Category: GhostFill

Document Assembly – The Contenders

When you think “document assembly” for law firms, who do you think of?  For many years, there has been a single answer, HotDocs.  This is not because of any great marketing effort by LexisNexis (the former owners of HotDocs). Rather, it was a combination of “automated forms” delivered by LexisNexis and a grass-roots movement of lawyers and consultants building systems from the ground up with a “cheap” software tool.  It was word of mouth that caused the spread of HotDocs, one license at a time.  Now that HotDocs is “established”, who are the contenders.  I was given the following list of contenders: ActiveDocs, Business Integrity/Dealbuilder, Epoq/Rapidocs, Exari, Korbitec/GhostFill, Napersoft, Pathagoras, SoftPowerHouse/PowerReuse, Thunderhead, and Zumesoft.  It is interesting that despite my 15 years in the business, this list failed to include some interesting contenders, but also included some contenders I had never heard of.  So, who are these contenders?

The text below is drawn directly from the website of these vendors.

ActiveDocs

ActiveDocs Opus facilitates the simple and effective creation of your essential business documents and the automation of a wide range of mission critical communications. A scalable, affordable, high-performance document production solution, ActiveDocs Opus enables you to quickly create accurate, professional documents that meet a variety of business needs.

Business Integrity / Dealbuilder

Business Integrity launches ContractExpress.com, the world’s first premium document assembly product to be delivered exclusively as “software as a service,” requiring no set-up costs or infrastructure. ContractExpress.com builds on Business Integrity’s trusted DealBuilder technology, which is used by many of the world’s leading law firms and corporate legal departments.

Epoq/ Rapidocs

- Rapidly automates legal and business documents
- Creates dynamic and interactive interviews
- Delivers to end-users instantly in the browser
- Displays real time document changes live to the user
- Supports all popular web browsers
- Handles both text and PDF forms
- Offers ‘try before you buy’ technology for your customers

Exari

Exari accelerates your contracts, reduces costs and risks, and streamlines authoring complex documents.  …. With Exari, business people create their own legally pre-approved documents and agreements by completing a web-browser interview. It eliminates the need to wait for the legal department while still providing legal compliance and contract visibility. Exari saves time, lowers costs, improves document quality and minimizes risk. Exari contract creation and contract management solutions are used by leading companies to automate various document types including those used in sales, insurance, and banking.

Korbitec /Ghostfill

GhostFill is no longer offered directly for sale.  However, GhostFill is embedded in several applications, including AIA Forms, DWTA, and Nebraska Probate System V.

GhostFill is one of Korbitec’s flagship document assembly software engines, and has over the last decade been utilized in thousands of document-centric software solutions at law firms, banks, publishers and other institutions, world-wide.

Napersoft

Napersoft CCM (Customer Communication Management) solutions streamline business processes for document creation, personalization, publishing, distribution and archiving. Quickly & easily create complex real-time customer documents, including correspondence, letters, emails, notices, alerts and confirmations and distribute them via print, email or the Web.

Pathagoras

Pathagoras™ is a multi-faceted document authoring tool. First and foremost, Pathagoras is a ‘Plain-text based’ document automation system.  In just two clicks, using your current collection of documents, Pathagoras can present a list of forms or clauses on a designated topic. From that list, you would select an appropriate form, group of forms, or a subset of clauses to be assembled One more click presents your selections, fully assembled, onto the editing screen for final processing.  No complex or time consuming setups are required. You can create automated documents within 5 minutes of installation. You will begin cutting document produc-tion time immediately.

SoftPowerHouse/PowerReuse

PowerReuse is a document assembly software designed for boosting productivity for professionals (lawyers, insurance agents, real estate agents, project managers, sales, marketers and consultants) in small and medium-sized companies. Taking advantage of its patent pending technology, it organizes related Word, Excel and PowerPoint files into projects for better accessibility, updates many documents at a time and pastes pieces of text from the created library by simple drag & drop. The functions ensure accuracy and consistency of all your documents.

