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What is document automation? A comprehensive overview

what is document automation a comprehensive overview
By Drazen Vujovic. Reviewed by: James Rose. Last Updated June 16, 2024

As businesses expand, so does the complexity of their document management needs. The struggle to streamline workflows while maintaining efficiency is a shared experience from small startups to established enterprises.

And that’s what moves us towards exploring document automation, a game-changer for teams seeking to regain control over their data and improve productivity in the long run. In this guide, we’ll show you the basics of document automation:

  • Its definition and key features
  • The benefits of automating documents
  • Industry-specific challenges
  • Some of the best document automation platforms

Let’s dive in!

Note: Don’t want to read the whole article? Go straight to our list of document automation tools.

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What is document automation?

Document automation is a rule-based system for streamlining the creation, management, and distribution of documents. The system uses predefined rules and templates to manage documents at scale. This process helps organizations and businesses generate documents more efficiently while reducing the risk of errors.

As such, document automation has a few highly practical benefits:

  • Streamlined processes: Automation significantly reduces the time and effort spent on manual document management.
  • Risk mitigation: Automation minimizes the risk of human errors in document creation and data entry.
  • Cost reduction: When you eliminate manual tasks from internal processes, you get to save on labor costs and allow employees to focus on more value-added activities. 
  • Teamwork: Document automation facilitates collaboration because it enables multiple users to work on files simultaneously.
  • Compliance: This system promotes compliance through standardized templates adhering to regulatory requirements.
  • Top-level security: The best document automation platforms come with robust security features to protect sensitive information and maintain confidentiality.

Differences between industries

Though universal, document automation can show notable differences across industries or niches. This has to do with the specific requirements or processes inherent to each industry.  

For instance, law firms emphasize compliance and security due to sensitive legal information. They mainly focus on legal document creation, contract management, and case file organization. On the other hand, financial organizations automate financial reporting, client onboarding, and risk management documents.

Each industry has unique demands — real estate, HR, non-profits, healthcare, and so on. This means you’ll need to find document automation software that suits the peculiarities of your business. 

Some of the best document automation systems

1. PandaDoc

PandaDoc stands out as comprehensive document management software that powers the entire document lifecycle for businesses. This tool lets you create, send, and e-Sign documents. It’s an easy way to speed up document assembly time while eliminating repetitive tasks. Some of its key features are:

  • Customizable document templates
  • Collaborative editing
  • Guided signing process
  • Real-time tracking
  • Integration with popular business tools

PandaDoc offers you three pricing plans: Essential ($19 a month), Business ($49), and Enterprise (available upon request). This also makes it one of the most affordable document automation platforms. Here’s what one of the verified G2 reviews says about PandaDoc:

2. Documint

Documint gives you AI-driven capabilities that automate document creation. The platform adapts to complex file structures, which makes it suitable for different types of documents and business applications. The most important functionalities of Documint include:

  • Drag-and-drop template builder
  • Looping logic that bypasses manual data entries
  • Conditional logic to add/remove different elements
  • A simple previewer to check the format of your templates 

The thing we like about Documint is its free plan. Though very limited (it supports 10 documents max), the free version gives you a pretty decent overview of what you can expect from Documint. However, the real pricing plans are somewhat higher. The Silver package costs $30 a month, while Gold and Platinum cost $80 and $150, respectively.  

Documint doesn’t have many user reviews on G2, so let’s stick to this one:

3. Docupilot

Docupilot is made for dynamic document generation, especially due to its conditional logic and data merging functionalities. These features enable automated customization of documents based on specific criteria. Docupilot has more than 50 integration options, so you can combine it with many third-party tools to ensure flawless functionality. Other useful features include:

  • Advanced template preferences
  • Automated content delivery through multiple channels
  • Usage reports with historical insights and filtering abilities

On the downside, Docupilot has a slightly unfavorable credit-based pricing system with multiple plans. The platform’s six pricing packages range from $29 to $699 a month. This is also one of the rare remarks in G2 reviews:

4. ClickUp

You probably know ClickUp as a project management platform, but this tool also comes with excellent document automation features. That way, it offers a distinctive blend of collaboration and document organization. 

