Hi there! As a fellow technology geek, I‘m sure you‘ll agree that manually creating business documents is an inefficient and frustrating process. Who has time for wrangling with formatting, proofreading and turning data into tailored client communications in today‘s fast-paced business world?
Luckily, document generation tools exist to rescue us from these mundane tasks!
In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll walk you through everything you need to know about intelligent document automation software. You‘ll learn:
Why every business needs document software
How it saves time and money
Top features to look for
A detailed comparison of the 10 best tools on the market
Tips from my experience for successful implementation
So if you‘re looking to optimize your document-driven workflows, you‘re in the right place! Grab a nice warm cuppa, put your feet up, and let‘s get started.
Why Every Business Needs Document Automation Software
Let‘s first understand why document software should be a part of your technology stack:
It Saves Tons of Time
Generating customized documents manually eats up hours of employee time. Just think about the steps involved – selecting appropriate templates, entering data, proofreading, formatting, making revisions. Never-ending!
As per PandaDoc‘s statistics, knowledge workers spend over 13 hours every week creating documents. That‘s a staggering 650+ hours per year spent just documenting!
With document automation, you can recover all these lost hours and allocate your valuable resources for meaningful tasks.
It Frees Up Employees for Value-Added Work
Speaking of employees, documenting processes keep your talented team members chained to boring repetitive tasks instead of working on innovative projects that contribute directly to business growth.
As a leader, you need to empower your employees to operate at the peak of their abilities. Document software does exactly that by automating the drudgery of creating customized collateral.
It Creates Consistent and Compliant Documents
Do your documents convey a professional brand image that inspires trust in clients? Using document software ensures every piece of communication aligns with your desired branding and quality standards.
Centralized templates enable company-wide consistency in format, messaging, visual identity across all documents. It also reduces compliance risks from human errors. 74% of companies surveyed by Conga reported improved compliance after deploying document automation.
It Eliminates Errors and Reduces Risks
Speaking of mistakes, manual processes inevitably lead to typos, incorrect data, misspellings that impact document quality and company reputation.
Document software virtually eliminates such errors by automatically pulling data from trusted sources into templates. It reduces risks arising from faulty or inconsistent information in documents.
It Facilitates Collaboration and Approvals
Modern solutions make it a breeze to collaborate on documents in real-time. You can add comments, annotate, co-edit and securely share documents for review and approvals.
Built-in workflows streamline cross-functional collaboration, approvals, version control – saving enormous time over email back-and-forths.
Clearly, the benefits extend across your business. But don‘t just take my word for it. Here are some hard statistics on the tangible impact of document automation:
|Time Savings||Knowledge workers gain 4.6 hrs/week; sales reps gain 4 hrs/week (Conga)|
|Productivity Improvement||65% of companies reported increased productivity (Conga)|
|Cost Savings||$120,000 average cost saving per year (Conga)
21% cost reduction on average (PandaDoc)
|Faster Document Turnaround||80% improvement in time from doc request to delivery (Conga)
5X faster document creation (PandaDoc)
|Revenue Growth||45% of companies saw revenue growth after deployment (Conga)
$435,000 avg. revenue growth in first year for 100-seat organizations (PandaDoc)
|Improved Compliance||74% reported improved compliance processes
93% achieved better consistency in communications (Conga)
|Enhanced CX||60% improvement in CX metrics like satisfaction scores (Conga)
38% faster response time to customers (PandaDoc)
With numbers like these, it‘s evident that incorporating document software can accelerate your profitability and competitive advantage.
Now let‘s look at must-have capabilities when evaluating tools for your specific use case.
Key Features to Look For in Document Automation Software
The editor is where you‘ll spend most of your time designing document templates – so it needs to be user-friendly and flexible. Prioritize options with:
- Drag and drop components
- Minimal technical skills required
- WYSIWYG customization of fonts, colors, styles
- Dynamic fields linking to data sources
- Built-in integrations with external apps
This enables easy creation of professional templates by non-developers.
At its core, document software is all about bringing together text and data seamlessly. The solution you choose should allow quickly integrating content from diverse sources like:
- CRM, HCM systems
- Emails, chat logs
- Web apps, forms
This enables generating highly customized and personalized documents tailored to each recipient.
Creating business documents involves multiple stakeholders providing inputs. So the software must allow real-time co-editing, comments, annotations to facilitate collaboration.
Built-in review, approvals and eSignatures streamline the end-to-end document workflow – preparing you for the future of work.
For transactional documents like invoices, statements and contracts, you need to produce hundreds or thousands in one go. Opt for a scalable solution with batch generation capabilities to support your volumes.
Documents often contain sensitive information like customer data. Ensure adequate security measures through role-based access, encryption, data masking, permissions and compliance certifications.
Leading tools provide detailed analytics on document performance – opens, clicks, edits, time spent. These insights help continuously optimize content effectiveness.
Evaluate how easily the tool connects with surrounding systems like CRM, collaboration apps, storage solutions. API support enables custom integrations.
A document is only effective if it reaches readers. Look for omni-channel options to deliver documents over email, portals, print, e-sign etc. based on use case.
