There are many pieces of technology designed to make work easier. Email marketing tools, analytics tools, word processors, and many others. Document automation is technology that allows you to do much more with less.
But, what is document automation, how does it work, what benefits does it bring to the table, and so on? These are all good questions and, in this guide, you’ll get a detailed rundown of the core aspects of document automation.
What is document automation?
You can define document automation as using technology to gather relevant data and taking those inputs to create simple or complex documents. This is accomplished without manual intervention from the document creator.
In reality, this is just one aspect of document automation known as document assembly or document generation. It’s powerful and useful but doesn’t unlock all the benefits of document automation. It truly shines when you’re able to automate what happens after a document has been created.
These are the distribution and post-creation actions. You can send out a notice to the right people, send the document to others, initiate the signing process, and so much more. We’ll look at the breadth of automation later in this guide.
The main thing is to understand that document automation is carrying out multiple steps in the document lifecycle without manual intervention from the document owner.
How does document automation work?
Now, let’s break down the moving pieces related to document automation.
- Data collection – Data collection can be done in two ways. First, you can create a form that collects data from the relevant parties in the document. These forms can be shared via email, embedded on a website, or set up as part of a regular onboarding workflow. The second way to collect data is by integrating with third-party tools such as your CRM and pull relevant data from there. In both cases, the document creator doesn’t have to manually enter data.
- Document assembly – After data collection, a document is created based on the inputs. This is what most people think of as automation but it’s only a stage within a fully automated workflow. With no input on your part, an impeccable document is created. You can also use conditional logic to adjust the clauses and other things so that every document adapts to the situation.
- Signing – Electronic signatures are an important part of many documents. Oftentimes document automation solutions provide electronic signature functionality. Unfortunately, it’s not usually as robust as a standalone electronic signature solution which is a major drawback. Make sure you have a full-service electronic signature solution when choosing a document automation solution. Only then can you be sure your signatures can stand up to legal scrutiny. DoxFlowy’s document automation solution comes with fully-fledged electronic signing complete with an audit trail.
- Distribution and data routing – This is when you notify the right people that the document is complete or send it to other platforms for more processing. A simple document assembly solution stops here. Robust solutions integrate with a wide variety of third-party tools so you can continue to automate your document processes.
- Storage – This can be accomplished within the solution or you can use a third-party provider. In the first case, all of your complete documents will be available in your account. In the second case, storing completed documents happens in the distribution and data routing step. DoxFlowy is able to handle both situations for you.
In a nutshell, these are the steps involved in any document automation process. As you can see, they closely mirror the document lifecycle. That’s intentional so it will be able to fit into your current workflow with minimum disruptions.
Benefits of document automation
The benefits listed below are by no means everything you’ll experience. They will give you a decent idea of what to expect when it comes to document automation.
- Compliance – Compliance becomes easier with document automation because a dynamic document template has been prepared ahead of time. It has been thoroughly edited, the proper standard clauses added, and approved. When someone creates a new document, they’re following the rules that have already been laid down which were created with compliance in mind.
- Quality control and reduced human error – In a study by professor Raymond R. Panko, it was found that the chance of error when performing complex data entry was 100%. Put another way, there will be at least one mistake, usually more. Automating data entry and formatting through document automation can reduce the risk of errors and inconsistencies. The result is higher quality documents and reduced risk of legal or financial consequences. This happens because people don’t get fatigued after entering data in a large number of complex documents.
- Better end-user experience – Instead of having to wait days or weeks for important documents, they can be created on the fly. All they need to do is fill out a simple questionnaire. This improves the overall experience customers, clients, and even employees have with your organization thereby creating a positive feedback loop.
- Consistent output – Document automation ensures that documents follow the same format, structure, and content guidelines. This helps maintain consistency across an organization’s documents. You no longer have to worry about some documents looking as expected and others deviating from the mold. You can also be confident that important information was included, there are no grammar errors, and so on.
- Cutting costs – Document automation can save costs by reducing the need for manual labor, minimizing errors and rework, and optimizing document distribution. Additionally, it reduces costs related to storage, stationary, and other miscellaneous things associated with physical documents.
- Increased efficiency – Save time and effort by automating repetitive tasks, such as data entry, formatting, and distribution. This can free up employees to focus on more valuable tasks. At the end of the day, your people spend much less time on routine paperwork and more time on high-level tasks.
Document automation use cases
There are countless use cases for document automation so I’ll only touch on a few of them below. This will help you get a better understanding of what it can and cannot do so you can plan accordingly.
- Contract management: One of the most powerful and common use cases is to create, manage, and track contracts. Document automation can help you streamline and standardize contract workflows. If you don’t have a standard process creation then it would be almost impossible to automate effectively. As a result of these processes, you’re able better manage your contracts while delivering a consistent output.
- Financial reporting: Automate the creation of financial reports, such as balance sheets and income statements. This can save time and effort while reducing the risk of errors. Instead of manually entering data, it can be pulled from different systems and then used to create unique reports.
- Human resources: Document automation can be used to manage various HR processes, such as onboarding, performance reviews, and employee records. The end result is a better experience for new employees and streamlined processes. Compliance is also enhanced because you ensure every relevant document is created.
- Legal documents: One of the most common uses of document automation is to create a wide range of legal documents. These include but aren’t limited to lease agreements, affidavits, power of attorney, and many other types of contracts. Like with other types of documents, automating these processes ensure compliance and mitigate risk.
- Healthcare: Document automation can be used to manage patient records, prescriptions, and billing. It can even help with insurance claims processing which costs the healthcare industry an estimated $375 billion dollars a year in the United States alone. The prevalence of errors is reduced and efficiency is increased across the board. And, of course, compliance is easier.
After reading this guide, you should have a clear answer to the question, what is document automation?
Document automation is a powerful tool used in a wide range of situations. It essentially automates a large portion of the document lifecycle. This frees up your time to focus on higher-level tasks instead of routine data entry.
The benefits are wide and varied. They range from saving time and money to improving compliance and creating a consistent output whenever a specific document is created.
If you’re in the market for automating your documents as part of a large initiative at your company or just to test the waters, be sure to check out DoxFlowy – a robust document automation platform.