Document creation and formatting can be one of the most time-consuming steps in any business workflow. Not only that, but when employees have to generate documents by hand, there’s an increased risk of errors and inconsistencies — especially for complex documents with a large number of data fields to fill out.
A wide range of businesses are turning to document automation software to automate the document assembly process. From generating legal documents to streamlining HR workflows, there are use cases for document automation in nearly any industry.
Here’s everything you need to know about document automation tools, and how they can be part of a larger digital transformation strategy.
What Is Document Automation?
Document automation is the practice of using software to perform certain steps in the document management process that would otherwise have to be done by hand.
This often takes the form of document assembly, or generating new documents based on pre-existing templates, but it could also include related tasks, such as processing information in documents you receive from clients or customers.
For example, a company could use a questionnaire to gather the relevant information from an employee or customer, and then use document assembly software to input it into a standard document template. This saves your team from having to enter the information by hand or edit the document manually.
How does the software know which information goes where? The same way that your browser knows how to autofill web pages with your name, address, and other saved information. Document generation software uses “smart fields” that can distinguish between different types of data to ensure that everything’s in the right spot.
Advanced document automation solutions can also use conditional logic like IF-THEN statements to make further changes based on the information provided. With a low or no-code document automation system, you don’t even need to have any prior coding experience to customize your document workflow.
6 Benefits of Document Automation
Document automation is a good fit for businesses that have already taken some steps toward digitization, such as using PDF forms and digital signatures. If you generate a wide range of documents that are fairly routine and don’t change much from case to case, you can use a document automation platform to process them at scale.
On the other hand, if you only process a small number of documents, or if they have a lot of custom fields that require manual oversight, it may be less useful to you.
Here are six major benefits of using document automation software:
Document automation can reduce the time it takes to handle documents by replacing tedious, time-consuming tasks with more efficient workflows.
According to a case study from NASA, one document creation process took “twenty to fifty hours” because each graphic had to be cropped, edited, and reviewed by hand. After implementing a document automation process, they were able to reduce the “processing time to less than ten minutes with a zero defect rate.”
While PDF documents alone can be a step up from handwritten paperwork, document automation provides additional opportunities to improve security. For example, you can implement password protection on sensitive HR documents to ensure only authorized employees can access them.
You can also use an application programming interface (API) to integrate your existing document management system with other tools, like a CRM or mobile app. This makes it easier to share or access documents on multiple devices, without having to resort to less secure methods, such as email.
Compliance issues may be related to security — for example, medical providers need to ensure that their privacy practices are HIPAA-compliant — but they can extend beyond that to other types of record-keeping.
You can use a document automation platform to collect digital signatures and create legally binding contracts, and store multiple versions of each document, so you can easily revisit prior iterations if there are any disputes.
Accuracy is another major benefit of document automation. When employees have to enter data by hand, or copy/paste it from one field to another, there’s a greater risk of human error. For law firms, health care providers, and financial services firms, these mistakes can have widespread impacts.
Document management software can minimize this risk by cross-referencing data in real-time, ensuring that information is accurate across multiple documents.
Document automation can also help to maintain consistency across multiple types of documents. This can include brand consistency, such as automatically adding a logo, but it can also include word choice and formatting.
If multiple employees are generating documents by hand, there’s likely to be greater variation between them, resulting in a less professional appearance.
Finally, document automation can improve the user experience for clients, customers, and employees alike. By pre-populating forms with existing data, you can reduce the amount of time it takes for customers to provide the necessary information.
Plus, by enabling e-signatures and automatically sending customers a copy of their completed forms, you can make the entire process quick and convenient.
Document Automation in Practice
Document automation can take various forms depending on your industry, and it may be more useful in some departments than in others. You can start by identifying a workflow that can be automated and creating a set of template documents to work from.
Then, use workflow automation software with the integrations and functionality you need to complete the process. This might look like generating a document in Microsoft Word, converting it into a PDF, and emailing it to a customer or client for their signature.
Here are a few common use cases for document automation:
Document automation plays a major role in the legal services industry, in which a day’s business may include writing non-disclosure agreements, employment contracts, loan and lease agreements, and dozens of other document types.
Companies can also use legal document automation to create contracts in-house with less manual oversight. Since the template has already been reviewed for accuracy by your legal team, it can go from generation to signature more quickly.
Another common use case for document automation in sales enablement. You can use document automation to generate quotes, create vendor contracts, and send invoices based on information that you’ve already collected in your CRM software.
Not only can document automation ensure consistent branding across sales channels, it can boost profitability by reducing the time it takes to complete a sale.
In the HR department, document automation software can be used to generate offers of employment, streamline the onboarding process, and oversee audits, inspections, and complaints. By implementing your own document automation process, you can keep operations in-house and reduce the need for business process outsourcing.
Plus, by using automated workflows for leave of absence and return to work programs, you can simplify the process for your employees and ensure compliance with state and federal regulations like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Streamline Your Workflow With Pulpstream
Document automation can play a key role in the digital transformation of your business, enabling you to process documents more efficiently and accurately. Whether you want to digitize the leave of absence process or automate billing and invoicing, document automation can save you time and money and reduce the risk of human error.
Pulpstream makes it easy to get started with a drag-and-drop interface you can use to automate workflows without writing a line of code. Plus, by integrating Pulptream with your existing tools, you can coordinate multiple processes from a single platform.
Contact us today to learn more and request a demo!