Top 10 Document Generation Software
Now that you know the key criteria – let‘s compare some of the top contenders in the space. I‘ve summarized my analysis in this table:
|Software||Best For||Key Features||Limitations|
|Conga||Enterprises seeking extensive suite of document capabilities||– Tight integration with Salesforce and Office 365
– Advanced reporting and contract management capabilities
– Strong focus on governance and compliance
|– Steep learning curve
– Complex pricing
|PandaDoc||SMBs focused on ease of use and seamless eSignatures||– Intuitive editor and templates
– Built-in payments
– Lightweight, affordable pricing
|– Collaboration capabilities limited
– Features less comprehensive than enterprise tools
|Templafy||Large organizations seeking control over templates and brand assets||– Company-wide template governance
– Advanced analytics on document usage
– Tight Office 365 integration
|– Steep learning curve
– Limited customization flexibility
|WebMerge||Solopreneurs and small teams with basic document needs||– Simple data merging capabilities
– Affordable pricing
– Easy to get started
|– Very basic editor
– Limited features
|Formstack Documents||General business use cases with easy to use editor||– Drag and drop editor
– Conditional logic
– Seamless data integrations
|– Collaboration capabilities limited
– Reporting and analytics basic
|Windward Studios||Complex reporting and document generation from multiple data sources||– Advanced formatting and layout options
– Ability to incorporate charts, images, tables
|– Steep learning curve
– More developer focused
|Documate||Salesforce-focused businesses seeking tight CRM integration||– Pre-built templates for Salesforce objects
– Omni-channel document delivery and tracking
|– Limited use outside Salesforce ecosystem
– Steep pricing for add-ons
|LeafLogix||Manufacturers with specialized documentation needs||– Industry-specific templates out of the box
– Batch generation capabilities
– Shop floor integrations
|– Niche industry focus
– Pricing information opaque
|SmartDocs||Mid-market and enterprises seeking wide platform capabilities||– Responsive web editor
– Enterprise-grade scalability and security
– SharePoint and Office 365 integration
|– Steep learning curve|
|StepShot||Creating visual guides and training material||– Captures and generates steps automatically
– Visual instructions more engaging than text
|– Limited document types supported
– Additional editing required
As you can see, there are excellent options for businesses of all sizes and needs. Conducting a detailed evaluation is crucial to select software that aligns with your specific requirements.
Most tools offer free trials – so I recommend test driving your shortlisted options. Seeing is believing, after all!
Now that you have a good sense of the document software landscape, let‘s go over some best practices to drive adoption and maximize success.
Tips for Successful Implementation
Transitioning to new systems always comes with a learning curve. Based on my experience, here are some tips to ensure smooth rollout and adoption:
Start with High Business Impact Use Cases
The best way to showcase value and get quick wins is by automating documents with the biggest pain points and efficiency gaps.
For instance, start with sales contracts or financial reports rather than company newsletters. This ensures maximum bang for buck from day one.
Involve Key Stakeholders Early On
Get inputs from all teams who create and use documents – sales, legal, IT, CX. This allows gathering feedback and designing optimal templates.
Stakeholder involvement also drives greater adoption across business units by creating buy-in at the grassroots level.
Clean Your Data First
Since documents draw data from multiple systems – CRM, HCM, ERP etc. – ensure your databases are in order. Eliminate any duplicates or inconsistencies that can trip up automated documents.
Use Out-of-the-Box Templates to Jumpstart Process
Most tools come preloaded with beautifully designed templates for common documents like invoices, contracts, proposals.
Leverage these to quickly get started versus creating from scratch. You can always customize them later.
Centralize Document Processes
Migrating all legacy templates and workflows to the new system prevents disjointed processes and data leaks. A centralized document hub drives efficiency.
Allocate Super Users as Product Experts
Identify power users across teams to undergo intensive training. They‘ll then become ongoing product resources assisting others and spreading knowledge.
Monitor Usage Metrics Continuously
Tools provide detailed analytics on document performance. Analyze these regularly to address bottlenecks and continuously refine templates.
Communicate Benefits and Offer Support
Drive adoption by educating employees on how the software makes lives easier and communicates its value. Provide ongoing training and troubleshooting support.
By following these best practices, you can ensure your document automation initiative delivers maximum value and becomes a competitive advantage for your organization.
We‘ve covered a lot of ground here! Let‘s recap the key takeaways:
Document software saves tons of time and makes your team more productive by eliminating manual efforts.
It facilitates cross-functional collaboration and consistent on-brand communications.
Automated merge fields and conditional logic minimize risks from human errors and compliance gaps.
Leading tools make the process intuitive through easy-to-use editors and pre-built templates.
Consider key features like integrations, analytics, security to match software capabilities with your needs.
Implementation best practices help drive rapid user adoption and maximize value realization.
I hope this guide provides you a 360-degree perspective of document automation technology and how it can transform document-driven processes in your organization.
Document management is a journey. Take the first step by trying out a solution that aligns with your needs. In today‘s digital business environment, intelligent automation is key to working smarter and staying competitive.
Here‘s wishing you the very best for a successful and fulfilling journey ahead!