If you’re going to be an industry leader in standard form contract documents, you need to make it easy to access and use your forms.  Last week ConsensusDOCS announced its new platform, which will allow its roster of documents to be edited using Microsoft Word.  The announcement here provides some more detail.  It’s about time. 

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Contract Documents Committee of AGC, which is an active participant in the ConsensusDOCS program. 

In the 1990’s, AGC ramped up its effort to compete with the AIA on standard-form documents for the construction industry.  The AIA, for many years garnering the lion’s share of the market, was the first to offer electronic versions, and also the first to take its electronic format and make it compatible with Microsoft Word.  Those steps only helped to cement the AIA market share.  By contrast, the AGC, and now ConsensusDOCS, worked with Docubuilder for many years.  Users often complained about their inability to transfer work in progress via email to someone without a license (other than via pdf).  In my opinion, the software platform acted as a logistical and practical constraint in marketing the ConsensusDOCS library of forms.

That was yesterday; this is today.  It will be interesting to see how this change in technology alters the contract document landscape, and whether ConsensusDOCS will make more serious inroads into the AIA document industry.  It will be easier for users to choose between the competing forms based on the content and format of those forms, and not just on ease of access.