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.