For many, document automation is the best thing since sliced bread. Small business document automation is no different.
When used properly, it can produce an outsized return on investment from direct savings and indirect earnings.
If used the wrong way, it may cause more trouble than it’s worth.
In this guide, you’ll learn what small business document automation is, the benefits it provides, the types of documents perfect for automation, and how to implement it in your business.
What is small business document automation?
Small business document automation is the process of using technology to automate the creation, storage, and management of various business documents. These include invoices, contracts, proposals, and other important paperwork. The goal of document automation is to increase efficiency and accuracy while reducing the time and effort required to create and manage these documents.
By using document automation software, you can streamline their document creation and management process. This can involve the use of templates and pre-written text to quickly generate documents, as well as automated workflows and approvals to reduce the time and effort required for review and signature.
Document automation can also help you maintain consistency and compliance with legal requirements and company policies. With automated templates and workflows, it’s easy to make sure all documents are formatted correctly and contain the necessary information and legal language.
Overall, small business document automation can save time, increase efficiency, and reduce errors and compliance risks, allowing you and your team to focus on other important tasks.
Types of Documents that can be Automated with examples
There are many types of small business documents that can be automated, depending on the needs of the business. Below are some examples but they are by no means all of the documents that can be automated. Think of them as a starting point that will help you get a better understanding of what document automation can do:
- Invoices: Invoices are an important part of payment workflows and contract execution. You can use document automation software to quickly provide or pull data from a source of your choice and automatically generate and send invoices out to your customers.
- Contracts: When people think of document automation tools, they normally think of the ones that help you automate contracts. Document automation software can be used to generate standardized contracts and agreements, which can help you save time and reduce errors. Certain document automation software can also be useful in different parts of the contract lifecycle such as redlining and negotiation. For example, a small business that provides consulting services might use document automation software to generate a standard contract that outlines the scope of work, payment terms, and other important details.
- Proposals: If you have a brand that often submits proposals to potential clients, you can use document automation software to create customized proposals in a fraction of the time. The software can also be used to track proposal status and send reminders to follow up with clients.
- Employee documents: Small businesses can use document automation software to generate employee documents such as offer letters, employment contracts, and performance evaluations. This can help ensure consistency and compliance with legal requirements.
- Marketing materials: Small businesses can use document automation software to create marketing materials such as brochures, flyers, and email campaigns. The software can be programmed to insert personalized information such as the recipient’s name and company.
Overall, small business document automation can be applied to a wide range of documents and processes, depending on the needs of the business. By automating these processes, small businesses can save time, reduce errors, and improve efficiency.
Benefits of automating small business documents
Small business document automation can offer several benefits to businesses of all sizes. Here are some of the benefits of small business document automation, along with examples:
- Increased efficiency: Document automation can help you save time and increase efficiency by automating repetitive tasks. For example, a small business that needs to send out invoices to multiple clients every month can use document automation software to automate the process, reducing the time and effort required to complete the task manually.
- Improved accuracy: You can improve accuracy and reduce errors. For example, a small business that needs to generate contracts with standardized language can use document automation software to ensure that all contracts contain the same language and formatting, reducing the risk of errors or omissions.
- Consistency: It’s much easier to produce consistent documents. For example, a small business that uses a standard proposal template can use document automation software to ensure that all proposals contain the same sections and language.
- Better organization: You can better keep track of your documents through a central repository and strong search tools. For example, a small business that needs to manage multiple contracts and agreements can use document automation software to store all documents in a centralized location, making it easier to access and manage them.
- Enhanced customer experience: You can enhance the customer experience in multiple ways such as through faster processing times and an easier form-filling process. For example, when someone fills out a form for email updates and you offer a bonus, you can personalize the content with their details to add a human touch.
Overall, small business document automation can help small businesses save time, reduce errors, improve accuracy, and enhance the customer experience.
Implementing Document Automation in Your Business
There are multiple steps for properly implementing document automation in your business. While there may be some things that are unique to your business, you’ll generally follow the process outlined below:
Identify the documents to automate:
Start by looking at the documents that you frequently create, such as invoices, proposals, contracts, or purchase orders. Identify any documents that require a significant amount of manual data entry or editing, as these are the types of documents that are typically good candidates for automation. For example, a small business that creates a large number of proposals may want to automate the proposal generation process to save time and improve accuracy.
