in any business app or custom workflow a relatively easy process. Furthermore, HotDocs is not only the largest document generation vendor, it also happens to be a publishing standard for content-based applications that require powerful document generation. It seems people in the know, such as IT analysts and tech magazine editors, find the HotDocs Cloud Services story to be compelling.