I have never been more optimistic about the future of document assembly than today. After years of retrenchment and stagnation, the market is full of new energy and ferment. HotDocs is under new management, but it is not clear what direction it will be taking. On the desktop, XpressDox has been launched by key developers formerly of Korbitec, developers of GhostFill. At $150/user, a free full-functioning trial downloads, a full powered syntax markup that requires NO component file and automatically determines relevance, there is some real new energy on the desktop level.
What is the role of the “independent consultant”? And should the “independent consultant” be allowed to benefit from a “sale” based on his/her independent recommendation? Software vendors with “reseller” programs have always wanted a “free sales force” of consultants who offer their software “exclusively”; no salary, no benefits, no costs. These consultants are “paid” by the vendor in the form of commissions on sales (often narrowly defined) or referral fees and access to NFR copies of the software. And yet, the questions arises, when one vendor demands exclusivity, what is the “price” for independence. This article looks at the price and the benefits of an in independent non-exclusive consulting program to clients. Some of the arguments are obvious, but they bear restating.
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.