Handling documents to develop ML automation processes is a complex task. It’s not as simple as clicking a few buttons on your computer! It consists of numerous tasks, each involving several steps that often take manual labor. That applies to all kinds of documents, including order forms, sales proposals, memos, and contracts. Let’s understand what document automation entails.
What is document automation?
Document automation is the application of workflows and systems to streamline document-related tasks. These tasks may include generating, sending, saving, archiving, and annotating documents.
The document automation system may come in various forms—manually, or with an application, platform, or software in many cases. For one, certain tools can have numerous features to assist in various tasks, while developers design other tools to help with a single document-related task. A document annotation tool, for instance, will consist mostly of features that allow you to easily insert comments and remarks, or notes on documents while annotating.
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The ways document automation can boost your business
One thing common among these data labeling platforms is that they all can help boost a business, albeit in different ways. Here are four ways automating your document management can potentially help your business:
1. It minimizes the likelihood of human errors
‘Human error’ refers to an action that an actor took without intending to. Put simply, it’s an undesired result or error that occurs due to a human’s imperfection, hence the name.
Due to the commonness of errors, some people downplay their impact on businesses. However, you must keep in mind that it’s one reason for a company’s poor performance. In fact, according to an analysis report from Marketwire, human errors cost UK and US businesses a total of 37 billion dollars in 2008.
To give a better idea of the impact of human errors, below are some examples of human errors that specifically involve document-related tasks:
- When an employee types in the wrong information in a document, it can lead to misunderstandings that the staff must then clear. As a result, it can lead to longer transaction times, reducing the number of transactions per day.
- When an employee sends the document to the wrong email address or place, it can result in data leaks. A data leak will then compromise the safety of your business.
- When an employee accidentally deletes the document, they’d have to process it again. Rather than working on a new task, the employee will spend their limited hours on the same task that they could’ve finished long ago, reducing productivity.
Though the scenario is different, all these points to one fact — human errors reduce key performance indicators or KPIs, and that can be bad for business. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to completely eliminate the likelihood of human errors. After all, ‘to err is human,’ but that’s exactly what you should go for. Rather than relying on humans, you can rely on systems.
A document automation system or workflow eliminates the need for human input, allowing you to drastically reduce or even possibly get rid of the likelihood of any kind of human error.
2. Automation can maximize document security
Document life cycle represents the different stages a document must go through from its creation to the eventual disposal, or in some cases, “archivation.” The life cycle may vary from one document to another, but it should consist of the following five stages:
This is also known as document creation, which is when the system creates the file on the computer. The document typically starts out as a copy of the template.
This is when the system assembles the necessary data or inputs like names, dates, and numbers to turn the template copy into a unique document.
This is when the system transfers the completed document to a recipient, like a client or a customer. It also moves the document to secure storage, typically cloud storage in a secure server or a storage location within the system itself.
This involves organizing a large number of documents to ensure the user can easily find the documents they’re looking for within the system as needed.
Document archival or disposal is the stage where you must decide if you’ll dispose of the document completely or simply archive it. This stage is optional and is only necessary if the document is no longer necessary and/or if its existence can lead to problems.
No matter how efficient your workflow is, there will always be a gap between each of these stages. For instance, there will be a gap between the time you create the document and the time you transfer it into a secure storage location. And that gap can serve as an opportunity for hackers to get into your system and steal the document, specifically its data. Experts call this technique data interception, where the hacker intercepts data during transmission.
It’s an effective technique mainly because data is most vulnerable during transmission unless it has some sort of data encryption. That’s essentially what document automation offers.
Speed and security are two of the main characteristics of document automation systems. They can breeze through the five stages of the document life cycle without giving cybercriminals the time to steal your data. Most platforms also have encryption technology in case of data breaches, basically guaranteeing that your documents, and the data they contain stay safe and secure.
Since a single cyberattack can cost a small business up to USD$38,000, preventing them from happening can go a long way in helping your business as it can minimize potential losses.
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3. It boosts employee morale, satisfaction, and productivity
Document handling is a repetitive and time-consuming job. You have to fill dozens of fields, copy-paste company information, and check for mistakes, among other things. Though it’s not immediately noticeable, the monotonous workflow that document handling requires will eventually lower employee morale, satisfaction, and, in the end, productivity.
You can attribute this fact to many factors, but it mostly happens because they don’t feel a sense of accomplishment from what they do for a living. That’s especially true for office workers. Document automation allows you to eliminate those repetitive tasks as you begin to rely on an automated platform for document-related tasks. This can lead to two main benefits.
To start with, it allows you to make better use of your employees’ talents and skills, which in turn boosts profitability. Second, they’re more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment as they’re not engaging in activities that not just anyone can do, maximizing their productivity.
Studies also show that using software, systems, or any other technology for business operations can attract tech-savvy talents that can serve as a great asset to your company.
4. Document automation saves you time
The phrase ‘time is money’ applies to many situations, but it’s doubly true when it comes to running a business. Time is a contributing factor to a company’s revenue.
Take a painting company, for example. Even if you have a thousand clients, it isn’t possible to earn millions of dollars overnight alone. This is because, just like money, your time is limited.
That’s why business owners hire employees. It’s an excellent way to extend the time the business can spend to generate revenue. However, there are other ways to extend your time. In particular, you can find ways to minimize the time it takes to accomplish certain tasks.
Using the previous example of a painting company, rather than writing quotes manually, the owner can instead use a quotation app. It may cost money, but it can turn a 10-minute task into a 1-minute task, giving the owner more time to spend on other matters. That’s one of the main ideas behind document automation, to turn time-consuming tasks into quick ones.
Below are some examples of ways a document automation system can save you time:
- It can insert your company’s information where necessary.
- It can put the current date in the appropriate fields.
- It can check for grammar and spelling mistakes (ideal for legal documents).
- It can look for inconsistencies between different types of data (i.e., when calculating the total cost of products and services rendered in quotations or estimates).
As obvious of a benefit as it may be, people tend to downplay the importance of saving time on a business. But it’s important to remember that automation tools can save a company millions of dollars by saving time. There’s no reason not to believe document automation can do the same. After all, it is an automation tool and one of the most useful ones at that.
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It’s undeniable that document automation is an extremely useful technology for a business. But just like most systems, it comes with its challenges. For starters, it’s not easy to implement, as it requires specific skills and technology to properly establish. Moreover, it can take several days or even weeks to completely set up. However, once you do so, the benefits you can reap are incomparable to these challenges. In short, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.
- International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development. “Why You Should Consider the Cost of Human Error.” https://www.ictsd.org/business/how-much-do-human-error-cost-us-business/.
- Jackson, Nancy Mann. “Eliminating Repetitive Work Can Boost Productivity.” Automatic Data Processing, Inc., July 18, 2018. https://www.adp.com/spark/articles/2016/10/eliminating-repetitive-work-can-boost-productivity.aspx.
- Savani, Fenil. “Data Interception and Theft: 7 Methods to Protect Your Data.” Tech Arbiters, September 7, 2021. https://techarbiters.com/data-interception-and-theft/.
- Vertex. “American Companies are Saving $10m+ Annually, Just by Automating these Processes.” May 10, 2021. https://www.vertex.com/american-companies-saving-10m-annually-process-automation/.