ClickUp has a unified workspace for document creation and management, which helps the entire team transition from planning to document collaboration. The platform is extremely versatile, so we’ll point out only a few major functionalities:

  • Customized docs that you can connect to workflows
  • More than 100 automation solutions
  • Multiple types of visualization charts

The only downside of ClickUp is that many organizations don’t need such a powerful project management and document automation system. It also determines the price per user/month, which can be costly for bigger teams. The Business Plan is best for mid-sized teams, and it costs $12 per user a month.

There are lots of ClickUp reviews on G2, so we just picked one that points out its unmatched versatility as a potential obstacle:

5. Conga Composer

We decided to mix things up a little by showcasing a tool designed for a specific niche. Conga Composer is tailored specifically for Salesforce users to power the generation of complex documents, reports, and presentations directly from this CRM. 

Conga Composer's dynamic document creation process is complemented by advanced template management. Thanks to its drag-and-drop interface, you can build sophisticated document workflows with little to no coding at all. In addition, Conga Composer is proud of these features:

  • Real-time co-authoring and approval workflows 
  • End-to-end contract optimization
  • Outstanding flexibility paired with intuitiveness

Conga Composer is one of the rare document automation tools without a fixed pricing structure — it depends on your organization’s needs and the features requested. When it comes to user reviews, it seems like many clients complain about the platform’s customer support. Here’s just one example:

Features to look for in a document automation system

If you want to spend more time researching document automation alternatives, remember that some features are mandatory regardless of your field of work. We are talking about these characteristics:

Template management

The system you choose should allow for easy creation and customization of templates to suit the specific needs of your business. Try to find a robust template management tool that can adapt to diverse document types.

Data integration

Tip number two is to look for a platform that integrates with existing data sources. For instance, a document automation tool must be able to integrate with your CRM, ERP, or other business applications. Without relevant third-party integrations, your data won’t be automatically populated into documents.

Collaboration tools

Opt for a system that facilitates collaboration among team members. Collaboration can cover a broad scope of functions, but real-time editing, commenting, and version control are a must.

Integration with e-signature solutions

Though this isn’t critical for all organizations, most of them require a solution featuring e-signatures. If you’re running one such organization, look for document automation software that can streamline the document approval and signing processes.

Compliance and security

Modern tools prioritize security features to protect sensitive information, but you should still double-check it. It’s also important to find a system that is compliant with industry standards. For instance, these could be data privacy laws and document retention policies.

Data analytics

Last but not least, look for software that provides analytics tools to track document-related metrics. Details such as creation times, user activities, and error rates are extremely important if you wish to recalibrate and improve internal procedures. 

Content Snare: Your shortcut to document automation

Content Snare is a data-gathering system that can help you bridge the gap between your clients and your document automation tool. Our platform makes it easy to collect the right files and information from clients in record time. Once done, all that’s left is to push data into your document automation system with Zapier or Make.

We surveyed hundreds of Content Snare clients to confirm the value of our data-gathering system. Here are the key insights:

  • Our clients spend 71% less time gathering information
  • They witness a huge reduction in costs (77%)
  • Their return on investment is nearly 2,400%

The reason why Content Snare works is that we designed it with a user-centric approach. The system relies on automated reminders, progress bars, in-form conversations, and auto-saving to simplify the data-gathering process as much as possible.

The best part is that you can integrate Content Snare with any document automation platform. Our third-party integrations are practically unlimited, so you can build all sorts of workflows to automatically populate documents.

Improve your document management process with Content Snare

Our system revolutionizes the way you gather information and files. Turn a tangled mess into a smooth process that boosts efficiency and takes document automation to a higher level.

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Drazen Vujovic

Dražen Vujović is a journalist and content writer. More importantly, he is a father of two and a long-distance runner.