The Ultimate Guide to Document Automation

Ira Brooker    April 16 th, 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Document Automation_web banner

Document automation software has changed the way businesses across every industry communicate with customers, suppliers, and employees. As inefficient manual processes give way to the flexibility, time saving, and reliability of automated software solutions, it can be daunting to figure out what systems and tools provide the best fit for your organization. This guide will help you navigate the ins and outs of document workflow automation and make a decision that will result in best return on your investment.

Key Takeaways

  • Document automation involves streamlining the process of assembling documents using software. Automated solutions make it easier to create, process, and distribute documents by extracting data from multiple sources and automatically entering it into document templates that can be customized to meet specific needs.
  • Automated software reduces reliance on manual tasks and minimizes human error by integrating with existing enterprise systems.
  • Template design, document rendering, assembly, and distribution are the four key steps of document automation.
  • Document automation software is important for business because it offers a better customer experience, enhances compliance and security, boosts productivity, streamlines operations, and reduces the time spent on most tasks.
  • Some of the biggest challenges that document automation software can help solve include human errors, time-consuming processes, compliance concerns, difficulty in collaboration, and lack of flexibility.
  • A few of the benefits of using document automation software include error-free document processing, greater flexibility, higher scalability and security, reliable compliance, increased personalization, and consistent communication across channels.
  • The main features of document automation software are centralized template management, flexible workflows, business user configurability, complex data integration and editing visibility, interactive web forms, smart documents, automatic translations, batch and on-demand document creation and delivery, and automatic document assembly.

What Is Document Automation?

The most basic definition of document automation is using automated tools and software to create, process, and distribute documents either internally or externally. To go deeper, automated document solutions allow a business to pull data and content from a variety of sources, and then enter that data in pre-designed, customizable document templates. That makes it easy for an organization to quickly and accurately assemble even complex documents in a fraction of the time that manual processes would require.

Automated document creation software is also designed to integrate with existing enterprise systems. This allows your business to pull data easily from any internal source, while eliminating tedious and repetitive tasks that take up time and create a greater risk of human error. 

It also makes it simpler for your team to make edits and adjustments to documents without having to rely on support from your IT department.

Take a look at this handy explainer video to follow one worker’s journey from complex manual document processes to the speed and ease of automation.

How Does Document Automation Work?

Document automation works by using software solutions to assemble frequently used documents rather than relying on manual processes. Typically, that means using tech tools to pull data directly from a variety of source materials and automatically enter that data into pre-set document templates.

An automated document processing solution with optical character recognition (OCR) can scan sources such as online databases, emails, or PDF forms, as well as scans of physical documents for key data. That data is then extracted and input to form fields within your document template. Document automation software also streamlines the processes of routing, approving, and distributing documents, replacing time-consuming manual tasks with automatic functions that boost the speed and accuracy of your document production.

The 4 Steps of Document Automation Infographic

Document Template Design Illustration

1. Design your document template

A template library is a single, central repository that ensures that key company assets such as logos, branding elements, and document fragments stay consistent across all communications. If changes or updates are needed, those elements can then be automatically updated across multiple templates. A user-friendly visual design tool allows even less tech-savvy business users to adjust documents quickly and without IT help.

Document rendering illustration

2. Render the document

Your automated document generation software begins the process by aggregating and transforming data from one or more sources. Those sources might include customer portals, databases, XML streams, and any packaged or proprietary business applications. Communications can be personalized using an embedded interface before the final data set is mapped to a defined template.

Document Assembly Illustration

3. Assemble the document

Document workflow automation software allows your team to access a variety of documents and assets across multiple locations within your organization, including logos, branding, and reusable chunks of content. After those documents have been retrieved, they can be compiled into a single, combined asset and prepared for distribution.

Document delivery illustration

4. Deliver the document

When all documents and assets have been combined into a single output, your communication can be delivered via the channels your business or your customer most prefers. That might include email, SMS messaging, social media messages, or even traditional print documents. Your communications will stay consistent and accurate across all channels.

