Business Process Management (BPM) is a major movement in the IT world. According to Gartner, 41% of the Global 10k companies have already invested in process automation technology, and another 30% will make investments during the next 24 months. Document generation is a subset of the greater BPM movement, focused on a highly specific type of process automation—transforming word processing documents and PDF forms into document-generation process applications. And while the differences between BPM suites and document generation platforms are numerous, just the same, there are also many similarities between the two types of technologies. Here are eight obvious ones:
One: Automation of Structured Processes
Both BPM suites and document generation platforms are capable of automating real-world processes that are highly structured. Today’s BPM suites have powerful modeling environments that allow rule-based (structured), real-world processes to be transformed into sophisticated, automated workflows. Likewise, document generation platforms have modeling environments that allow for the transformation of complex, structured, rule-based documents or forms into process applications.
Two: Automation of Ad-Hoc Processes
Both BPM suites and document generation platforms have the capacity to handle ad-hoc processes. Most BPM suites allow for a case worker to construct a workflow on the fly out of preexisting business objects, a necessity when a process gets too complex to reasonably reflect the logic permutations in a scripting language. Likewise, enterprise-grade document generation platforms allow a clause library approach (i.e. preexisting business objects), which can be dropped into a document at a case worker’s discretion.
Three: Improved Efficiency
Both BPM suites and document generation platforms offer efficiency improvements over un-codified, un-automated approaches. Efficiency improvements in BPM workflows tend to come in stages, after a process has gone through a series of refinements. With document generation applications, efficiency improvements generally come immediately, at the time of deployment and can be immediately transformational, often taking the process of generating a complex form from weeks or even months down to just a few hours.
Four: Improved Work Product
The work product of BPM suites and document generation platforms is uniformly better than that produced by un-automated processes. BPM applications guide users down paths in a decision tree, providing help along the way for case workers to make optimal decisions, thus arriving at the end of workflow with the correct result or output. Document generation process applications likewise provide point-specific help throughout the data-gathering sequence (interview) that assists case workers to make the correct choices. With document generation, the built-in, question-specific help resources are critical components to document quality. In other words, the quality of the input data directly affects the output document.
Five: Governed Procedures (GRC)
Both types of process platforms can be used to impose corporate governance on rogue processes, mitigate risk stemming from incorrect, un-codified procedures, and ensure compliance with internal policies and external laws.
Six: Leveraged Expertise
Both BPM suites and document generation platforms allow the expertise of senior knowledge workers to be leveraged into the business rules of automated processes, enabling less skilled staff to achieve the same results as the senior staff by simply following the process guidelines. This phenomenon is especially evident with document generation process applications. Highly sophisticated, question-specific help resources can be used to ensure that virtually no room for error is left for staff following prompts in the interview.
Seven: Simplified Training
Both BPM suites and document generation platforms simplify the training of new staff members, which, in most cases, don’t need to understand the logic and reasoning behind the critical junctures in a process automation. Rather, new workers using an automated system simply need to provide the necessary input when prompted, and the application will guide them through to the end.
Eight: Reduced Employee Exposure
Both BPM suites and document generation platforms make organizations much less exposed to situations where critical employees decide to quit their jobs, taking mission-critical expertise with them. Process automation allows that expertise to be built into the process application and leveraged by less skilled workers.
There are certainly additional shared common attributes between BPM suites and document generation platforms, not only in terms of feature sets, but also in benefits. But for the sake of brevity, these eight should give you a good idea of the major common links between the two types of technologies.