In Q4 of 2013, Gartner published a market trends report that pointed to two important catalysts to growth in the ECM space: interoperability among disparate content management applications and the emergence of standards for content management vendors. In that same research, Gartner analysts Tom Eid and Bianco Francesca Granetto pointed to HotDocs as a “best of breed” vendor for content generation, a newly recognized niche within the array of ECM technologies.
Fast forward to June of 2014 when Forrester published research highlighting an emerging breed of rapid application development technologies that it called “low-code platforms.” The article pointed to three different types of low code technologies, one of which is business process management (BPM), a class in which some entrants are now positioning themselves as tool sets for developing customer-facing, composite point solutions (SaaS applications). Agilepoint, K2, Micropact, and Nintex are among the leaders in this emerging space. All, of course, given their heritage, are likely to perform better for process-heavy solutions.
Convergence of BPM and ECM
Those paying close attention to the BPM and ECM markets may have noticed that the two sectors are rapidly blending together, or more accurately put, many soup-to-nuts ECM vendors are encroaching on the BPM space, combining powerful application development tools with all their underlying content management and processing capability. It’s a powerful combination that gives ECMs a unique value proposition and market position. My guess is it won’t be long (assuming it’s not happening already) before ECM contenders such as Alfresco and Hyland, begin, themselves, to target the low-code opportunity for composite point solutions—that is, browser applications that act as wrappers for other best-of-breed components.
In fact, ECM vendors have long been talking about composite content applications, a concept that Gartner defines as an abstraction layer on top of a service repository, which orchestrates a new business process and has its own user interface. Putting it in practical terms, Kimberly Samuelson of Laserfiche states that “CCAs are cross-functional process solutions assembled from prebuilt components.” By all definitions, CCAs consist of three or more software components sharing a common interface—the wrapper application that melds the disparate apps into a single solution. Do these composite content apps fit Forrester’s low-code profile. Perhaps, not yet, given the level of domain expertise and coding ability it takes to piece one together. But the day will surely come.
HotDocs Cloud Services—designed with low code in mind
Based on our own market experience, HotDocs began to envision this low-code world a few years back, and, with this in mind, built and deployed HotDocs Cloud Services, a document generation platform as a service (DGPaaS) that enables low-code platform vendors to embed HotDocs apps in their own composite point solutions. HotDocs, itself, has its roots in process—albeit, a tightly focused type of process—but has been placed in Gartner’s IT taxonomy as a piece of the ECM framework. Either way, though, as vendors of these two types of broad application development platforms react to the demand for composite point solutions built to spec, on budget, and on time, HotDocs can function as an authentic, best-of-breed component inside these other systems, delivering enterprise-grade document generation where and when it’s needed.