Thunderhead

[With the CorrespondNOW module] customer communications are as personal as they get with this module, which allows you to create individual ‘ad hoc’ communications quickly and simply. Streamline correspondence creation, allowing your customer service teams to respond more quickly and efficiently to customer inquiries while bringing new levels of control to the desktop.

Zumesoft

WordFusion is an advanced web-based Document Assembly Platform.  In very simple terms, WordFusion allows you to automate document templates, and then distribute them within your organisation or across the internet. WordFusion also provides work-flow management for the preparation, review, payment and finalisation of documents. This enables professionals from a number of disciplines to effectively collaborate on the production of a document. In essence, WordFusion is a project management tool, to connect you with your clients and other professional partners, to efficiently collaborate on the production of sophisticated and high-value documents.

There were a few MORE that should rightly have been on the list.

XpressDox Docussembly

XpressDox Docussembly™ saves you time, saves you money.  XpressDox Docussembly™ is a document assembly system that will help you become more productive when creating repetitive documents. Using XpressDox, you can easily create a template that asks you for only the information which changes. This improves your efficiency and effectiveness, and ensures that all documents you create conform to your organization’s standards. The result is faster, more accurate documents, which saves you time. And saving you time means saving you money, too.

ActiveWords

ActiveWords relates words and actions, giving you instant access, making you more productive, and improving the quality of your work.

Memba Genesis

The Memba Contract Management Platform is constituted of three main components which work integrated or independently. Memba Genesis Editor is the editor of contractual documents and templates. Memba Genesis Formation Server supports contract drafting and negotiation. Memba Genesis Execution Server supports portfolio and diary management.

Intelledox Enterprise

Intelledox Enterprise is the fully featured Intelledox document creation software solution. Built on Microsoft technology, Intelledox Enterprise is a user-friendly, document creation solution that enables the fast, accurate and compliant production of documents; tailored to individual business requirements and delivery methods.

DrawLoop Technologies

Drawloop is a complete document automation service. We help businesses, organizations and individuals close more deals, increase revenue and improve productivity through automating document creation. In minutes, you can web-enable the same Microsoft Office files your business has been using for years. There is no hardware or software to buy, install or maintain. All you need is your documents and a web browser!

Ultimus

Ultimus automates and simplifies key business processes so you can dedicate more time to your business and customers. Ultimus’ Business Process Improvement Suite reduces the potential for human error, eliminates waste, and decreases the amount of paperwork companies use on a daily basis. Moving far beyond standard workflow automation, Ultimus (Business Process Management) BPM Software provides a flexible solution that connects technology systems to enable data sharing and enhanced visibility throughout your entire organization

Ultimus has automated more business processes than any other BPM software provider worldwide and has over 15 years experience helping organizations across many different industries implement business process optimization. We have more than 1,900 customers and thousands of process templates to enhance every division of your company.

*This list is by no means an endorsement of any or all of these products.  As independent document assembly specialists since 1996, we have worked with a number of these products.  Our entrepreneurial clients have generally favored HotDocs as the best dollar value, given its historical pricing.  However, over the years we have partnered with GhostFill, DealBuilder, and Exari on projects, and we have carefully evaluated a number of other products.  Any decision on a document assembly platform should at least consider these contenders.

Merge Templates and Clause Libraries

Early Days of Automobiles

In the early days of the auto industry, a team of mechanics would put together a car in a week.  This was no mean feat of engineering.  In many cases, the car would have “custom parts”.  There would be “user” preferences.  And there was the inevitable unintended variation.  To achieve efficiencies (and thereby profits which was the ultimate goal), the engineers would create a template (a master design) with instructions to be “manually” completed by the engineers.  Further efficiencies were achieved by laying out the workspace; adding labeled shelves with all the key auto parts.  Some items were “pre-assembled” or partially assembled, leaving a few remaining steps that could be used for customization.  Nevertheless, it required a team of skilled engineers to put together a car.  Quality control was a matter of “experience” and not something that could be measured.  Each car had a unique character.  And of course, cars were expensive; in fact, too expensive for most people to afford.

