As a business leader, you‘re likely all too familiar with the countless hours your team spends on manual, repetitive documentation tasks. Collecting data, making copies, filling templates, routing for review…it’s an endless cycle of wasted productivity.
But what if there was a better way? A way to instantly turn data into fully customizable, client-ready documents with just a few clicks?
Enter: document automation software.
This innovative technology is transforming how modern organizations create, manage, and distribute documents. But with so many options to choose from, it can be tricky to determine which platform is right for your business.
As a fellow tech geek, I’ve explored the ins and outs of today’s top document automation tools. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through:
- Key benefits of document automation
- Must-have features to look for
- An in-depth look at 7 leading solutions
- Best practices for implementation
I’ve also included my own insights as a data analyst and automation evangelist. My goal is to provide you with everything you need to make a confident, informed decision on the best document automation software for YOUR unique needs.
Let’s dive in!
Why Every Business Needs Document Automation
First, let’s look at why document automation should be a priority for any forward-thinking organization.
Massive Time Savings
Manual documentation processes are a MAJOR productivity killer. Based on recent research by IDC, knowledge workers spend up to 40% of their time searching for information and documents.
That adds up to a staggering 9+ hours per week wasted just looking for information!
By automating repetitive documentation tasks, employees gain back huge chunks of time. Studies have found over 70% faster document turnaround with automation.
Imagine what your team could accomplish with 5+ extra hours every week!
Time savings also translate directly into hard cost reductions. Salaries make up the bulk of expenses for most businesses. Reclaiming lost time reduces the cost of document-intensive business processes.
There are also major savings on printing, storage, application licensing, and infrastructure needs.
Human error is inevitable when manually generating documents. Copying and pasting data between sources leaves a huge margin for mistakes.
Document automation populates templates using validated data integrations. This results in more accurate, compliant documents with up to 99% data accuracy.
Improved CX and Sales Efficiency
Manual documentation tasks lead to lag times and delays that frustrate customers. Automated documents can be generated instantly, leading to more responsive customer experiences.
In sales, reps can focus on selling rather than administration. And tailored proposals and contracts close deals faster.
Automation platforms provide cloud-based, user-authenticated access to documents. This is far more secure than decentralized content on local machines and file shares.
Cloud-based document automation centralizes assets and templates. This facilitates smoother cross-departmental workflows and collaboration.
Clearly, the data shows that organizations which embrace document automation will gain a distinct competitive advantage. But not all solutions are created equal.
Key Capabilities to Look For
Let‘s explore the must-have features and evaluation criteria to consider in your search for the ideal platform.
Your chosen solution should offer easy web-based access from any device. This enables access from anywhere without disrupting workflows.
Cloud platforms also simplify collaborating across locations.
Integrations with tools like Microsoft Office eliminate friction during implementation. Users can leverage document automation inside the apps they already use daily.
The ability to connect both internal and external data sources is critical. This includes databases, CRMs, forms, and more.
Document History and Version Control
Complete audit trails and version histories ensure accuracy and transparency.
Centralized template storage enables company-wide usage and governance of templates for consistent branding.
Managing user roles, permissions, resource access, etc. is crucial for security and minimizing “shadow IT”.
Defining multi-step approval cycles, gathering esignatures, routing documents, and more saves massive manual efforts.
Insights into document turnaround times, bottlenecks, and usage patterns enable ongoing optimization.
For today’s on-the-go workforce, viewing, editing, and approving documents from mobile is a must.
Co-editing documents internally and externally in real-time facilitates productivity.
With clear evaluation criteria established, let‘s look at some of top choices on the market today.
Top 7 Document Automation Platforms
I’ve compiled details on 7 of my favorite document automation solutions based on extensive hands-on testing and feedback from real users.
