As more and more businesses, regardless of size, leverage digital technology and embrace the benefits of Digital Transformation, what many do not realise is, implementing Document Automation can support your business on its Digital Transformation journey.
Let’s start with a couple of questions to explain how…
Do you work with documents every day?
Is accuracy and data important to your work?
Do you utilise data from your other business systems when you’re creating and working with these documents?
In 2018 there was an estimated 500 billion MS Word documents created, and each day 73 million PDF’s are saved to Google Drive and Gmail, that’s a hell of a lot of documents and data!
Automating this manual document creation is called ‘Document Automation’ and its one of the most powerful ways you can undertake a successful Digital Transformation.
1. Do More with Less
Document Automation can, if used wisely, genuinely help businesses and organisations of all sizes make significant improvements with productivity – easily more than an 80% time saving.
By automating everyday inefficient tasks and processes like manual document creation, chasing internal approvals and document signatures, you will optimise any workflows and your business processes will all be streamlined, saving you money.
2. Minimises Risk
Using Document Automation, the risk of human error is reduced, as efficient, user-friendly document creation processes are in place. Your regulatory requirements such as, GDPR, SOX, HIPAA, are met easily, through the use and enforcement of quality standards across all documentation.
The quality of any of your complex documents remains consistent and high, as automated workflows are in place to maintain this.
3. Maximises Value of Data
Most companies already have data elsewhere – in an Excel spreadsheet, a SQL database, a Client Relationship Management (CRM) system, and so on.
Document Automation helps you utilise the data you already have and processes that data into documents, data drives Document Automation.
Optimising your data processing workflow can help you drive efficiency and reduce your time spent on manual document creation.
4. Enhances Business Growth
Delivering substantial time and cost savings, the faster you can create and process documents such as quotes, NDAs, contracts, and other key documentation within your business, the quicker you can realise revenue – effective Document Automation can play a key part in this process.
Internally, you will foster collaboration across your business, as more efficient and productive processes and workflows are enabled. Externally, your customers’ experience will be improved, helping to further enhance your business growth.
To find out more about how Document Automation can support your business in a successful Digital Transformation, contact us today.
We recently published a blog entitled “Am I Stuck With Document Automation Vendor X?” – in it we looked at the key attributes and functional considerations when moving to another Document Automation vendor. In this post, I’d like to place focus on the area of Data Portability and Compliance. Knowing your rights and your Clients’ rights is important, whether it’s for your cell phone contract, car repayments, or a store card. Your rights are what protects us all and makes civilisation…. well, civil.
Knowledge is king, however data trumps knowledge. Without data we have no knowledge; the ability to determine right from wrong, good versus evil. Data is growing exponentially and we are all reliant on it. As we collect more and more data there is an ever increasing need to protect it. Protecting data is not easy when you consider that you need to account for all known and unknown threats (including accidental misuse), to the data you hold. There is nothing that will topple a business faster than data ‘going rogue’ after it’s not been protected.
With rules and regulations around the world trying to keep up with all the different ways that data is captured, stored and used, it’s all too easy to overlook something. Fortunately, Regulations tend to be binary, and are not that interested in whether a company forgot to test, didn’t think to test, or ignored testing.
Data Portability protects Clients and helps organisations. Clients should be able to move to another service provider without hindrance and without losing their personal data. This helps ensure companies don’t use ‘underhand’ techniques to make moving difficult. If you offer a better service, Clients should easily be able to move their business to you.
However, the Data Portability section of regulations are also about the ‘Right to have Data Corrected’ and the ‘Right to be Forgotten’.
In another post we looked at the three fundamental uses for Document Automation. At least two of these involve Client data which means an organisation using Document Automation for these purposes should be confident they have data management tools that support Data Portability, the ‘Right to Rectification’, and the ‘Right to Erasure’ – a good Document Automation solution should contain these tools.
If they haven’t already, your Clients will soon ask you to evidence your obligations towards protecting their data. Procurement documents make it too easy for a simple, “of course we comply with local data regulations”, copy and paste answer. Being able to evidence your adherence might help you stand out from the competition. It may also save your business.
It’s worth revisiting my earlier comment – it’s not enough to claim ignorance. You should always be confident your chosen Document Automation platform has these tools and they work. The easiest path to validate the functionality is to ask the solution vendor to demonstrate it to you.
If they can’t or won’t evidence basic data management and adherence to globally recognised standards, you must ask; what other corners are being ’rounded off’, and what other standards are being ignored?
In our testing of Document Automation platforms, we always look to validate these abilities. While it would be reasonable to assume that all Document Automation solutions would have such a fundamental capability, the reality is we’ve discovered some don’t, and as a result we can’t recommend them.