Early Days of Document Assembly

In many ways, the early days of automobiles resembled most law firm’s view of document automation.  The more “efficient” firms have recognized that Word or WordPerfect templates can make them more productive.  These “templates” are partially constructed documents that contain the bare bones of the ultimate legal instruments that are the stock and trade of lawyers.  More advanced firms have added “merge fields” to these documents allowing some user input at the assembly phase.  The user can “fill in” the blanks with prompts.  Some have “organized” the shelving in the the assembly room, by grouping clauses into clause libraries.  A skilled practitioner then reviews the clauses and selects the one the he or she feels fits the bill.  Some will fit; others won’t.  And the skilled practitioner then adjusts the part to make the proper fit.

In many cases, each attorney has his or her own assembly space.  Each attorney or paralegal organizes his space differently, populating it with different parts.  The actual organization is generally understood only by the individual. The implication is that the individual can be more efficient, but the individual is not easily replaced. And moreover, the individual cannot dramatically improve his productivity.  Gains in productivity are “incremental” as opposed to arithmetic or exponential.  These “workspaces” are often confined to the users “computer profile” which stores their favorite documents.

To help lawyers in these efforts, there are features of Microsoft Word and WordPerfect.  There are some add-on tools that amounts to clause libraries with fill-in fields.  These adhoc tools enable the skilled practitioner to be more efficient; but also entail a great deal of technical learning to accomplish for fairly limited productivity gains.  This piecemeal approach to document production is doomed to limited gains. Such programs as Pathagoras, Microsystems D3, Ixio qShift, ThinkDocs, ClauseBank all embodied this approach.

The Present and Future of Document Automation

Document Assembly tools are NOT new.  HotDocs has been around a long time (on 20 years).  It was preceded by CAPSAuthor, Visual WorkForm, PowerTXT, and MasterDraft.  Other programs such as GhostFill, ThinkDocs,and SmartWords are no longer available or supported, There are several other programs available, including Exari, ContractExpress, and XpressDox.

These programs, however, are different from the early days in that they support true logic.  That means that decision trees can be built into these systems to result in dramatic improvements in both quality and quantity of the output. These systems support “rule-based” document assembly, true templates, and “dynamic interviews”. They support arrays, computations, and calculations.  This newer breed of document assembly tools (Contract Express, Exari and HotDocs) include a “relevance engine” that can look at the document markup and determine the relevant questions to present to the user.  This change in these engines is nothing short of revolutionary.  It is a baby step towards the thinking machine.  But the real revolution is that it simplifies the process of creating complex templates.  By putting all the clauses in (or linked to) a master template, you can now add simple rules that will bring in the appropriate language.  Far from simplifying the “outputs” with one model fits all, Rule-based document assembly enables unlimited customization while retaining quality control.

Wordle Revisited

Apparently my experiment with Wordle did not change the results for HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM. Perhaps, if I reorder the phrases HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM so that they are alphabetical:  AdvologixPM, Amicus Attorney, DealBuilder, GhostFill, HotDocs, HoudiniESQ, Time Matters, XpressDocs.  Maybe if they are reverse alphabetical:  XpressDocs, Time Matters, HoudiniESQ, HotDocs, GhostFill, DealBuilder, Amicus Attorney, AdvologixPM, it will push me over. Alternatively, I can try them by word length:  Amicus Attorney, Time Matters, AdvologixPM, HoudiniESQ, GhostFill and HotDocs.

So … back to Wordle for the test.

Will let you know. I suspect the reason has to do with the fact that Wordle uses Google Analytics and it may be that the feed has not yet registered in Google.  Not sure if that is true, but will check back later.  Must return to real work.

The Place to Go for News on Document Assembly and Case Management

It’s live!!!! The new Basha Systems legal technology news site. Come for a visit.  For TOO long, there was no source for news on developments in practice management and document assembly.  And yet, several vendors has started getting savvy about social marketing.  For example, Exari and ContractExpress have launched blogs and twitter feeds of news and development.  And so, rather than hunting everywhere for developments, I created a page for myself to track these latest “feeds” and then set it up for you to enjoy.  Come take a look; bookmark the site, and come back regularly.  If there are OTHER feeds you want to see, please suggest it.  Best of all, check out the new technology.  This is the first consultant website that you can “PERSONALIZE”. Yeah, you can reorder the feeds, change the priorities, and move it around to suit YOUR technology needs.