Why Is Document Automation Software
Important for Businesses?

Businesses are sometimes reluctant to make the upgrade to automation because they believe that their current, manual processes are good enough to keep getting by. That mindset does your organization a disservice by leaving time and money on the table and creating unnecessary work for your team. A few of the ways automation directly benefits your business include:

  • Improved Customer Experience – Automated document creation software improves customer relationships by ensuring that your communications are accurate and consistent in their branding and messaging. Smart documents and self-service portals empower customers to tailor their experience to their specific needs.
  • Enhanced Compliance and Security – In highly regulated industries, maintaining compliance using manual processes can be a real challenge. Automation ensures that your documents are created accurately and consistently every time, while cloud-based storage keeps confidential data and personally identifiable information safe and secure.
  • Higher Productivity – Creating, processing, and distributing documents using outdated manual processes involves a lot of tedious and repetitive tasks that can contribute to employee burnout. Automation takes those tasks off of employees’ plates, allowing them to focus on tasks and projects that make better use of their skills.
  • Streamlined Operations – Manual processes waste a lot of time and resources — studies show that the average office worker generates about 10,000 wasted sheets of paper every year, for example. Automation eliminates much of the waste and ensures that every document is processed efficiently and on time.
  • Less Time Wasted – Document creation and distribution takes time, and even more so when tasks are being handled manually. Studies estimate that automation cuts the time employees spend preparing documents by more than 80%, ensuring that customers receive important communications on time, every time.


Discover Our Document Automation Solutions

Automate the entire document creation process, from production and assembly to personalization and omnichannel delivery. Experience the difference with MHC EngageCX. Discover the features and benefits!

Challenges Addressed by
Document Automation Software

Every solution requires a problem, and document automation solutions address a number of them. Outdated and inefficient methods of creating and distributing documents put an undue burden on your team, creating extra work and more issues that eat up time and resources, such as:

  • Human Errors
    More human touch points equal more risk of human errors, each of which requires time and resources to correct. Document automation sharply reduces the room for human error and makes it easier to identify and correct mistakes when they do occur.
  • Time-Consuming Processes
    Creating, routing, and delivering a single document can take a lot of time using manual processes — sometimes as much as half of an employee’s work hours. Document automation cuts that time significantly, allowing your teams to focus on more productive tasks.
  • Compliance Issues
    Maintaining compliance with government regulations, industry standards, and internal policies can be a real challenge using outdated solutions and manual processes. Document automation helps ensure that every communication is in line with all necessary standards and provides visibility into your system to correct issues that do arise.
  • Lack of Collaboration
    As workplaces change and remote and hybrid work models become more common, collaborating on document creation becomes all the more challenging. An automated document solution makes it simple for teams and external stakeholders to collaborate from any location.
  • Lack of Flexibility
    Outdated document creation processes make it difficult to make changes, correct errors, or add personalized messaging without involving your IT team. Automated document processing gives even non-tech users the flexibility to make needed changes and tailor messaging to specific audiences.

The Main Features of
Document Automation Software

Unlike manual systems that often spread document creation across multiple departments and channels, an automated system with centralized controls provides your business with a single, easily accessible source of truth for document processing.

More on Document Template Management > 

Even complex document workflow management tasks can be automated, from the initial design of documents to their final assembly to distribution to collecting and aggregating data analytics. A workflow management system makes it easy to define participants and configure processes to meet specific customer needs.

More on Document Workflow Automation> 

Configurable for Business Users

A document creation and processing solution that is too complex to operate without extensive training creates silos of information within your organization. Automating document management makes it easy for even non-technical employees to make adjustments and gather insights from your document process.

Data Integration from Multiple Sources

Document workflow automation tools can instantly pull data from all of the sources your business depends on. This allows you to directly populate reports and documents with data pulled from websites, PDFs, xml, databases, and cloud storage, with no manual data entry required.

