What is Document Automation? Start with 9 Simple Steps in 2023
Every day in your company, documents are created, filed, passed on to employees, or edited together. Efficient automatic creation and flexible processing systems play a central role here. But what is document automation, and how can it be implemented in practice?
In day-to-day business, there are already numerous documents that are used repeatedly. This includes, but is not limited to, offers and invoices. These are often copied with a great deal of manual effort to use again in a different context. Automating document processing allows inquiries to be answered more quickly, saves time, reduces the potential for errors when copying, and uses a uniform corporate design.
In this article, we not only answer the key question of what document automation is but also show you all the advantages of document automation and show you in 9 understandable steps how to automate the document workflow. We also offer you an accompanying webinar on document automation.
Step 1: Define the goals you are pursuing with automating the document workflow
Automating your documents ensures that your employees can work efficiently and that freed-up resources are available for individual activities. However, this will only succeed if you set important goals for automating document processing in advance.
For this reason, one of the goals is to answer all questions relating to document automation reliably and to integrate a suitable software solution into the existing business process.
The overarching goals can include, for example, saving time and the associated cost savings, as well as ease of use, which generates broad acceptance among users in the company.
In addition, merging existing document templates and reducing sources of error, for example, due to typing errors, are among the possible objectives you are pursuing.
The determination and analysis of data or the visual adjustment to the company's appearance can also be important arguments for document automation.
No matter which goals are in the foreground in your specific case, it is important to determine them before the actual planning and implementation of the automation begins to ensure that the desired goals are consistently pursued and implemented during the implementation.
Step 2: Get all stakeholders on board
Stakeholders are all key people in the company who are involved in the decision-making process and will later work with the document automation solution.
In this context, give your employees the feeling that their opinion is important to you, that they are part of the automation process and can actively contribute with requests and feedback about the process of the automated documents in the company's document management.
In this way, you ensure an operational workflow right from the start and receive general feedback on particularly suitable functions or content that increase efficiency and productivity when processing documents in everyday life.
Step 3: Determine which documents to automate
A crucial point is which documents in the company should generally be automated.
Check which documents are used most frequently and regularly in the company. As a rule, these are offers and invoices or contracts whose automation promises high savings potential and leads to a high return on investment.
In addition, the complexity of documents also plays a role in the assessment of automation. On the one hand, it can take a lot of effort to transform complex document structures into automation instructions. On the other hand, once this step has been taken, you save yourself a lot of effort in the future and benefit from ready-made processes.
All documents used only rarely or to a limited extent or that vary greatly in their content and are very individual should be considered for something other than automation.
Make a careful assessment and weigh all the pros and cons of which documents are best suited for automation to get the most out of the planned automation process.
Step 4: Determine the level of automation
This step is about deciding how high the degree of automation should be.
It sounds tempting to edit all templates so that they run through automatically. For some documents, this is possible. However, practical experience shows that a degree of automation of around 60 percent achieves the best results.
As a rule of thumb, starting small and systematically increasing automation is advisable. In this context, always weigh how high the effort for automation is and what work is involved in manual execution.
Step 5: Select a suitable business document automation software
It would help if you had suitable software for document automation for reliable and sustainable document processing automation.
Look for a solution that takes little effort to implement and takes more time than it saves you.
The software should be able to be seamlessly integrated into your business processes and be characterized by intuitive usability. Only if the automation solution can be flexibly integrated can the effort be kept within limits and contribute to increasing efficiency throughout the company.
With tailor-made document automation software, you ensure that your documents can be created automatically, structured clearly, edited securely, and saved.
Another aspect is secure data storage. Reliable automation software allows all documents to be stored securely in the cloud or on your server.
In this context, you can choose whether you want to use online processing of your files or local document processing via the desktop app.
With online use, your employees can adapt documents online, for example, via Google Docs or MS Office, even without locally installed Office solutions, and also benefit from a detailed document history, including all changes made.
