What is document automation
Document automation is the process of transforming documents into intelligent templates while setting up data to populate said template – ultimately (and automatically) building 100% accurate documents every time.
When it comes to the automation of documents, it is all about output
Document automation is the process of transforming documents into intelligent templates while setting up data to populate said template – ultimately (and automatically) building 100% accurate documents every time. Document automation is also about eliminating (or limiting) inconsistencies and human error in documents.
But what does that mean? Well, data can be anything: a number, text, or even an image. And when we are talking about dynamics visualization, it is about creating brand-compliant documents. Document automation has been known to be static in its behavior, meaning that visualizations such as charts, tables, or images would be hard to update both from an admin perspective and the user end. The need for dynamics is evident to enable the people administering the documents. Enabling document automation on top of Microsoft Office has two positive side effects. First and foremost, we enable post-editing. This ensures that the parts of the document that cannot be automated will be left with the subject matter expert to add valuable contextual content that aligns with the authors’ skillset. Additionally, data visualization in charts and tables, and imagery can now be dynamic. This means that charts can be built based on integrated data rather than be a static element that admins need to change.
You can create custom templates for all kinds of documents, your team, or business needs. If a certain type of document is frequently produced, automating document creation will ensure that your employees spend minimum hours creating the documents and that all documents follow the same procedure.
With document automation, your organization saves time previously spent on repetitive tasks, such as filling, printing, scanning, distributing, sorting, copy/pasting, and storing documents. Document automation does not only help you to create documents or intelligent software document templates quickly. It uses business logic and accurate data to route, store, manage and share Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or PDF files.
Traditionally, the document creation process has been referred to as document assembly, document transformation, contract automation, or document generation.
Most of the above examples include automation that is less than 100%. Of course, the royal version of document automation is where data and design merge on demand. Imagine your product sheets being defined in terms of layout once and then automatically produced when someone clicks a download button on your website – that’s easy, right? See more use cases below, or start imagining your own.
Levels of document automation
Document automation software is an investment in better content, and better content means better quality output from your document automation project. To start imagining what level of automation you need in your next document automation project, look at the levels below. It is pretty interesting how automation begins with the template itself.
Levels of document automation
Each level of document automation indicates internal effort in the editor’s office while suggesting the level of impact and value with the end-users. All document automation projects have one thing in common; it solves competency-related issues. With any level of automation, we bridge a gap between two (or more) competencies, whether design, legal, or perhaps product-specific; engineers get the product details right in tenders and contracts.
01 Basic automation
The automation journey already starts at the template stage. Brand compliance is automated in the template alongside standard legal compliance such as copyright, GDPR, and simple generic disclaimers by defining logo placement, margins, font, styles, colors, graphical elements, and so on.
Structured document templates create the initial placeholders for content, offering the lowest level of document automation.
The users must find the right template matching their purpose. Once opened, their role is to find and/or produce content and fill it in the correct placeholders. Ultimately, delivering (saving, sending, uploading) the document in the right place for the next step in its journey.
For admins, it is crucial to understand the purpose of the template. The purpose defines the content of the template. This is important, as any obstacles in the flow will hurt user relevance and make them look for alternatives – including building their templates.
An important admin role is to distribute the templates to the relevant audience. This means dealing with mass internal communication alongside managing the risk of creating complexity – again hurting the chances of adoption by making the templates hard to find.
02 Assisted automation
Moving up the document automation ladder, we find the first version of add-on software support. Document forms help users place content in the right place in the document. It might also include certain gating questions that dynamically alter the document. This could consist of change of language, more specified legal terms (e.g., market-specific), or other dynamic content.
Assisted automation also includes wizards that add content to the document based on user choices. Wizards guide users through their documents to deliver precise and standardized documents to many people.
Users are guided to fill in a form field with relevant information or to choose the most appropriate option.
This type of automation demands a little more from the admin. The dynamic elements will have to be mapped out before configuration commences. And this is the second part; a solution to carry the fields and options must be configured and pushed out to users. This necessitates training and communication.
03 Partial automation
Partial automation refers to how integrations can automate the use of content in 3rd party systems. Whether a product description in your CRM system, an image from your DAM system, or other assets stored in SharePoint are added on demand to your document, the integration automates the entire copy/paste process.
The users simply browse the integration interface, navigate to the relevant content, and add it to their documents with a simple click.
Admin’s role is simple. Set up relevant integrations, map the usage, and prepare placeholders for the content, to maintain control of the document design.
04 Conditional automation
Certain conditions might require manual handling of an otherwise fully automated document. It might be that the document ‘works better if a person has added parts to it. This might have some contextual relevance, such as a social note where the editor has knowledge that cannot be automated but will add quality and value to the document.
With DocuMotor, these parts can be inserted via third-party systems in rich text with all the bells and whistles needed to keep up with brand standards and document designs.
The user will, as mentioned, add a note about any relevant context before initiating the next step in the document journey. It can be as simple as attaching the document to an email and sending it to the relevant recipient, or it might be an administrative task of saving it in the right location.
In all automation steps, the admin’s role is to ensure that the content acts as intended and that data is structured correctly. In addition, training and communication are always necessary.
05 High automation
We are now at a level of automation where our documents are fully automated. However, we have a reason to want a human to make the final approval before instigating the next step in the document journey.
The user reviews the document for whatever purpose they might have before instigating the relevant post-processing flow or document journey step. In this step, only low-touch adjustments are needed, or even just an approval of the finalized document.
The most important task for the admin is to ensure data structure and content is in place and that automation can flow directly to a finalized document.
However, they must secure that the users know what needs to happen. Whether it is via training, communication, or guides in the document (or all of them), to ensure that the users know their role in the document journey.
06 Full automation
A document is ready whenever the trigger tells it to be. Imagine that your website has download buttons on all products. This button triggers a document to be crafted via the predefined template and data from your PIM system and other relevant databases. The document always contains the latest data and doesn’t exist until someone needs it and presses download.
Per definition, no user is involved in a fully automated document. Both content and triggers are automated. Sounds brilliant, right? The trigger could be anything from the above-mentioned download button to logical events such as a calendar crossing into a new month or quarter.
Minimizing the need for user effort is the main benefit of document automation and will also benefit recipients of the finished document.
The admin is the main character in this document journey. Analyze, plan and execute the entire document journey from data to the final document.