XML Based Document Assembly – D3 and IPManager

Office13, aka Office 2006, now in final beta, introduces a new format WordML, a Microsoft variant of XML that includes XML objects and proprietary Word formatting extensions.  XML has the potential to revolutionize document assembly, allowing for the creation of dynamic editable templates.  D3 and Perfectus make extensive use of XML encoding in Office 2003.  They present a case study in diametrically opposite approaches to the design of document automation software.

D3 from Microsystems and Perfectus IP Manager from Perfectus Solutions approach document assembly from opposite ends of the spectrum.

IP Manager has a sophisticated application builder with controls for laying out web-based interviews in a powerful GUI while XML tagging a family of templates.  It allows the family of templates to be “packaged” and shipped.  The system is modular with reusable components and definitions.  From a hosted server, multiple offices can access the document sets.  The system can be blended into a DocsOpen or WebDocs solutions with full workflow, or can manage its own resulting documents and answer sets.

D3, by contrast, merges SQL server database with Word objects that are “parsed” and uploaded into the database.  D3 is a powerful clause manager and document modeller.  It allows the users to pick and choose among clauses, and merge the clauses into a finished and styled product.  While a “document form” can be “imported” from another system, the best way to work with D3 is on-site.  When it comes to variables, the interview is relegated to a Side-bar with one variable displayed at a time.

The key difference really is the target.  D3 is designed for the “trusted user” who is likely an attorney, giving him or her access within a few strokes to “data sources” in their network (Outlook, Billing, Client Lists etc.) and to a comprehensive and structured clause bank.  The user chooses the “objects” and brings them into the document, then runs a filler which looks for unanswered variable fields.  Because the fields, generally with a 1 to 1 mapping (no collections), are XML encoded, the trusted user can change the “document” and then have the fields refresh based on changed data.

IP Manager is targeted towards the “untrusted user”.  Like other document assembly systems, HotDocs, GhostFill, and to an extent DealBuilder, the “templates” are locked in a developer controlled application.  The developer – knowledge worker has determined what provisions are appropriate based on the appropriate response to a series of questionst, grouped into pages or dialogs in a structured interview.  The focus is on the questions, not the words of the documents.  The “untrusted user” is typically found in a corporate environment where a corporate counsel is deploying standard forms across a disparate sales force.