Deeper Editing Visibility

Document automation software with a visual design tool provides deeper visibility into your editing process. Side-by-side displays allow your team to compare changes without switching between screens, making it easier to identify errors and inconsistencies across multiple platforms.

Interactive Web Forms

Providing customers with interactive forms allows your team to capture valuable, high-quality data from a wide range of sources. Integration with business applications and online portals make it easy to pull that data into forms, personalized letters, and other customer communications.

Smart documents empower customers with a self-service experience that allows deep visibility into their account data in real time. The personalization afforded by smart documents ensures that each customer receives information that’s relevant to their needs while also making certain that your organization’s brand and image remain consistent.

More on Smart Documents > 

Automatic Translation and Localization

Document process automation makes international communications seamless with automatic translation into any language you require. Conditional settings allow you to geo-target audiences with location-specific information, keeping your branding and messaging consistent without creating multiple templates.

Your document creation needs vary over the course of a business cycle, which makes scalability essential. Whether you’re in need of high-volume batch production of documents like invoices, annual reports, and monthly statements or on-demand jobs generated in real-time, document automation software scales to match the needs of your current moment.

More on Batch and On-Demand Communications

Automation eliminates tedious and repetitive manual data entry and design tasks with APIs that can pull data from multiple sources. That boosts the speed and accuracy of assembling and finalizing contracts, legal documents, business contracts, and other key documents in a range of formats, including emails, PDF files, print documents, and more.

More on Document Assembly Software >

Who Uses Document Automation Software?

Ideally, a document automation software solution will positively impact nearly every level and department of your organization, but some areas will see more changes than others. Automated document creation will have an especially beneficial impact on:

  • Information Technology (IT)
    Using a manual document creation system often requires heavy involvement from your IT team. Making changes to documents, correcting errors, and adjusting brand assets can mean submitting a ticket and waiting for IT staff to perform the tasks as their schedule allows. An automated system with a user-friendly interface allows other business users to make those changes quickly, without the involvement of IT. That puts more time back on their schedule and helps to ensure that you’re making good use of their skills.
  • Operations
    Your operations team benefits from the overall boosts in speed, efficiency, and accuracy that come with document automation software, especially when it comes to collaboration. A cloud-based document management system makes it simple for teams to work collaboratively, whether onsite or working remotely. Sharing electronic documents using secure links and encryption ensures that you’re creating consistent, brand-appropriate messaging that can be automatically routed for all necessary approvals.
  • Business Users
    One of the biggest benefits of document automation is how much easier it makes document creation and distribution for business users who may be less tech-savvy. Empowering a wider base of users has benefits in every industry, including:
      • Banks and credit unions – Member services can employ automation to generate account statements, financial documents, and personalized communications for each stage of the customer or member journey.
      • Healthcare – Creating a consistent system for distributing onboarding letters, privacy policies, patient registrations, visit summaries, explanation of benefits, and other key documents creates a more fulfilling and supportive patient experience.
      • Insurance – The accuracy and consistency of document automation makes it easier to stay in compliance with regulations and policies related to policy documents, consumer disclosures, reimbursement communications, privacy notices, and other key documents.
      • ManufacturingManufacturing and logistics businesses benefit from document automation via faster, more accurate, and easier-to-record production and packaging documents, such as pallet labels, product labels, and shipping documents.

10 Benefits of
Using Document Automation Software 

1. Error-free processing of documents

The more human touch points involved in document processing, the higher the risk of human error. Automated document solutions eliminate or sharply reduce the need for error-prone manual processes such as data entry, routing documents for approval, and collecting signatures. If errors or exceptions do occur, an automated system provides deep visibility into your process, allowing you to easily pinpoint the source of the issue and eliminate similar problems in the future.

2. More flexibility and scalability

Your organization’s document needs are constantly changing. Meeting those evolving needs requires a system that can adapt and scale quickly to keep pace. When you automate document creation and distribution, you make it much easier to automatically scale to match fluctuating timelines, volumes, and demands. That keeps your business operating at maximum productivity while also saving money that might be wasted on unnecessary document processing.

