What is document automation

What is document automation?

Document automation is the process of designing systems and workflows that assist in the creation of business-critical documents. These include systems that use conditional logic, loops, variable text and data connections to assemble sets of documents. This process is used in professional services, as well as general commerce and industry, to assemble legal documents, contracts, letters, other business documents, and client communications.

The principle idea behind document automation is to present the user with a questionnaire that gathers the data needed for a document. This data is subsequently combined with a template to create that document. In this way a document can be created in a fraction of the time it takes to manually draft the document.

Originally introduced in the 1980’s, document automation began with simple text substitution in documents. Since then these systems have become more functional, especially with the introduction of conditional logic and database connectors. In this way you could say that document automation is one of the earliest forms of robotic process automation.

Document automation on the web

It is amazing to see what can be achieved on the web with current tools. This means that web technologies can be used to create end to end solutions that disrupt the traditional document automation model.

Our approach, at Doccly, is very much a non-traditional one. We see document automation as one part of the bigger picture of office automation.

The data model underlying each document automation solution

We emphasize correctly understanding and incorporating the underlying data model behind the document automation solutions we develop.

The advance of technology has made data much more readily available, and through algorithms and artificial intelligence, much more useful in terms of the insights it gives.

In document automation solutions where the data model underlying the documents has not been properly modeled, the data can be difficult if not impossible to extract and analyze.

In these environments the benefits of data-driven document automation may be difficult to realize.

And of course, document automation is not the only beneficiary of properly structured and clean data coming out of this service delivery process. Professionals are using data and data analytics in an array of applications, from business development to service level ranking to legislative tracking to practice management to contract management to public records and beyond.

Mobile first approach

It’s the age of mobility. Smartphones have been with us since 2007, and tablets since 2009. Clients are no longer tied to their desks. This means that clients need to be serviced any where and any time.

At Doccly, we have a mobile first approach. We create solutions which are mobile-friendly. This enables a connection between how clients want to interact and how professionals are able to interact.

Embracing the cloud

Support for the cloud is not an afterthought with our solutions. They comply with web design best practices in terms of layout, responsiveness, and real time document previews.

The rise of the client

Clients have come to expect an effortless experience that delivers good value. This is how companies such as Amazon and Uber have disrupted their industries. The problem for stick-in-the-mud firms is that many, if not most, of their clients have had their user experience expectations raised through dealing with these disruptor companies.

Bad or indifferent user experiences offered by service teams who don’t care will stick out like a sore thumb.

Professional service delivery has become a buyer’s market. Buyers of professional services are demanding better access to services, better service from professionals, greater accountability, and more transparent prices.

Technology, including document automation, needs to help professional service teams to deliver the kind of service levels clients are demanding. Ours does.

Opinionated approach to document automation

It’s probably clear by now that Doccly has an opinionated approach to document automation. What this means is that we do not buy into the ‘always been done this way’ approach to document solutions.

There are certain use cases for which document automation is a great fit. Generating repetitive documents, for example, is an opportunity for this technology to deliver value.

Document automation is something that can help professional service teams win new clients, keep existing ones, and offer better service at a lower cost.

Used correctly in the context of the big picture, it can also improve knowledge management within a business. Traditional implementations of document solutions have resulted in little to no transfer of expertise from individuals to businesses. And as these individuals move to other businesses all this expertise goes with them.

Our approach of baking in the data and business model, and using document automation for what it was originally intended, eliminates knowledge drain when people move on.

Conclusion

Professional service teams looking to make the move to document automation should take several factors into consideration. The primary factor is, of course, choosing a technology partner with a vision. Remember that professionals will not embrace cumbersome or complex solutions, and neither will clients.

Implementing document automation can be a daunting prospect for many businesses. In some ways the very idea of document automation contradicts many long-held views about hourly billing and professional service businesses. However, businesses that embrace the right mix of systems, tools and technologies now will have a competitive advantage over businesses that refuse to embrace the future.

Get in touch…

If you’re planning to implement (or re-implement) document automation, get in touch with us. Tap the blue button in bottom right to start the conversation.