Am I Stuck with Document Automation Vendor X?

Am I Stuck with Document Automation Vendor X?

Am I Stuck with Vendor X image 1 scaled

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.

What To Look for in a Document Automation Solution

What To Look for in a Document Automation Solution

Document Automation solution

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

Word Add-Ins

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

Workflow Systems

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.