3. Simple Building of Complex Documents

By automatically and instantly pulling data from a wide variety of sources, document workflow automation makes it easier and faster to create impactful documents. A document automation solution including a library of reusable content fragments allows your business to make quick adjustments and personalizations. That helps you deliver communications tailored to each customer or vendor’s specific needs.

4. Reliable Compliance

Compliance violations are a constant concern for every business particularly those in highly regulated or frequently changing industries. Document automation software eliminates much of the risk of human error and makes it simpler to create processes and timelines that maximize compliance with both government regulations and company policies. Automation also provides stronger security for personally identifiable information, lowering the risk of cybercrime. A document creation system also makes it easier to communicate rules and policies to both employees and vendors.

5. Consistent Communications Across Channels

A manual document creation system leaves too much room for inconsistent experiences as users move from channel to channel. Document automation ensures that messaging, logos, and key brand elements stay consistent no matter what channel your customers prefer.

6. More resilient workflows

Unlike manual processes that rely on individuals to perform tedious and repetitive tasks, automated document creation ensures that each task is completed perfectly every time. An intuitive software solution helps to futureproof your business by making it simple for new users to step into a role with minimal training required. Giving a broader range of employees control over those functions creates a flexible and resilient back-up system of employee knowledge.

7. Going Paperless

Paper documents are a remarkably inefficient way of doing business. They’re costly to produce, they take up a lot of physical space, they require external equipment that needs to be maintained, and they create a sizable environmental footprint. Document automation solutions make it easier to go green while also freeing up space, making data easier to locate, eliminating the risk of damage from fires, floods, and accidents.

8. Enhanced Security

A document automation system with cloud-based storage creates a more centralized and secure storage solution for your customers’ and vendors’ personally identifiable data, as well as your organization’s internal documents. Having data spread across multiple channels in multiple departments increases the risk of data theft and fraud from both external and internal actors. In an era of rampant cybercrime, secure, consolidated cloud controls offer greater security.

9. Enhanced Personalization

In surveys, 76% of customers say that personalized communications make them more likely to continue doing business with an organization. Document automation makes personalization fast and easy. A rich library of templates and reusable content fragments allows you to tailor documents to meet the needs and preferences of specific customers and target audiences while keeping logos and brand assets consistent across all documents and channels.

10. More Smart Document Features

Automated document creation software allows you to make the most of your interactive documents by embedding video and audio files, generating hyperlinks and clickable buttons, incorporating image galleries and PDFs, and more.

Types of Industry-Specific Documents
that Can Be Automated

The types of documents you create using document process automation will vary depending on your industry and your business goals, but there are some organizations that will see benefits more quickly than others. Here are a few key examples of the types of documents industries can create and distribute more easily using automation.

Investment policy statements (IPS)

Investment policy statements (IPS) outline general rules that financial services workers such as portfolio managers need to follow while working with specific clients. Automated document creation helps to ensure that branding, formatting, and tone remain consistent across every IPS while also allowing enough flexibility and customization to ensure that every customer receives the kinds of personalized communications that working relationships are built on.

Explanation of Benefits (EOB)

In the insurance industry, claims processing documents are crucial for making sure customer claims are paid accurately and efficiently. That often requires pulling data from a variety of sources and comparing sources against each other to ensure that the data is correct, a process that can take up a great deal of time and resources when handled manually. Document process automation eliminates much of that tedious work by automatically extracting relevant customer data and automatically comparing and confirming its accuracy using a three-way matching process. 

Insurance Sample

Packing slips

Packing slips are vital documents in all kinds of manufacturing and logistics businesses. A packing slip lists all necessary information about all items, materials, and packages included in a shipment so that all parties can confirm that the shipment is complete. By automatically pulling data from multiple sources and routing the completed form for approvals, your software system greatly reduces the time it takes to create a packing slip while also eliminating the risk of human errors that can slow down the process.