Step 6: Set a timeline for implementation
At this step, you already know exactly what document automation is. But what exactly is the associated timeline for implementation?
The best way to answer this question is with a detailed timeline that defines all the periods related to your automation project and divides them into weeks and months.
The project's duration depends on various factors, such as the number of documents to be automated, the complexity of the automation, and the starting point of the existing templates.
In the timeline, you can, for example, divide your automation project into the areas of planning and automation, including test training and rollout.
It would help if you defined and carefully planned all times and the associated tasks and contact persons using a common calendar.
Step 7: Merge templates sensibly
Existing documents and templates must now be brought together in a meaningful way and structured so that all employees can work with them easily and intuitively in the future and can use the routines offered for their work without long training periods.
First, check which templates are available, where they overlap, and where duplications occur. It is then necessary to determine what content is necessary and how it can be brought together. The merging of different templates is also referred to as template consolidation in the context of document automation.
Consolidate wherever possible to minimize the number of document templates and avoid data redundancy. Make sure that similar documents are saved as a template and automated, making it extra easy for the end user to use later. Bring together all the documents with at least two-thirds of the same content or pursue the same goal.
Step 8: Start rolling out the automation
What is document automation, and how can the practical rollout be realized? This is where it gets particularly exciting because you are now starting with the actual practice.
Here you should decide on an automation strategy and define which templates and documents are released for which user groups.
Under certain circumstances, it makes sense to initially only offer selected automated documents and to carry out the rollout gradually, not to overwhelm the users and achieve the greatest possible effect from the automation.
However, you also have the option to provide all newly created documents at a defined rollout time. This offers the advantage that all employees deal intensively with the template process, and possible changes or optimizations are promoted in a targeted manner.
How you proceed depends heavily on how many documents are affected by the automation, how many employees work with them and what level of knowledge they have, or how flexible you are in dealing with new tools. Experiences you have already gained in other projects in the field of rollouts can be helpful here.
Step 9: Check the acceptance and application in practice
Educate all users about the basic question of document automation and check how the end users accept the automation that has been carried out.
The best automation process is of little use if the relevant employees in departments such as accounting, sales, and marketing do not work with it and instead prefer to continue to work based on previously created and locally stored templates.
Be aware that acceptance is one of the most important areas, and this is the only way to ensure long-term use of the templates created and the automation process in everyday life. If necessary, intervene quickly and proactively address possible problems or hurdles.
This is possible by starting a feedback round and offering support for using the newly created automation templates. This way, you ensure that you take all employees with you and make the practical use of the documents as easy as possible. In addition, they make it clear to the users where the noticeable benefit lies and where work processes are made significantly easier.
Conclusion: How to use the advantages of document automation in your company!
Congratulations! You've mastered the 9 key steps to getting started with document automation, synchronizing objectives, stakeholders, documents, and the right document automation software.
The systematic and consistent implementation saves you valuable time in the long term and supports your employees in streamlining work processes to work productively and motivated.
This way, you benefit fully from all the advantages of document automation in your day-to-day business.
What is document automation?Document automation describes a process with the help of which documents are made available as standardized templates or structured building blocks, and the layout or specific content no longer needs to be adjusted.
What does it mean to automate a document?Automating documents means efficient organization and structuring, which makes it possible to create documents quickly and correctly. The cumbersome manual filling out repetitive documents is no longer necessary and is replaced by a template-based solution.
How do I create an automated document?You create an automated document using document automation software that can pull data and content from various sources and automatically insert it into predefined areas of a document template. These templates can contain classic text modules, graphics, images, tables, and other elements.
How do you introduce automation?Automation happens step by step by defining goals, involving stakeholders, determining which documents to automate and the level of automation, choosing the software, defining the timeline, merging templates, rolling out, and controlling adoption and usage in practice.
What are the benefits of document automation?The advantages of document automation are:
- Enormous time savings.
- Reliable formatting.
- Less susceptibility to errors.
- Compliant compliance with all layout specifications or company guidelines.