Best For – SMBs and solopreneurs seeking an affordable and user-friendly option.
|Intuitive drag-and-drop document builder||Mobile apps need improvement|
|Affordable pricing for solo users and small teams||Integration library not as robust as competitors|
|Numerous document export options including email and cloud storage||Not ideal for complex multi-step workflows|
- Customizable templates and workflows
- Library of beautifully designed document templates
- Encryption and password protection
- Email integration and cloud storage exports
- Basic workflow automation
Freelancers, solopreneurs, and small teams that need to automate basic documents like quotes, invoices, contracts, and proposals.
Docupilot is one of the most intuitive entry-level document automation platforms available. The easy drag-and-drop document builder makes creating templates a breeze without any coding.
While it lacks some advanced features of pricier competitors, it provides tremendous value for individual users and small businesses with basic needs.
Best For – Mid-sized businesses that want full-featured document workflow automation.
|No-code workflow automation and process mapping||Steep learning curve for some users|
|Robust features comparable to much pricier competitors||Requires significant process re-engineering|
|Tight integrations across airSlate product suite||Add-on costs for advanced features like bots|
- No-code workflow automation with drag-and-drop Flow Creator
- Online forms, surveys, and questionnaires
- eSignatures and document analytics
- Library of thousands of document templates
- RPA bots for advanced process automation
Medium businesses that want to design and optimize complex end-to-end document workflows across departments.
For mid-market companies ready to transform their document processes, airSlate is a powerful (but pricey) platform. The Flow Creator, RPA bots, and native integrations provide unmatched capabilities.
Just be prepared to invest in process re-engineering to realize the full benefits. But for complex multi-step workflows, airSlate can‘t be beat.
Best For – Sales teams that want to optimize the client document experience.
|Improves sales team productivity||Can feel overwhelming for non-sales use cases|
|Offers the best content collaboration capabilities||Weak audio/video meeting integration|
|Intuitive editor simplifies building custom documents||Steep learning curve for advanced features|
- Drag-and-drop proposal and document builder
- eSignatures and built-in payments
- Real-time collaborative editing
- Integration with 30+ business apps
Sales teams that want to accelerate deal cycles by streamlining client document creation, review, approval, and eSignatures.
As its name suggests, PandaDoc was purpose-built for streamlining the client document process for sales teams.
The intuitive editor, templating, and top-notch collaboration capabilities make creating and tracking proposals and contracts a breeze.
While extremely sales-centric, it‘s pricing and editing features also work for smaller teams with simple documentation needs across other use cases.
Best For – Individual users and very small teams that want feature-packed free document automation.
|Packed with features for free tier||Free version has usage limits|
|Code-free document design||Very lightweight mobile experience|
|Great for simple templates and workflows||Not ideal for complex documents|
- Drag and drop document designer
- Math auto-calculations
- Public forms for client data collection
- 100 free templates available
- Premium version adds features like version control
Solopreneurs, freelancers, and microbusinesses that need to automate some basic documents and workflows at no cost.
Crove stands out by offering their robust document creation and automation capabilities entirely free for basic usage.
While the free plan has usage limits, it‘s powerful enough for simple individual and small team needs. And paid upgrades are very reasonably priced if more capabilities are eventually needed.
Best For – Law firms and legal professionals seeking streamlined document automation.
|Specialized legal document templates||Narrow feature set beyond core capabilities|
|Simple web-based questionnaires||Not ideal for complex templating needs|
|Perfect for client intake workflows||Lack of content collaboration features|
- Custom questionnaires to capture client details
- Library of legal document templates
- Simple no-code document designer
- Embeddable intake forms for websites
- Built-in workflows for client documents
Law firms, legal aid organizations, and legal professionals that want to simplify client document creation.
Originally designed for the legal industry, Documate provides an affordable and straightforward way for law practices to eliminate manual document creation.
While light on advanced features, it delivers excellent core capabilities purpose-built for client intake, questionnaires, and legal forms. For basic legal documentation needs, Documate hits the mark.
