Document Automation in ‘23: Top 4 Benefits & Use Cases

Document management used to be an entirely manual process – fraught with friction, errors, and costs. But with today‘s intelligent automation technologies, companies can transform the creation, routing, and handling of business documents.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore what document automation is, how it works, key use cases across industries, and the tangible benefits it delivers. Let‘s dive in!

What is Document Automation?

Document automation refers to the digital systems and workflows used to generate, populate, route, and process business documents.

Instead of employees manually filling out forms, copying/pasting data, sending emails to collaborate, and physically printing/signing documents – specialized software handles it all digitally.

There are two core aspects of document automation:

Document Processing Automation

  • Extracting information from scanned documents or PDFs using OCR
  • Validating, enriching, and structuring the extracted data
  • Digitizing documents that arrive in physical format

Automated Document Generation

  • Dynamically populating templates using data from other systems
  • Creating new documents like invoices, contracts, applications
  • Formatting and assembling documents based on business rules

By using smart automation technologies like RPA, AI, and advanced OCR, document-driven business processes can be optimized from end-to-end. This saves companies time and money while improving accuracy.

According to IDC, the Document Process Automation market will reach $3.3 billion by 2025, growing at an impressive CAGR of over 11%.

Let‘s look at how these automation technologies are applied in more detail…

Document Processing Automation Explained

Digitizing and extracting information from paper documents involves specialized capture, processing, and extraction capabilities. Here are the key steps:

1. Document Capture

Physical documents must first be scanned or converted to digital formats. Advanced OCR software can also directly convert image-based documents like faxes or scans into searchable files.

Specialized capture software can:

  • Continuously monitor folders or email inboxes for new documents
  • Automatically categorize documents by type
  • Flag anomalies for exceptions handling

2. Data Extraction

Once digitized, critical information must be extracted using OCR, NLP, and AI-powered data extraction algorithms:

  • Structured documents like forms have labeled fields that are easy to import.
  • Semi-structured documents like invoices have some conventions but information is laid out differently. More advanced technology using contextual clues can extract this unstructured data.
  • For example, an address block can be identified based on proximity to a date and letterhead.
  • Unstructured documents have no set template so domain expertise is required to build relevant extraction rules.

latest AI techniques like transformer networks can accurately extract entities without extensive manual training.

3. Validation

Extracted data is validated for completeness and accuracy:

  • Using internal business rules: Names, dates, amounts are checked against expected formats.
  • External data lookups: Information is cross-checked against databases like supplier master lists.

This prevents faulty data from polluting downstream systems.

4. Enrichment

Additional related information is appended to the extracted data to add context:

  • Entity resolution links contacts to existing CRM or supplier records.
  • Relevant data from ERP or other systems can be pulled in as well.

This reduces the need for employees to manually research or populate records.

Automated Document Generation

Structured data can in turn be used to automatically populate templates and generate new standardized documents.

Key steps include:

1. Connect Data Sources

First, relevant data sources are connected, like:

  • CRM systems for customer details
  • ERP for order information
  • eCommerce platforms for transaction data
  • HCM for employee data
  • Etc.

2. Configure Document Templates

Next, templates are created for desired document types by mapping fields to data variables.

Microsoft Word‘s native Quick Parts feature can be used for basic templates. More advanced tools provide additional capabilities:

  • Version control of templates
  • Complex business logic
    • Conditional sections
    • Auto-selected options
    • Dynamic tables
  • Real-time previews & error-checking

3. Generate & Assemble

The software populates templates by merging in data from connected sources. Documents are then formatted and assembled with tables of contents, bookmarks, styling, and more applied automatically.

Advanced tools use rules-based assembly logic to customize documents like:

  • Including different policy sections based on customer type
  • Adding state-specific disclaimers
  • Performing calculations to populate tables

4. Distribute & Store

The finished documents are converted to the desired format, named, and routed to relevant parties. Completed docs are archived in designated repositories.

Built-in collaboration features eliminate version control issues and the need to manually send attachments.

Why Companies Are Adopting Document Automation

There are compelling drivers encouraging adoption across sectors:

  • Remote work means greater reliance on digital documentation with limited face-to-face coordination.
  • Cost pressures require optimizing processes to reduce manual work. 80% of documents are still paper-based, incurring major processing costs.
  • Compliance requirements like digital audit trails increase need for systems to track document versions, changes, and approvals.
  • Customer expectations require faster response times only achievable through automation.

