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What is document automation?

Document automation, or document generation, is the automated process of creating personalized, data-merged, branded documents like contracts, sales proposals, reports, and invoices.

Understanding document generation

Document automation usually involves customizing a document template with its own layout and individual data inserted from any data source based on a set of if-then rules.

For example, each bank’s contract for a loan needs to be customized for every customer. It will use the same template, but the details will be different. Manually inserting the customer’s data and loan details takes time and effort and is subject to human errors. When automated, these issues disappear.

With the right document generation tools, organizations can automatically create digital documents using custom templates and branding, and pull data from multiple CRM systems using pre-defined rules. Document generation software delivers precise and compliant documents either on-demand or in scheduled batches at scale.

Learn more about the Nintex DocGen product.

The benefits of document automation

Automated document generation improves customer and employee experiences by eliminating the need for manual data entry, reducing human error, and producing documents in seconds, rather than hours or days.

Reduced chance of error

Generating documents manually involves continuous cutting, pasting, and double-checking for typos and mistakes. Automated document generation with merged data wherever it resides removes the element of human error and produces accurate, error free documents every time, whether individually or thousands at once.

Increased efficiency

Employees can only move as fast as the documents they are producing. Automating the process of generating a personalized document increases employee efficiency and frees them up for higher value work. Your employees no longer have to spend their time locating customer-specific information, copying/pasting this data into the document, and designing and formatting the document.

Consistency and compliance

Automated document generation also provides consistency in language and appearance, ensuring compliance with government and industry regulations and with corporate brand guidelines. Organizations can create compliant Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF documents using pre-defined and internally approved templates and language. They can also do this within the environments they already work in daily, such as Microsoft Office 365 or Salesforce.

Better customer experience

An organization’s customers, partners, and suppliers benefit from automated document generation when they receive a personalized quote, invoice, contract, letter, or report faster than expected on their device of choice. With streamlined processes come more sales, lower costs, and greater profitability.

Improved collaboration

Automated document generation is much more than generating the document, providing the ability for multiple stakeholders involved with the document to route, review, redline, approve, and esign. When documents are automated, collaboration across stakeholders vastly improves.

Automatic delivery and storage

Any-channel delivery and secure storage of the document can also be automated. When a document is created it usually has an intended destination—either a customer, colleague, or another organization. You can automatically route a completed document to the appropriate individual or team for sign-off, and at the same time save the most up-to-date version securely in your organization’s document repository.

Increased security and tracking

Document automation brings security and tracking benefits as well. Instead of emailing documents back and forth as attachments and having to keep track of multiple versions of the same document, document automation stores all documents and versions in a secure cloud environment with a clear audit trail of document versions, authors, edits, and dates.

Documents Types: What should I automate?

Legal agreements, financial reports and spreadsheets, marketing mailers, data-heavy presentations, sales quotes and contracts, invoices, leases, licenses, estate documents, and employment offer letters are just a few examples of documents that can be automatically generated and distributed using document generation tools. Here we will focus on three common document categories to automate.

Legal document automation

An Ernst & Young survey found that 32% of law firms with more than 1,000 employees spend nearly one out of every three hours on self-described “low-value” tasks. A full 2/3 of in-house lawyers feel buried in low value work according to another industry survey.

Much of this low-value work involves contract creation, collaboration, and delivery – tasks document automation can handle with minimal human intervention. This automation is especially valuable with more complex contracts that include detailed clauses or addenda with values, names, and dates.

Corporate in-house legal teams can leverage document automation to self-serve, allowing admins to add common clauses to routine documents like NDAs or MSAs and route for approval and delivery. This legal self-service trend also extends to outside parties such as partners and consumers. Services such Legal Zoom for the production of legal documents are now commonplace, as are law firms offering online legal services and associated legal agreements for certain matters in addition to their traditional in-person services.

Legal document automation software can not only make the creation of custom contracts simple with standard clauses and templates, but can also automatically produce document templates from scratch based on online questionnaires that populate a nicely formatted document based on responses entered and underlying logic and rules applied.

Financial services and insurance document automation

Document automation software also finds use in the financial services and insurance industries. For instance, corporate leaders find that keeping their financial presentations up to date with the most current and accurate stock fund or insurance policy data, for example, is only possible with automation that feeds the latest data into their spreadsheets, slides, and reports with a few mouse clicks.

Document automation ensures timely and accurate data and saves countless hours of manual data copying, freeing up financial services and insurance professionals for higher value work and giving them the peace of mind that they are in full compliance with legal requirements in these highly regulated industries.

Two types of transactions can especially benefit from document automation due to the number of documents generated, length of each document, and document content variations and paragraph options that depend on the customer’s unique characteristics and products purchased:

  1. Mortgages, containing documents such as a promissory note, deed, mortgage, and disclosures, and
  2. Insurance policies, which can contain documents such as a cover letter, declarations page, policy details, ID cards, etc.

With so much complexity and variability in high document volume businesses like these, document automation software is simply a must-have for efficiency and competitiveness.

Business document automation

According to one Gartner analyst, a typical organization’s sales team spends one-third of their time selling and two-thirds of their time on everything else. Unfortunately, the “everything else” does not add to the top line, making it ripe for automation. Much of a salesperson’s time is spent writing content, building custom quotes and proposals, and creating contracts and addenda—all areas where document automation can assist.

With document automation, sellers can rapidly generate compliant, data-driven contracts, right within familiar CRM systems like Salesforce or Dynamics, to instantly transform the contract lifecycle and close deals faster.

Other departments of the enterprise can benefit from document automation as well. HR can more easily onboard employees by auto-generating an employee contract in seconds; AR can batch-send branded invoices with data pulled from their ERP system; and customer success can run retention, upsell and cross-sell programs through branded customer communications with data unique to what the customer owns and what path they should expand to.

Learn more about the Nintex DocGen and Nintex Automation Cloud for document automation workflow.

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