Many people consider document automation important. They are the ones whose businesses can’t function without document automation, or whose businesses function better with it.
Some people are interested in document automation because their organizations have tasked them with researching the ways in which they can save time and money on resource-consuming document creation processes. Others must complete a project, and they recognize that they need an automation and compliance product to do so. Some build their businesses around delivering expert knowledge in the form of automated documents.
ActiveDocs has worked with small companies, multi-billion-dollar companies, and governments. They have all faced many problems and challenges related to the creation of documents. The process of creating simple documents with Word or mail-merge can become difficult when an increasing number of requirements comes into play.
One way to meet these never-ending and continually changing requirements is to introduce manual labor, copy-pasting, editing, and data lookup. It may involve working with basic catch-all, starter documents, annotated with instructions in terms of what to fill in, what to change, and what to remove (including the annotations) in any one of the myriad circumstances in which the document might get used.
Another method is to obtain help from IT experts who work with code, VBA macros, queries, etc. When a business unit wants to change content, modify a rule, or update styles, IT will assist as needed. However, if the business persists with inquiries, IT will eventually become disgruntled. Does IT really want to be involved in every change in business requirements? And wouldn’t the business users, the subject matter experts, prefer to make the changes themselves, freed from the necessity of communicating change requirements to IT, not to mention from the time constraints resulting from IT’s inevitable backlog and the processes that IT must go through to make any sort of change to business assets?
Imagine that these problems no longer exist. Documents are created automatically within seconds, and making changes to complex business logic and data connections is a simple process. That is what document automation should do. However, even that is not good enough for organizations like Royal Dutch Shell, Liberty Mutual, Bayer and many of the other Fortune 500 companies ActiveDocs works with. These companies care about this above all: ACCURACY and COMPLIANCE.
They care about compliance with internal policies, industry regulations, state laws and federal laws. They care about the correct parameters being included in contracts and legal documents.
They can afford to hire a hundred people to produce thousands of documents every month. What they can’t afford, however, is for a single document out of those thousands to be inaccurate and non-compliant. With ever more stringent legislation and industry regulations, every mistake, inaccuracy, outdated T&Cs, etc. exposes the organization to litigation or binds them to fulfil obligations they wouldn’t normally agree to.
In extreme cases, a document’s non-compliance with some legislation can result in jail time for the people involved. The penalty is up to 10 years in prison in both the US and the UK; the penalties in other countries are almost as severe. However, this punishment would be an exception to the rule; fining the party in breach is much more common, though the fines aren’t insignificant.
This is why document automation is important for many people and many organizations. The savings in terms of time is a must, creating a more obvious return on investment. However, the part of the automation product that enforces accuracy and compliance is what ensures the organization will not waste resources on unnecessary loss, litigation and potentially paying business-damaging fines.
Accuracy and compliance is not something people generally think of when they seek ways to automate their documents. However, it is the secret of the Fortune 500 companies that collectively save billions of dollars in potential litigation costs as well as making their documents easier to create, quicker to deliver, and better looking.
In the next section we will share our experience with the automation of various types of documents, including information about where automation works, and where it doesn’t work. Automation will not solve all document-related problems, but when used correctly it will vastly reduce the effort and risk involved in document generation.