Let’s be honest, there are certain tasks involved in many jobs that aren’t too enjoyable.
Think of things like typing the same piece of information into multiple documents, chasing down colleagues and other people to make sure they get any necessary forms and fill them in on time, and going through tons of documents to check for errors.
Sure, these tasks may be important at your workplace. However, you can’t help but feel like there’s a better way to do them, or that you could be more helpful to the organization.
Sadly, paperwork is a part of life, and it doesn’t just disappear once you go digital.
These boring and repetitive tasks become even more of a nightmare when you have to combine large sums of data into a report that makes sense.
You don’t want to wake up in a cold sweat wondering if you put some figures in the wrong place and gave the managers a misleading report.
And if you’re leading a team, you don’t want to always be second guessing the reports they send your way. This is where automated documents come in handy.
What is document automation?
Simply put, documentation automation is all about designing systems and processes that aid in creating digital documents. It involves the transformation of documents into smart templates which are then used as the basis for creating accurate documents repeatedly.
Just like giving a workmate instructions on the order of files in a cabinet, or the number of copies of a certain document to include in a submission, document automation is a robust way of making sure that information is recorded and presented the right way in a document.
Behind this smooth and smart method of creating reliable documents is a logic-based system that utilizes pieces of existing text or other kinds of data to put together new documents.
Yes, there’s a bit of coding involved, the kind of stuff that can give you the same feeling you get when you pop the hood of your car trying to figure out what’s not working.
But worry not, there’s a growing number of teams working to make sure that your dreams of being more productive at work come true.
We already see the fruits of this work in the brilliant products that only require a couple of clicks and configurations to produce automated documents, like Portant Data Sourcer.
Portant Data Sourcer is a Google Docs add-on that allows you to generate, share and store documents without having to worry about the back-end code driving the whole process.
You’re probably going like “yeah, cool, but what’s so special about it? How does it make this part of my work more bearable?”
Whether it’s producing reports, legal documents, letters carrying a similar theme, and contracts, a tool like Portant Data Sourcer can be helpful in more than one part of the process.
Portant Data Sourcer in action
Got some data you need to collect from a number of respondents? A neat and well-structured form will definitely be a life-saver, since those filling it are more likely to put every piece of information in the right place and spend less time trying to find out what goes where.
Portant Data Sourcer helps to create forms and put them out in a mobile-friendly format. Many people are moving their tasks in between their laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
You don’t want to be that person putting out forms that people can only fill in from specific devices. But we all know that a solid form isn’t the start and end of compiling a good report.
You may find yourself still having to burn a lot of time making sure each unique form gets to the person it’s meant for at the right time. This Google Docs add-on enables you to schedule these requests for submission of data.
Portant Data Sourcer will even do you one better, allowing you to send out reminders to respondents to make sure that they fill out these forms on time.
This feature saves you time moving around and trying to get in touch with respondents but also helps you avoid being perceived as the nagging workmate yet you’re just doing your job.
And once a respondent completes a form, this tool will save the resultant document in your Google Drive and share it with the respondent.
Improving productivity using automated documents
Automated documents aren’t just some quick shortcut that employees can use to buy more time for social media chit-chat and YouTube videos during work hours.
They are very resonant with both employees and team leaders, and speak to the inefficiencies that plague most organizations with a sizable load of data to handle.
Let’s take a look at how employees can benefit from document automation:
Simplified report compilation. Reports are never just about laying out the results of a project and saying “this what happened”. They are compiled within a certain context, convey a clear message, showing how it was derived, and most importantly, they have to be available on time.
Automated documents save employees from those awkward moments of having to tell their superiors that they are still putting together the story of a previous quarter yet some crucial decisions have to be made soon.
Document automation eliminates the need for an employee to comb through every form submitted and re-enter the information into another document. This is particularly helpful when you have multiple sources of data with subtle differences.
Improved employee relationships. No one likes being suddenly interrupted right when they’d just managed to focus on an important task, especially if it’s not about an emergency.
Without document automation, whoever is in charge of compiling a report or some document has to chase down workmates that are supposed to contribute to the final product.
Automated document tools allow you to keep team members aware of their obligations in a more passive manner that doesn’t mess with their flow.
With certain tasks in the background but not forgotten, employees can be more productive and less anxious since they have a “heads-up” on pending work.
The person compiling a report spends less time emphasizing its importance, and those who have to contribute also spend less time being defensive about their pace in completing forms.
Easier file sharing. Technology has advanced enough for us to be able to put a piece of information in one place and have it accessed by numerous people.
There’s no reason you should be making copies of a document when you can put it in the cloud for all your teammates to view and even suggest or make changes to it where necessary.
So even if one of your colleagues is at home and another is paying their parents a visit, they can all view an automated document, which makes collaboration much easier. Keep in mind that many document automation tools can output various formats like .xml, .pdf, .doc, .csv
What’s more awesome than sipping on a cocktail while moving your thumb across a screen a few times and helping your organization come up with the best plan for the next quarter.
No need for multiple phone calls and emails to make sure a colleague got the right version of a document in a compatible format, or having to get back to the office to keep up with work.
Everyone can offer their insight and quickly get back to enjoying life from wherever they are.
Capturing live data
Document automation tools help employees keep track of large sums of data that change in real-time without having to sit around staring at a chart or some other figures waiting for the right moment to record the required data.
Some automated documents allow you to take snapshots of live data based on pre-set criteria, meaning that you can’t have an accurate opinion on what was happening at a particular time even if you were asleep.
Can you imagine having to sign a hundred documents? Quite daunting isn’t it? Don’t worry, with automated documents, you just might be able to sign tons of documents without getting carpal tunnel syndrome.
Digital signatures aside, you can also reduce the time spent on customizing documents once you have a template with your organization’s branding included.
Reduction in costs
Much as it’s hard to admit, a lot of organizations don’t have the funds needed to do certain jobs efficiently. Putting a super lean team in charge of preparing documents can result in a number of errors, which take more time and money to correct.
Document automation helps limit the amount of resources spent on processing data housed in physical documents. Check out these stats on the amount the IRS spends on processing paper returns versus e-filing.
The money saved on processing physical documents can be directed to other aspects of an organization’s work to improve efficiency, whether it’s bringing in more workers or providing the required hardware and software to perform tasks faster.
Last but not least, document automation enables managers to get a better idea of the bottlenecks involved in creating reports and other vital documents since they have a clear digital trail of their employees’ efforts in one place.
Managers can go on to provide the necessary tools and enact policy changes that make it easier for employees to provide valuable insight in a timely manner.
Automated documents address efficiency, data integrity, employee satisfaction and a number of other aspects of running an organization, which makes them a very beneficial tool for both employees and managers.
Gerald Ainomugisha is a freelance Content Solutions Provider (CSP) offering both content and copy writing services for businesses of all kinds, especially in the niches of management, marketing and technology.