I am very excited about the site.  It saves me from having to hunt around for news.  At the moment, it is limited to “public feeds”.  There are actually several vendors that have feeds that require a LOGIN to get access to their blog.  I can configure the website to access those feeds, but only with permission.  If you want me to add your business feed, and it is behind a login, please send me an email granting permission, along with an appropriate login to see it.

The more that people know about developments in different products, the more informed will be their decisions, and the more likely they will take the technology plunge.  That is my hope.  Enjoy.

Demise of D3 – Custom Tags vs. Markup Language

D3 from Microsystems has flown under the radar for years.  I mentioned it in a Technolawyer review of document assembly products several years ago.  It was a powerful “clause-based” system that enabled and integrated well with advanced Microsoft products, included Exchange Server and SQL Server.  It was sold by Microsystems out of Chicago and was popular with large firms looking to extend the power of macro-suite products without leaving the Microsoft environment.  The product was in fact embedded in a task panel in Microsoft Word.  Well, as you can see in the release below, copied from the Microsystems web-site, a recent change in MS Word has rendered the product inoperable, and Microsystems is withdrawing D3 from the market.  The reason, custom XML tags that a recent Microsoft product change (required by an anti-trust settlement with the European Union regulators) removed from the product, on which D3 depends.  This is not the first time that changed by a word-processing vendor caused document assembly products to “die”.  WordPerfect was notorious in earlier versions from regularly updating its macro language, rending macro-based suites based on one version inoperable on upgrade.

Microsoft Removes Custom XML Code from Office: D3 and Legal TemplatesPlus Discontinued

Downers Grove, IL – January 27, 2010 Microsystems announced it will discontinue development of D3 and Legal TemplatesPlus as a result of Microsoft’s decision to remove Custom XML code from Office. Microsoft made this decision following the ruling from the i4i infringement lawsuit.  DocXtools, Microsystems’ core product, is not affected by this decision.

Although D3 and Legal TemplatesPlus offered distinct competitive advantages and benefited from strong client demand and adoption, a significant portion of the functionality in both products was rendered inoperable in versions of Microsoft Office sold after January 10, 2010.

Microsystems evaluated various alternatives including redeveloping both products, but determined a feature equivalency could not be attained with the technologies and methodologies available today and the development work would likely result in an overall inferior solution for customers. In addition, it would require that little if any resources could be used to focus on our core product, DocXtools. Furthermore, no acceptable transition between existing D3 and Legal TemplatesPlus solutions and any new technology exists. This result would have imposed considerable migration issues on our customers.

Last year, DocXtools accounted for over 85% of Microsystems revenue. In contrast, licenses of D3 and Legal TemplatesPlus accounted for approximately 10% of revenue. As a result of these changes, development, sales and support staff related to D3 and Legal TemplatesPlus were reduced. Moving forward, DocXtools is supported by 45 people; 35 of those positions are comprised of development, support and document experts.

“Certainly we are disappointed about the difficult decision we had to make, but we are also energized by the ongoing success of DocXtools, a product that has been in the market for 11 years. In 2009, we added many new DocXtools customers and 93 customers entered into new or extended license agreements. In 2010 we expect to continue to grow our 249 firm install base as more organizations strive to improve efficiency and client service by deploying new DocXtools functionality out to lawyers and secretaries.” said Tom O’Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer.

The lesson and one to bear in mind:  close integration and embedding of a product into a word-processor, can have major consequences when the word-processing vendor “upgrades” or in the case of “D3” downgrades.  Far superior is the use of an interpreted markup language that is independent of the wordprocessor that is run through a document assembly engine that sits OUTSIDE the wordprocessor.  Exari, DealBuilder/Contract Express, GhostFill, DocXpress and HotDocs use such a markup approach. They can work with Word documents, as well as RTF documents.  Their approaches all differ in how they manage and store the component data.  But they all share the fact that they are NOT dependent on any particular version of the word processor and thus not subject to sudden obsolescence.


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