Advances in technology - from A.I. to cloud-based storage - have vastly improved how we create and save documents for businesses.

  • Creating documents has historically been time-consuming and expensive for businesses, but technology developments have made the process faster and more accurate.
  • A.I., cloud-based storage, Docu-Sign and other document services are ways companies are providing fast and inexpensive digital documentation.
  • Quick and effective document automation makes for happier clients and employees, affecting the bottom line of your business.
     

Documents are the central means of communication and workflow for most businesses. They’re also a source of lost time and resources because they’re labor intensive. Employees spend nearly two hours a day searching for information and 28 percent of their work week managing emails they need to complete their jobs, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report.

This compounded with the time it takes to create, name, send, execute and organize these documents, makes it clear there’s huge potential for automation to make a real impact. Document automation is the software-assisted production of complex documents using smart templates that aid the user in generating a final, flawless product. The result is a lowering of the individual expertise typically necessary to produce the document--like a contract or agreement that would usually need an attorney or legal team to produce and review that can now be done by administrative staff. All the necessary legal expertise is baked into the template, which anyone can use.

When specialized employees spend less time doing mundane tasks, they’re able to add more value to the organization. And it’s not just law firms. Many industries – including sales, banking, real estate, accounting, and healthcare - are hamstrung by inefficient but essential document creation.

Consider the real estate agency handling anywhere from dozens to thousands of deals simultaneously. Think of the sheer volume of mortgage documents--the organization and execution of every one of them. Think of the insurance agency handling tens of thousands of claims simultaneously--the level of service a claims office could provide their clients if they were liberated from hours of daily manual document generation. The possibilities are endless. 

By using technology to automate some of these processes, it relieves the growing burden of information and documents businesses require. It also streamlines the business funnel to increase one’s bottom line. This is not meant to replace humans, but rather optimize the role of people by letting them be more effective in roles that cannot be completed by a software program.

Due to its efficacy, “The IT robotics automation market as a whole is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 43 percent by 2023 and will reach a $1.5 billion global market value by the end of 2018.”

Contracts, HR documents, loan documents, legal documents, and healthcare forms are just a few examples of documents that can be automated. Reducing errors for these types of documents saves time, money and, in the case of medical care, people’s lives.

In healthcare, document automation allows the medical facilities to run more smoothly and be more compliant when it comes to ordering supplies, managing employees and enhancing patient care. From the use of electronic signatures, bulk order documents and patient checklists, these digital documents provide efficiency and accuracy.

Document automation provides a centralized location to keep all important templates — from physician agreements and credential documents to time sheets and other organizational forms. Instead of relying on hard copies of documents, which are susceptible to damage or misplacement, everything is digital,” reports Electronic Health Reporter.

Lawyers and paralegals benefit from document automation because it frees up time for practicing law and working with clients. Rocket Matter estimates lawyers can save 80 percent of their time by creating documents with digital methods instead of manually.

In Louisiana, Andrew Legrand, a New Orleans business attorney, uses document automation to provide flat rate quotes for his legal cases. His practice is competitive among other local law firms and he’s able to dedicate more time to clients while producing professional documents.

Legrand tells Above the Law, “Automation and flat-rate pricing is something I knew I wanted to do when I started this firm. I wanted to be competitive and show I was on top of things. I realized that document automation was a way to save time and increase consistency while reducing errors in documents.”

Legrand uses the software to produce documents like letterheads, tax info, retainer letters, marketing materials and other documents that need his oversight, but can be shaped by him from the beginning and then repeated over time.

In addition to the business benefits of productivity, efficiency and reduction of errors and expenses, document automation helps the environment and saves money on paper costs. Going paperless saves trees and reduces pollution.

U.S. businesses spend $8 billion a year on managing paper, according to reports by Corp Magazine. “It costs an organization an average of $20 to file a document, $120 to find a misplaced document, and $220 to reproduce a lost document,” notes Corp Magazine.

All in all, digital documents and automation have many benefits for business owners, from reducing costs and errors to enhancing accuracy and client work. As robotic process automation becomes more popular and easier to integrate, the opportunities will continue to grow.

“Entrepreneurs are successful when they’re able to find new ways of doing things,” writes Per Bylund a professor of entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University, in Robots Do It Better: Why Automation Is Good for Business. “To successfully replace production processes, you must aim to create value rather than minimize or manage costs.”

How to Automate Documents for Your Business

Step 1: Determine which documents can be automated.

  • For many businesses, there are several types of documents that can be automated. Examine which documents are frequently used and require the most time to prepare.
  • Are you recreating the same marketing decks, forms for customers or letters to clients? All businesses need documents for their clients and business transactions. Think about how your company functions, and consider your business needs to help you decide where you can streamline your document creation and usage.
     

Step 2: Design your templates for each document.

  • Once you know which documents to automate, you must create a template for them. This is a great time to get key stakeholders involved and potentially bring a graphic designer in to help you modernize and update your documents.
  • Consider the purpose of the document. Is it clear and effective in its current form? Is there any way to make the form easier to read or understand?
  • Now is a good time to evaluate your forms and improve them. By meeting with staff members who use these forms the most, you can gain their valuable input on what can be improved and what’s essential that they include already.
     

Step 3: Create a workflow for the documents.

  • Examine your current workflow for the document. How can this process be done more quickly with the new template available to all teams in your organization? Document automation can save you a lot of time on revisions and maintain version control during that process.
     

Step 4: Choose a proper storage and organization method.

  • Cloud-based storage systems are often the best way to organize and store your documents because you can create seamless version control from any location. However, many companies prefer private intranets to house their documents.
  • Create a naming convention and organization method that clearly describes what’s saved and where, so staff members can locate their documents quickly.
     

Step 5: Train your staff.

  • Document automation works best with cross-company standardization, which means everyone must be trained on how to use the new documents, know where their efforts fit in the workflow, know who to ask for help, and how it will benefit them and their time.
  • Run through the templates and how to use them. If you made changes, explain why these new changes are better for your business.
  • Make sure everyone knows the naming conventions and organization methods for storing your automated documents.
     

Step 6: Implement your document automation.

  • Once your new document templates and workflow are in place, start using them with your clients and customers.
  • If you’ve changed the way your forms and documents look, you can call out these changes in a newsletter or pop-up window on your website. You can also share the excitement of your improved look and its effectiveness on social media if this fits with your brand.
  • Give your clients a head’s-up to show you care and you’re always working towards serving them better. It is also less confusing for repeat customers.
     

Step 7: Review your process.

  • Set a time to review how document automation is working for you. Evaluate the process after two weeks, a month, six months and a year. Fine-tune your process as necessary to keep things running smoothly for your business and clients.
     

If you’re ready to incorporate document automation into your processes, vet a few solutions to find the right fit for your firm. With the right technology in place, you’ll save time, reduce costs, and enhance compliance.