Let’s Get Back to Basics
As a small business you may have read or heard about Document Automation and how it could save you a significant amount of time and money…but, before you even contemplate a new expense lets be sure to look at the basics.
- What exactly is Document Automation?
- As a small business, how can it help me, i.e. why should I be interested?
- What if I don’t create that many documents, how can Document Automation still be beneficial for me?
This post will (hopefully!) answer all the above for you and give you suggestions towards what your next steps should be, should you decide it’s something that could add value to your business.
So firstly, what exactly is Document Automation?
According to Wikipedia, ‘Document Automation is the design of systems and workflows that assist in the creation of electronic documents.’ That’s pretty stuffy and academic so let’s do some translation.
As we looked at in a recent blog post Document Automation is about the creation of documents. It’s not about what you do with these documents – that’s Document Management. It’s also not about who will use the documents – that’s Document Workflow. You’ll also see the term ‘templates’ routinely being used. A template is the master that you generate documents from – your ‘Control’. Simply put, your Control ensures you can quickly create accurate, impactful documents repeatedly, at a fraction of the cost of manually creating them. Templates can be Word documents, spreadsheets or even PowerPoint presentations.
As stated in our White Paper, Document Automation has been a standard in various compliance intensive industries for decades. It not only helps to streamline workflows, which results in more productivity and less wasted cost, but effective Document Automation also gives you more time to focus on what matters to your business – selling and serving your Clients.
As a small business, you may think that Document Automation doesn’t apply to you, or you might think you don’t need it, which leads nicely onto our next question…
How can Document Automation help me, in other words, why should I be interested?
The benefits for a small business of implementing Document Automation are numerous. Even if you’re a sole trader, or your business only has a small number of employees, you could benefit from:
- Significant time and cost savings on document creation and processing.
- Reduction in the risk of human error due to having efficient, user-friendly procedures in place.
- Your regulatory requirements, e.g. GDPR, SOX, HIPAA, being met easily, through the use and enforcement of standards.
- The ability to communicate and edit documents in real-time.
When Document Automation is delivered correctly, the output will not only be more efficient, but can help underpin growth across your business.
Document Automation used to be an expensive, resource intensive undertaking only tolerable to larger organisations. That’s no longer the case. There are now some great solutions designed specifically for businesses of different sizes. What used to take weeks or months to set up, can now be done in hours. What used to cost tens of thousands of dollars, can now cost less than a daily cup of coffee. This page highlights some Document Automation solutions specifically for SMB’s.
You may also need to create and send your documents quickly, efficiently and professionally, or have them legally signed by your Clients, Staff, Partners or Suppliers, our e-book will tell you all you need to know about electronic signatures.
It’s worth remembering that the software subscription for your chosen Document Automation solution will likely be recognised as an allowable expense against the profits of your company and in consequence the corporation tax can be lower as well. A win-win scenario where adopting the solution can save you time, increase profit and quality of service, all while the actual cost is recognised by HMRC as a deductible expense. This article from The Association of Taxation Technicians, (try saying that quickly), explains a bit more.
Check out our graphic illustrating six questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking about Document Automation, if you’re still not convinced😉
What if I don’t create that many documents, how can Document Automation still be beneficial for me?
Finally, you may be a sole trader, or your business only has a small number of employees, you could still be thinking, ‘we can do that ourselves’. From creating NDA’s, to drafting contracts of employment, to generating invoices, every business creates documents, and these documents are no doubt being created multiple times per month.
Just think, if you could use a Document Automation solution to create templates of these documents, wouldn’t that allow you to save a significant amount of time? Our ROI calculator will let you see the how much time you could save implementing Document Automation – you may be surprised.
Get in touch with us today for a no-obligation chat. We will help you be the best, most productive and efficient business you can be.
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.
You may have found this article because either a) you were searching for an old Woody Allen movie and made an unfortunate error, or b) you’re looking to ensure your organisation is as effective as possible and you want to know more about this thing called ‘Document Automation’.
I’ll focus my efforts in addressing the audience for “b” – I’ll be extra helpful and suggest those looking for “a” should go here. All the B’s still here? Great!
Before we look at what Document Automation is and how it can be useful, we should clarify what it isn’t, as it’s often confused. Document Automation is about the creation of documents. It’s not about what you do with them – that’s Document Management. It’s also not about who will use the documents – that’s Document Workflow. Finally, it’s not about negotiating, that’s known as Lifecycle Management. The good news is, an effective Document Automation tool can and should work in partnership with all the aforementioned. As your organisational needs grow, so should your Document Automation support these additional requirements.
So, Document Automation – How do you know if you could benefit from it?
Quick quiz, answer the following questions:
- Do you work in an industry or vertical that has a high level of compliance? E.g. GDPR, SOX, HIPAA, FOIA, BSI etc.
- Could the contents of your documents cause impact to your organisation if they contained errors? E.g. Contracts, calculations, clauses, personally identifiable information etc.
- Do you have a high volume of repeatable documents?
- Do you have a dispersed workforce that need to access the same content?
- Does your team/organisation require to collaborate regularly on documents?
- Do you spend a significant amount of time drafting and creating any form of document? Don’t just think of Word documents – what about spreadsheets, presentations, emails?
- Do any of the documents you create have a significant potential value? E.g. Sales quotes, proposals, contracts.
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then there is a good chance that a Document Automation solution could be of benefit to you.
But what I’m doing just now is what we’ve always done…
While the team here at DocGovern can wax lyrical about why almost any organisation can benefit from a good Document Automation solution, the reality is that many are persevering with what are effectively workarounds. Do any of the following sound familiar to you?
- Using ‘Find and Replace’ in your trusty old document.
- Using colour schemes to highlight what variables should be changed each time a new version of the document is created.
- Renaming an old document and then manually picking through all the changes that are needed to make it the “new” document.
While these can work short term, they will invariably lead to disaster, leaving you open to the following threats:
- Typos. One mistyped letter can completely change the intent of a document.
- Omissions. What did you leave out that you really shouldn’t have?
- Inclusions. What did you leave in that you really, really shouldn’t have?
- Poor Presentation. Do you really want your quotation going out in Comic Sans because Pete in Sales thinks it’s “friendly”?
- Compliance. GDPR is just the start. You have a legal obligation to ensure your data is secure and used correctly.
- Time Waste. Multiple people working on a document, emailing it back and forth, checking it, correcting it. The pennies are quickly becoming pounds and adding up.
So now you know…
A good Document Automation solution can address all these threats. A great Document Automation solution can address the threats and much more, pushing and pulling data held within your other business systems to minimise risk and maximise the value of the information that you already own.
There are a significant number of Document Automation solutions in the market (over 250 at the last count), and you can be sure at least one of them will provide you with the specific functionality you need. The key to selecting the right one is ensuring you fully understand what your organisation needs today and tomorrow, and that the chosen solution is built in a way to not only support this, but offer additional ways in which you can increase your operational effectiveness.
Like to know more? Get in touch, we’d be happy to help.