Packing Slip_Investment Policy Statement

After-Visit Summaries

An after-visit summary is an important healthcare document that provides a record of what has been discussed between a care provider and a patient, including lists of medications, prescription orders, reminders of follow-up appointments, and more. Automated document creation helps build more useful after-visit summaries by allowing patients to enter and update their own information using smart documents, creating an empowering and more accurate patient experience. 

After Visit Summary Sample

Choosing a Document Automation Platform

What technology to look for when deciding on your document automation platform depends largely on your business needs and your industry. Some businesses require more robust features than others, but this set of features should be essential to most organizations.

Any-Premise Hosting

Look for a document management system that can be deployed in any environment, including onsite, via a hosted service, remotely via cloud, or a hybrid of these.

Advanced and Flexible Integration Capabilities

Any worthwhile document automation solution should integrate easily and seamlessly with your existing business systems and be able to scale and grow along with them.

Customizable Templates

A template library that allows customization helps to increase flexibility and personalization while also keeping branding consistent and following your industry’s best practices.

Template Library

A rich library of customizable templates, including reusable content fragments and brand assets, makes producing documents quicker while also ensuring that your communications are on-brand and relevant to your industry and use cases.

Omnichannel Document Distribution Features

Document automation software comes with omnichannel communications, which allow you to seamlessly communicate via email, SMS messaging, print, or any other channels your customers prefer, keeping branding and content consistent across smartphones, tablets, and PCs.

Smart Document Capabilities

Today’s customers expect an interactive and engaging experience. Document automation makes it easy to build interactive smart documents with embedded video and audio files, clickable buttons and hyperlinks, PDF forms, and photo galleries.

Web Form Capabilities

Being able to generate interactive, easy-to-use web forms to collect important customer data helps your business empower customers while also reducing data entry tasks for your team.

User-Friendly Software for Non-IT Users

Relying on the IT department to make necessary changes and edits to your documents is a slow and time-consuming process. A document automation platform should include no-code, user-friendly controls that allow all business users to make those adjustments.

Reporting and Insights

Automated data analytics tools make it much easier to generate instant reports that help your team find deep insights into inefficiencies, opportunities, and alterations to your document workflow process.

Reliable Scalability

As your business needs evolve, so do your document production needs. A system that can automatically scale to match changes in volume, timelines, and schedules is essential to providing your customers with the service they need when they need it.

Experienced and Local Professional Services

Getting the most out of your document automation platform requires a personal touch. That calls for a professional services team that knows your industry and local regulations, can guide implementation on your schedule, can ensure that integration, workflow optimization, and other configurations meet your precise needs.

MHC Engage CX

Unleash the power of automated customer communications with MHC EngageCX, our comprehensive suite of solutions that will help you streamline your document creation and communication processes!


Download the MHC Document Automation Buyer’s Guide

Want to dive deeper into document automation before making your purchasing decision? Download our in-depth whitepaper to explore the ins and outs of automating your organization’s document creation and distribution process, including 15 key points to consider when buying a solution.

Take Document Automation to the Next Level with MHC

Ready to take the next step toward automating your document creation and delivery process? Visit our document automation solutions page to explore the tasks and functions that document assembly and processing software from MHC can help you streamline and improve. And if you’re ready to get a first-hand look at what MHC can do for you, contact us today to request a free demonstration. Our in-house experts will contact you to learn more about your organization’s needs and requirements, then tailor a solution designed specifically to improve your processes.

Ira Brooker

Ira Brooker is a freelance writer and editor based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He has been writing blogs and copy about software-as-a-service solutions for most of the past decade. Before exploring accounts payable and workflow solutions with MHC, he wrote about fields including cybersecurity, workforce management, online accessibility, audiology, retail sales, and much more. When he’s not doing business writing, he also indulges in writing fiction, journalism, arts criticism, and bar trivia.


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