If you already have Document Automation, when did you last check the platform supported your compliance? If you’re looking at adopting Document Automation, make sure that critical question is at the top of your list.
Why do I need one?
- Are you frustrated by the time it takes to generate documents in your organisation?
- Are you copying and pasting data from one system to another, thereby increasing the risk of exposing that data?
- Is your professional reputation at risk because of errors introduced during your document assembly process?
Are your documents at risk of being out of compliance?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you need a document automation solution to increase workflow efficiency, reduce risk of errors, and ensure compliance with your industry’s standards. Whether you call it document automation, document assembly, or document generation, it will transform the documents in your workflow into logic-driven templates that can leverage your data, maximise your efficiency, and produce perfect documents.
But which document automation platform will fit your needs best?
Document Automation Categories
Although any organisation that must adhere to compliance requirements or process many documents can benefit from a document automation solution, historically, document automation has been most prominent in the legal, banking, and insurance industries. Out of those industries has grown different solutions depending on what an organisation’s needs are. Acknowledging that there may be some overlap, I narrow these various solutions down to two groups roughly, as follows:
- Word Add-Ins
- Workflow Systems, which can encompass Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) Systems
A Word Add-In allows you to place fields in your Word document so that when a user has completed a questionnaire, the user’s answers will merge into those fields. The result is a document in minutes rather than hours.
Even if you ultimately find that you need the Workflow system described below, you will still use some form of a Word add-in with most document automation systems. Depending on the solution you pick, you may get a sidebar add-in or a ribbon in Word. Either way, it will have the functionality to help you develop your document templates.
I have grouped Word Add-Ins as a category in itself because it is where all things document automation seems to start. Some document automation platforms promote ease-of-use at the expense of scaling the development into more complexity. They focus on just creating templates to assemble from within Word on premise, so no integration with data, no cloud deployment. They seek to reduce the learning curve required to get the benefits of document automation, while others promote the idea that to gain the scalable benefits of complexity, there may be some ramp-up time to learn the system. But once you do, the return on investment is life changing.
Whether you want the Word Add-In to emphasise ease of use or be the base for developing complex templates, you will want to look for the following functionality and judge your solution’s capabilities against them:
- Create data elements for the common data types of text, number, date, and boolean (true/false)
- Condition phrases, text, or documents using one or more logical statements
- Create and use clauses
- Re-use templates inside other templates
- Perform calculations, whether basic math or statistical formulas
- Produce DOCX or PDF documents
A workflow document automation system will most likely include a Word add-in for the purpose of creating templates, but the broader application is that it allows you to take advantage of the data you already have in a Client Relationship Management (CRM) such as Salesforce or Clio. By mapping the data you have in your CRM with fields in your document templates, you can maintain control of that data and generate documents using that data. On the other side of the document automation piece, a workflow document automation system can allow you to send the produced document to other parties for review and approval/rejection, capture a signature, and even automatically be saved down to your document management system. A workflow document automation system shepherds the document and its data from creation to disposition. This solution is ideal for enterprise-level clients like large law firms, banks, and insurance companies. Therefore, besides the basic functionality of document template development, you would look for:
- Integration capability with your CRM or other programs, whether front end or back end
- E-signature functionality, to allow users to digitally sign
- Version control, whether template and content, to know which version you’re working from
- User management, to control access to your workflow document automation system
- Authentication methods such as Single Sign-On (SSO)
- Collaboration possibilities, whether sending an interview to a client or sending a contract out for approval/rejection
- Deployment to the Desktop or the Cloud
You may or may not need all this functionality, but the possibilities are there. The real challenge is to ensure that whatever you decide to adopt, it can grow and mature with your business needs, adding functionality as and when you need it. It can be an expensive mistake to adopt a solution, only to find its limitations constrains your future business needs. That’s where we come in.
At DocGovern, we have assembled a team with over a century’s experience delivering complex solutions for today’s document automation challenges. Our objective is to help you find the best document automation solution for your organisation’s unique needs. We scan the document automation market regularly to identify rising stars, or new vendors, and engage them to keep ourselves apprised of their functional and extended capabilities.
We go deeper than just horizon scanning. We vet the products we recommend thoroughly to assess the differences between marketing statements and deliverables. From this process, we have a list of partner solutions from which we can recommend a solution unique to your circumstances and needs. We can help you avoid the pitfall of selecting the wrong document automation system from the get-go. Your total costs of ownership (TCO) will be reduced and your return on investment will increase exponentially with DocGovern guiding you through the selection process.