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.
Document automation (DA) has been around for 30 years or more now, so if you have been using a DA solution for even less than half that time, you may be on a legacy solution that struggles to meet your needs. You may even wonder if you’re just stuck with it.
- Have you made a huge investment in time and money to learn the skills to create templates with this solution only to find it lacks the functionality you need going forward? And the functionality you need is not on the vendor’s roadmap?
- Do you find yourself excusing this lack of functionality because you fear it will be too painful to switch to another DA platform now?
- Do you find yourself exploring other options but wondering how easy it is to transfer the skills you’ve developed with your legacy solution to another?
You Got This!
Up until a few months ago, I was only familiar with one document automation solution. One of the leaders in the document automation space, it’s been around forever and I was along for much of the ride. My experience with it has given me a solid foundation in concepts common to almost all document automation platforms:
- Variables, or placeholders in the document where your answers are merged
- Logical conditioning of text or events
- Lists of people, places, or things—and how to loop through them
With this foundation, I have quickly learned the ins and outs of several other document automation solutions. I wouldn’t say that I have mastered each of the platforms I’ve been exposed to, but I am comfortable enough to understand what I need to do, and if I don’t know, I can find out with online or vendor resources. The point to remember is the fact that I feel comfortable in the new platform after just a few weeks of using it.
Programmers always tell me that if you have mastered one language (e.g., C), then picking up other languages becomes easier and easier over time. I have found this to be true of document automation platforms too. The skills you’ve gained using your legacy DA solution are transferable to a new platform, if that’s what you choose to do.
DocGovern has prepared some videos that demonstrate how easy it is to automate a simple NDA contract in a few different platforms – XpressDox, Documate and PandaDoc. I’ll be adding further examples of creating the same NDA in other DA platforms, so watch this space! You will learn how to create a variable placeholder, condition some text, and structure the interview. Each video is about 15 minutes long; perfect for a fun watch during your lunch break! You’ll quickly see the similar concepts and approaches and that creating new templates in multiple platforms will be something you can handle.
What About My Legacy Templates?
Naturally, one of the biggest concerns about moving away from your current legacy document automation solution is how much effort will it take to migrate your template set(s) to another platform. This is a valid concern. The answer is: It depends. Some DA solutions offer migration paths that make the process easier. Often these migration tools can get you between 50-80% of the way to your goal, depending on the complexity of your source DA solution. But even if there isn’t a tool to migrate your templates over to the new solution, you can still takes steps to make the process more efficient than the original development process and in turn reap the benefits from the transition. Because you already have a template set, here’s what you have, depending on the source DA solution:
- A list of variables to use. Sometimes the most time-consuming part of a new template development project is deciding what variables you need. If you have an existing template set, you already have that worked out. You just need to re-create the variables in the new platform, either through a migration tool or manually. Manually? Yikes! It’s not going to be as bad as it sounds. DocGovern has ways to make the process more efficient and thereby save you time and money.
- Markup. Similarly, because you already have templates automated in a legacy solution, you have markup. Throughout the process of migration, this can be referenced to confirm that no functionality is lost during the transition. Not only that, you will save development time because logical conditioning decisions have already been worked out.
- Opportunity. As much as having the variable list and the markup helps speed up the migration process, because you may need to develop the template set afresh in the new platform, you have the opportunity to revise the approach to the template set to make it more efficient. You are not tied to the original approach.
Benefits of Migration to Another DA Solution
Loyalty is a value, and I can respect that. But when your relationship with your current document automation vendor has soured because they are not meeting your business-critical needs, embracing change is the answer. Many of the modern document automation solutions offer the following benefits:
- Out-of-the-Box Data Integration. With a modern solution, you won’t need to pay the high costs of a custom integration with your data because APIs are built in that can capture your data.
- Modern Interview Interfaces. Your interview won’t look like it’s stuck in the early 00s. You will gain the respect of employees and clients by keeping up with the times.
- More straightforward template development. The new document automation vendors understand that users need to be able to jump right in and make a template without becoming a coder first. They are actively seeking ways to balance ease of use with scalability and some are doing it very well.
- OS Independence. Many of the modern solutions are OS agnostic. This means that you can develop templates on a Mac or a PC, or even Linux. It doesn’t matter.
Don’t Postpone a Migration
Sometimes, the risks to your organization for staying loyal to a legacy document automation vendor are greater than the temporary pain and cost of migrating to a new solution. Ultimately, you must decide what works for your business, but don’t postpone considering other options. DocGovern can assess your requirements and recommend a new platform that will meet your needs. We can also meet you where you’re at and support you until you’re prepared to migrate. Either way, take a look at our videos about the ease of using some of these other platforms and contact us today.