Sixty-two percent of businesses have identified three or more significant inefficiencies or bottlenecks in their workflows that are preventing them from achieving their strategic goals.
Typically, these challenges start within their content generation workflows, with employees spending over half their time on mundane, repetitive tasks like formatting, linking data and proofreading.
These inefficiencies aren’t merely inconveniences; over time, they can have negative consequences on the quality and volume of business output, as well as employee satisfaction.
So, how can you eliminate these productivity roadblocks?
Many businesses are turning to document automation as a solution, sometimes referred to as ‘document assembly’ or ‘document generation.’
Read on to understand what we mean by document automation, how to choose the right software, and what game-changing benefits your business could see from implementing it.
Document automation is the use of technology to enhance document generation processes. It can include features to help you embed templates, refresh data points, and detect errors.
AI and automation have significant differences. Unlike AI, automation follows predetermined instructions and requires human involvement to adapt.
To choose the right document automation tool, you should consider the type of documents you’ll be working on, core use cases, overall budget, among other things.
What is document automation?
Document automation refers to businesses leveraging technology to elevate their document generation process. The software removes mundane tasks throughout the entire document lifecycle, making creating, proofing, and distributing content more efficient and effective.
For example, a document automation tool can:
- Embed on-brand templates into your document creation program (e.g. Microsoft 365.)
- Refresh up to thousands of data points in one click.
- Automatically flag and fix any errors within a document.
Automation vs. AI
Since OpenAI launched its popular ChatGPT in late 2022, many people are investigating ways to exploit generative AI and increase efficiency in their workflows. And while automation and AI can be used simultaneously, these two innovative technologies have significant differences.
Generative AI is trained on vast amounts of data and can interpret that information to make logical decisions and output. AI’s behaviour will evolve based on the new data it’s being trained on.
In comparison, automation is rule-based and follows predetermined instructions. It requires human involvement to adapt to new circumstances.
How does document automation work?
There are several document automation solutions on the market, and each one offers something different. While the features and offering may change slightly, most tools work to boost efficiency, guarantee brand consistency and ensure data accuracy.
Here’s how automation can be used in a typical document creation workflow:
- Instantly access branded, marketing-approved templates from within your office suite (like Microsoft 365.) These templates will include boilerplate text and graphic charter, such as fonts, images, and icons to ensure they are best practice.
- Say goodbye to emailing colleagues or endlessly searching File Explorer for materials. Use the latest, most impactful slides, images, and logos by sourcing content within PowerPoint, Excel or Word, leveraging data stored in a centralized CRM or database like SharePoint.
- Rely on automated formatting features to help streamline the document creation process, for example, when aligning logos or resizing slide elements.
- Ensure data accuracy by connecting your reports or presentations to a data set within Power BI or Excel and updating the figures in seconds when required.
The benefits of document automation
In the short term, using automation will enable more efficient document creation and result in better-quality output. However, looking towards the long-term, investing in document automation will allow your company to:
Win more business
Creating and distributing more impactful proposals and pitches will help you secure new clients and ultimately boost your bottom line.
Provide extra value to your clients
Eliminating the time-consuming, manual tasks in document creation will free up time for your teamstoadd value elsewhere – like nurturing client relationships or improving their data analysis.
Boost employee satisfaction
Enabling teams to focus on more purpose-led projects will help improve overall employee retention rates.
Using UpSlide enables Colliers to create quality valuation reports in a timely manner, allowing us to focus more on our business and clients’ needs. Now we can produce even more reports, which ultimately helps increase revenue.
How to choose the best document automation software
When it comes to document automation, there’s no “one size fits all” tool.
Every company has different team dynamics, use cases, and challenges; therefore, you should approach choosing their solution on a unique case-by-case basis.
Before jumping into any software investment, we recommend conducting an internal investigation to define your selection criteria and expectations.
Here’s what to consider when choosing a document automation tool:
Type of documents produced
What are the most common documents your teams are working on? Is it for recurring monthly reports or sales demo materials?
Which applications are they using to produce these documents, Google Sheets or Microsoft Word?
Understanding which program your teams spend most of their time in will help you understand the type of software you’ll need, for example, whether you’ll need to automate the full Microsoft 365 suite or not.
Main use cases
It’s important to analyze your teams’ workflows in depth to understand which tools might be right for them. For example, questioning:
- What problems does the new tool need to solve?
- What time-consuming tasks can be automated?
- Do they need help generating high-quality slides?
- Would they benefit from software that could automate data refreshes?
Understanding their needs first will help you make better software purchasing decisions.
What is your biggest priority when choosing document automation; is it cheaper initial costs or long-term ROI?
Some solutions are more premium than others, but they typically will come with advanced features and support to help ensure higher adoption.
We recommend conducting a cost analysis for a range of solutions to understand which one best suits your budget and needs.
Support you’ll need
Implementing software across your entire business can be challenging, especially if you have thousands of templates, slides and data points to embed into the software.
Consider whether your business will need support with change management, onboarding and adoption. We also recommend establishing whether the software company has a track record of implementing projects for similar companies before.
Pull together a list of other third-party apps and tools you have in your existing tech stack and establish whether they can integrate with the document automation tool.
Plus, if your teams work in Microsoft 365, investigate whether the provider is a Microsoft Solutions Partner, as this certification provides extra security that the vendor’s infrastructure will remain compatible with the latest versions of Microsoft.
Once you’ve conducted this internal investigation, you’ll be able to map your selection criteria against the tool to work out which document automation software will be the most appropriate for your team.
How finance professionals are automating document creation
Many innovative businesses are using document automation to achieve their strategic objectives, particularly in the finance industry, where quality, accuracy, and client-centricity are paramount.
Here are a few examples of how businesses are using document automation:
Leading global banking and financial services firm BNP Paribas automates document creation to save their teams time and improve the quality and consistency of customer deliverables.
After integrating UpSlide, BNP Paribas saw an increase in team performance, collaboration, and collective output.
Cushman & Wakefield
With over 50,000 employees worldwide, how does Cushman & Wakefield optimize their document workflows for success?
They sourced a tool that reduced the time it took to create brand-consistent, up-to-date deliverables.
Since using technology to boost overall efficiency, their Commercial Real Estate Valuations team are seeing upwards of 33 hours saved per user, per month.
Today, we spend too much time on low value-added tasks. Tomorrow’s bankers need supercharged tools like UpSlide to increase productivity. The key to success is knowing the right tools.
Businesses rely on their employees to efficiently produce high-quality documents, like pitchbooks and proposals, to increase their commercial competitiveness.
But how can businesses increase output while still attracting and retaining top talent?
A document automation solution will eliminate low value-added tasks and free up time for employees to work on more impactful, valuable projects. Productivity and employee satisfaction rates will skyrocket, ensuring your company is well placed for future growth.