Does your business generate a lot of documents? If you work in the legal, banking or insurance industries you will certainly generate a lot of documents, but just about every business generates documents as part of their day to day operations, whether they be sales orders, quotes, legal documents, inspection reports, business cases and so on.
Most documents that are created are based on templates, and many businesses take advantage of automated document generation software to improve the document creation process.
Typical document generation software offers features such as:
- The ability to generate documents in multiple formats (e.g. word, pdf, excel)
- The ability to merge data from other business systems
- Support for dynamic and customisable templates
- Support for complex content types, such as images, tables, and charts
Automated document creation certainly offers business control and efficiency when producing documents. The benefits of automated document generation include reduced risk, increased compliance, and time savings. However, there is another aspect to document creation that most automated document generation tools do not address, and that is managing the workflow, or business process, around document creation.
For instance, you might have a tool that automates the creation of loan documentation for a customer, but this is just one step in a larger process, that starts with the loan request and involves approvals, data input and integration with business systems.
A loan origination process needs to follow strict business rules to ensure compliance, and a business process automation platform is often used to manage this process by using electronic forms and workflows that integrate with business systems. Ideally, this workflow process would also be able to also automate the document generation process, I hear you say? Well, this is where a platform like K2 comes into play. K2 is a leading digital automation platform that allows you to create apps to manage your business processes and integrate with just about any data source or system.
Let’s take the scenario of creating engineering inspection reports to see how K2 and an automated document generation tool can work together to manage and automate a complete business process. In this scenario we will be using HotDocs, who is a leading automated document assembly software vendor, to generate the document. We will be using a K2 app to manage the inspection process, and HotDocs to generate the inspection report at the end of the process based on a predefined report template. The business process is described in the diagram below.
An engineering inspection is initiated, and a task is assigned to one or more inspectors to complete the inspection. An inspection can be completed via a mobile device, using the K2 Workspace app, or via an electronic form on a PC or laptop. Inspectors complete the inspection and record the results on their device, including adding photos if required. Once the inspection is completed it creates a report – this is where HotDocs comes in – in Word format. Some further automation is done to add images to the report and then a review task is created. If the review is approved, then the report is emailed to the appropriate parties. If the review is rejected, then the inspection is required to be performed again.
At no stage of this process does anyone need to open the report document up and enter information. If the report format changes, it is updated in the central repository on HotDocs, ensuring that any new reports generated using the updated template. The K2 workflow ensures that the correct report template is selected and that the report is reviewed before being issued. Compare this fully automated solution with a manual process and you can quickly see that there are huge benefits. The risk of using the wrong report template is removed, as users do not need to go looking for it (and perhaps just open the last report they created and use it, introducing the risk of incorrect information being left in the document). The report data is accurate as the data collected from the inspections together with other business data (such as the customer name) are used to generate the report. And of course, the time to create the document is greatly reduced, meaning workers can focus on other tasks instead of the manual and boring job of creating a report in Word.
So how does K2 integrate with the HotDocs service? Like most services these days, HotDocs offer an API (Application Programming Interface) based on a REST web service. K2 can integrate with REST web services through the creation of a swagger file (a descriptor of the web service). Describing the technical details of how this is integration is achieved is not the purpose of this post, however, it is good to know that integrating with REST services is a standard part of K2 app development and will not require a lot of effort. Every automated document generation software should provide an API to allow integration with other systems. Each API will be different, but they should all allow you to achieve the basic steps of creating a document from a template and merging data into those documents.
Using a digital automation platform, such as K2, in combination with an automated document generation software like HotDocs, provides a powerful way to manage your end to end business processes that involve document generation. K2 gives you the ability to automate your process to ensure business rules are followed (such as necessary approvals), that data integration with your business systems is seamless, and that users can complete their tasks quickly and easily on the desktop or mobile devices. HotDocs lets you maintain a suite of document templates to ensure that documents are created efficiently and with accurate information, and importantly with no need for a user to manually enter information.
Combining K2 and HotDocs together means you can reduce the time from start to finish for processes that generate documents. Consider how important this could be in scenarios like loan origination, where reducing the time from loan application to approval and document issue could improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs.
If document generation is a core part of your business, or even if it is not core but is a current pain point, consider how using a digital automation platform like K2 in conjunction with an automated document generation tool like HotDocs could make your business processes that involve document generation faster, more accurate and with less risk.
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Solution Architect, K2