Choose the right software:
There are many different document automation software options available, ranging from simple tools like Google Docs and Microsoft Word templates to more sophisticated software like DoxFlowy or HotDocs. Consider the features and pricing of each option and choose the one that best fits your needs and budget. Look for software that offers customization options, such as the ability to create custom templates or integrate with other tools, like your CRM or accounting software. Again, this is based on your needs and requirements.
Once you have chosen the right software, it’s time to develop dynamic templates for the documents you want to automate. When creating templates, consider the different types of information that need to be included in each document, as well as any formatting or branding requirements. For example, if you’re automating your proposal generation process, your template should include sections for the project scope, pricing, timeline, and deliverables. It should also include your company’s logo and branding elements.
Additionally, you may want to add conditional logic so that a single dynamic template can be used in multiple situations. That way, you will be able to cut down the upfront work to create a document automation initiative.
Integrate with existing systems:
You may need to integrate your document automation software with other tools or platforms. For example, if you use a CRM to manage client information, you may want to integrate your document automation software with your CRM to automatically populate client data into your proposals. This can save time and reduce errors by eliminating the need for manual data entry.
The types of systems you integrate with will depend on the needs of your businesses. Sometimes you’ll be able to establish a direct integration while, at other times, you may need to go through a third-party tool like Zapier. Whatever the case, you should have vetted the software before getting to this step.
Test the automation process:
Before rolling out your new document automation process, it’s important to test it to ensure that it works correctly. This may involve testing with a small group of clients or employees to ensure that the automation process is working as intended and that there are no errors or issues. Make any necessary adjustments based on the feedback you receive.
Once you’ve tested the automation process and are confident that it’s working correctly, it’s time to train your employees on how to use the new system. Provide training sessions or documentation that clearly outlines how to use the software and any new procedures or policies that have been implemented.
The software provider should have documentation on how to use the system but your training should focus on your internal processes around the software.
Roll out the new system:
Once your employees are trained, you can roll out the new document automation system across your business. Make sure that all employees are aware of the new system and any changes to existing procedures or policies. Monitor the new system closely to ensure that it’s working as intended and make any necessary adjustments.
Even after rolling out the system, keep in mind that you’ll need to check and adjust it at regular intervals. This may be due to new regulations, internal processes, or new best practices. Whatever the case, schedule in regular reviews to keep it running optimally.
Best practices for small business document automation
Document automation can be a powerful tool for small businesses looking to improve efficiency and accuracy in their document creation and management processes. To ensure successful implementation, there are several best practices that you should consider.
Firstly, it’s crucial to choose the right document automation software for your business. Look for software that meets your specific needs and can integrate with your existing systems. Additionally, make sure the software is user-friendly and easy to learn for your employees.
Secondly, develop clear and concise templates for your automated documents. Keep them simple and easy to understand by including only necessary information and formatting. Use headers, bullet points, and tables to make the document more visually appealing and easier to read.
You’ll also want to add all the conditional logic, format the forms, and set up all the post-submission and delivery options. This will make it easy for end users to make use of the dynamic template.
Thirdly, regularly review and update your templates to ensure they’re accurate and current. As your business evolves, you may need to add or remove certain sections or fields from your templates.
Fourthly, monitor and measure your results. Keep track of the time and resources saved by implementing document automation, as well as any improvements in accuracy or efficiency. Use this data to make any necessary adjustments or improvements to your automation process.
If you’re not hitting your stipulated goals, think about the changes you may need to make or the mistakes that happened. Iterate and tweak until you achieve your stated objectives.
Fifthly, provide adequate training and support to your employees when implementing document automation. Make sure that they are trained on how to use the new system and have access to support when needed.
Lastly, maintain data security. Document automation involves storing and sharing sensitive business information, so it’s important to take steps to maintain data security. For this follow security best practices and make sure that your document automation software includes security features such as password protection and user permissions. Additionally, make sure that employees are aware of best practices for data security and are trained on how to keep company information safe.
By following these best practices, you can successfully implement document automation and reap the benefits of improved efficiency and accuracy in document creation and management processes.
Small business document automation can be a source of lasting benefits or it can be a nightmare. It all depends on your understanding of it and your approach.
This guide has shed light on what it is, the benefits it brings, and given an overview of how to get started. All that’s left is to start implementing the process.
Take a moment to review and register for DoxFlowy as your small business document automation software. You’ll be able to learn the interface quickly and start producing results.