Best For – Large enterprises and regulated industries needing governance.
|Robust oversight of brand standards and assets||Costly with 50+ minimum users|
|Tight Office 365 integration||Significant change management required|
|Compliance-friendly permissions and controls||Not ideal for small teams|
- Centralized asset library with admin governance
- Built-in branding, style, and vocabulary consistency checks
- Advanced enterprise security and permissions
- Real-time database integration
- Usage analytics for adoption insights
Large companies and regulated industries needing stricter document controls and compliance tools.
With powerful oversight tools and deep Office 365 integration, Templafy enables large enterprises to govern document creation while empowering employees.
But the advanced compliance capabilities come at a steep price. Significant change management is required to achieve adoption at large scale.
For big companies with complex needs, Templafy is enterprise document automation on steroids. But it‘s likely overkill for smaller teams.
Best For – Mid-market and enterprise organizations wanting greater scalability.
|Robust features matched to complex needs||Steep learning curve without hands-on guidance|
|Scales to support massive document volumes||Potential overkill for basic use cases|
|Centralized templates and assets||Integration requires developer support|
- Dynamic document designer with conditional logic
- Smart forms for easy data capture
- Batch generation for high document volumes
- Document management and collaboration
- Advanced security and access controls
Medium to large businesses that require scalable and secure enterprise-grade document automation.
Experlogix packs extremely powerful enterprise-level features into an intuitive package. The advanced tools support even the most complex use cases with robust security and scalability.
Without expert guidance, the extensive capabilities have a learning curve. But the long-term benefits are tremendous for larger teams with sophisticated needs.
Making Your Selection
With those leading options explored, how do you determine which is right for YOUR business?
Start by considering factors like:
- Company size – More complex features benefit larger teams.
- Document volume – From low to high throughput needs.
- Use cases – Sales vs. legal vs. general business documents.
- Existing systems – Integration with your tech stack.
- Compliance needs – Features like audit trails and permissions.
- User skill level – Technical capabilities of your team.
- Budget – Pricing varies widely based on capabilities and scale.
Document automation empowers your business to escape the reactive firefighting of manual work. By investing in the RIGHT solution for your needs, you can proactively streamline productivity.
But identifying and implementing the ideal platform is just the first step. Let’s explore critical best practices for rollout.
A Blueprint for Successful Adoption
Like any new technology, your team may be hesitant to embrace changes to existing document processes. Here are pro tips to drive rapid user adoption and maximize ROI:
Start Small, Then Scale
Don‘t bite off more than you can chew! Begin with 1-2 high-value, high-volume document types like sales proposals or invoices. Once you‘ve proven value, expand use cases.
Design for Consistency
Create templates with consistent branding, styling, messaging, etc. This prevents fragmented experiences.
Validate Your Data
"Garbage in, garbage out" applies here. Dirty data leads to inaccurate outputs. Develop solid inputs.
Review Processes BEFORE Automating
Don‘t just pave the cowpaths! Look for ways to optimize workflows first, then automate the improved processes.
Provide Thorough Training
Your team needs to fully grasp how to use the platform to see benefits. User training is critical.
Monitor Usage Analytics
Track adoption rates, gather feedback, address issues early. Optimization is ongoing.
Develop Clear Governance
Document down guidelines for template design, workflows, and content best practices across departments.
By taking a structured, holistic approach, your teams will rapidly embrace the new solution to completely transform document workflows.
The Bottom Line
It‘s clear that document automation is an indispensable competitive advantage for progressive organizations across sectors and use cases.
But as with any business investment, it‘s critical to do your homework to ensure you select the RIGHT solution for YOUR unique requirements.
I hope this guide provided you with a solid framework for evaluating your needs, narrowing options, and mapping out an implementation plan.
Now your business is equipped break free of outdated manual processes to:
✅ Save countless hours on repetitive tasks.
✅ Instantly create error-free, custom documents.
✅ Centralize templates, assets and data company-wide.
✅ Automate multi-step document processes.
✅ Digitize and optimize workflows at scale.
So don‘t settle for the status quo. It‘s time to work smarter using document automation!