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 all about the production of content, i.e., the creation of documents – whether its high volume, complex or both, the purpose is to ensure that each piece of content produced is the highest quality, 100% compliant with all regulation and legislation, free from risk, and aligns to your corporate standards.
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.
How Does Document Automation Work?
In most cases it does this by turning your existing Word documents into templates. These templates incorporate all the variable data and build in intelligent business logic to control optional content. This allows-
- Non-IT users to easily create and maintain templates.
- You to leverage all the formatting and language capabilities of Word – why Word? Because most documents and corporates already have it and the necessary skills to create beautiful documents.
Templates can be intelligent, using conditional logic, Clause Libraries, and external data sources to build complex documents generated via presenting the user with a question and answer based ‘interview’.
More experienced, higher cost resources can create the initial template, and have confidence that junior resources can then utilise the corresponding interview to generate accurate documents.
What users cannot do is change the template itself, the logic, the styling the logos, the calculations, the clauses that you need inserted, and provisions you need to tell your client about, thus, you have protected your IP from leaving your business in a compromised manner, while ensuring the integrity of the document remains intact.
To aid the process, the Document Automation solution can also connect into your existing data sources to pull relevant data into the interview – why wouldn’t you want your most valuable assets to be re-used? This automation also removes one of the biggest risks – human error.
Could you benefit from Document Automation?
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 Document Automation solution could be of benefit to you.
Making a change
But what I’m doing just now is what we’ve always done…the reality is many companies 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.
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.
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