According to Forrester, 73% of firms are prioritizing investments in document process automation. Leading adopters include financial services, insurance, healthcare, and legal firms.

Let‘s look at some real-world examples…

Use Cases Across Industries

Document automation delivers significant value across functions. Here are some examples:

Financial Services

For banks and lenders, client onboarding involves extensive documentation including forms, disclosures, and contracts.

Results:

  • One major bank automated 50+ document types for client onboarding, reducing turnaround from 21 days to 1 day.
  • Another firm automated loan document generation across 20 different products. Loan closing time fell from 60 days to just over 20.

Business Services

Consulting, accounting, and IT services firms rely on custom proposals, deliverables, and invoices tailored to each client engagement.

Responding quickly with accuracy is critical, but constantly recreating these documents is labor-intensive.

Results:

  • An IT services firm achieved 2-3X productivity gains by automating repetitive documents like SOWs and change orders.
  • They also integrated automation with their CRM so all customer data pre-populates, eliminating duplicate data entry.

Healthcare

Hospitals and clinics handle high volumes of patient intake forms, discharge instructions, prescriptions, and referral letters. Patients also require clear, consistent materials.

Results:

  • One healthcare system achieved 90% faster turnaround on patient discharge documents after implementing automation.
  • They also use tablets to allow patients to electronically complete forms which immediately integrate with EHR systems. This replaced manual data entry which was prone to backlogs and errors.

Insurance

Insurers manage high document volumes including policies, claims, correspondence, and renewals. Compliance requirements also demand up-to-date forms and disclaimers.

For one major insurer, document automation delivered:

  • Over 50% cost reduction for key processes like new business and policy changes
  • Twice as fast document generation overall
  • 99% accuracy for generated documents

4 Major Benefits of Document Automation

Now that we‘ve seen examples of how organizations are using these technologies let‘s discuss the tangible benefits:

1. Reduced Costs

By reducing repetitive manual document handling, automation cuts costs substantially:

  • 90% cost reduction for invoice processing using AI extraction versus manual data entry (IBM)
  • 80% lower policy issue costs for an insurance firm after implementing intelligent document processing (Celaton)
  • Up to 50% lower operating costs by eliminating paper and manual document processes (McKinsey)

These sizable reductions come from:

  • Less administrative labor: Automation handles manual document tasks so you need fewer people.
  • Reduced paper/printing/postage: Digitized processes cut material and mail costs.
  • Faster processes: Automated systems work 24/7 with no human delays.
  • Fewer errors: Automation boosts accuracy – reducing costly mistakes and rework.

2. Improved Data Quality

Automated extraction and validation improves data hygiene:

  • OCR reduces typos by eliminating manual data entry
  • Data validation flags anomalies early
  • Information is structured for analysis vs unsearchable scanned images

This provides greater transparency into document processes. Data quality issues causing bottlenecks or excessive errors can be identified.

3. Faster Document Turnaround

Automated systems generate and process documents much faster:

  • 80% less time to complete new customer on-boarding (Forester)
  • 90% faster generation of digital policy documents for an insurer (ABBYY)
  • 97% faster mortgage document preparation with automation (Tavant)

This accelerated responsiveness improves customer satisfaction and employee productivity.

4. Reduced Compliance Risk

Digitizing documents makes it easier to comply with security and privacy regulations like HIPAA and GDPR.

Features like audit trails, version histories, and permissions control provide the necessary safeguards and transparency. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access or improper document handling.

Key Takeaways & Next Steps

Intelligent document automation delivers tangible benefits for organizations of all types and sizes. The key is finding solutions tailored to your specific needs and processes.

When evaluating options, look for:

  • Advanced data extraction capabilities using AI and NLP
  • Integration with your existing business systems
  • Cloud-based for scalability, speed, and mobile access
  • Centralized control over document design, routing, and lifecycles

With the right strategy, document automation can transform how your business manages critical paperwork and data. This provides strategic advantages from both an efficiency and customer experience perspective.

Hopefully this guide provided a comprehensive overview so you can chart your automation journey. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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