In a recent blog post, Jim Sinur, a Research VP at Gartner specializing in BPM, warns enterprises to “Beware of the Dark Process,” which he defines as “an unofficial process used to deliver results and not visible to management.” Dark processes, as Sinur points out, occur for a bunch of reasons, one of the most common being that a sanctioned process—an automated workflow—doesn’t include the requisite business rules. In other words, when knowledge workers arrive at a certain step in an automated process, the process doesn’t provide the necessary path to completion, which causes workers to figure out their own “unofficial” path. Sinur makes the point that dark processes aren’t likely to ever disappear, but stresses that enterprises should “reduce the number of opportunities to create and feed [dark processes] for no good reason.”

The Dark Side of Legal Documents

Just as enterprises must avoid dark processes, they must likewise avoid dark documents, which are legally binding instruments that result from document generation processes gone awry, in most cases, because of faulty or inadequate reflection of business rules in document automation templates. In BPM parlance, if a document is generated via an automated process but is not transaction ready, it becomes dark the moment a knowledge worker begins the manual process of fiddling around with the language.

A Key Difference between Dark Processes and Dark Documents

Just as dark processes will never be entirely eliminated, no matter how deep an enterprise’s commitment to process modeling might be, dark documents will also always exist. But there’s a notable difference between dark processes and dark documents that can be applied in all too many instances: Dark processes result in lost efficiency. Dark documents result in legal exposure.

Embrace Complexity

Like it or not, legal documents have a tendency to be complex, with dozens, or even hundreds, of pages; hundreds, or even thousands, of variable components; sophisticated business rules governing the inclusion/exclusion of blocks of language; merged values that require complex mathematical equations; and on and on. And in the case of dark documents, the real culprit could be an inadequate document-generation platform—some technology simply not up to the task of enterprise-grade document generation. The net result is knowledge workers who end up taking matters into their own hands, ad hoc drafting/editing—the fast track to litigation.

The Solution

What organizations need is a document automation platform without an automation ceiling, one capable of handling any document or set of documents, no matter how complex. For enterprises that have already adopted BPM, the issue of integration is critical.  Whichever document automation platform is adopted, it must have all the necessary APIs and rely on standard web services protocols, facilitating deep integration into automated business processes.