Wondering if you should build a document generation software from scratch for your business or use a paid API?

Read on for an overview of the process as well as potential problems you might encounter…

Document generation is the practice of automatically generating business documents like contracts, sales proposals, work orders, and invoices

You might need a document generation solution IF:

  • You work in a position where you prepare a lot of quotes or proposals for clients manually.
  • You have a job that requires you to prepare non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or employment contracts for each new project.
  • You're tired of writing the same paperwork over and over again, and you'd like to make it simple for others to fill out administrative forms.

In every business, no matter how large or small, a document management system is used to track and archive the countless papers created daily. 

A brand new document creation system might seem like a good idea on paper.

After all, you can modify, adjust, and edit your software based on your unique needs and requirements.

But, at the same time, this process can be time-consuming and costly.

Below, we’ll cover some of the problems that come with building document generation software from scratch, as well as how to overcome them.

Here's what we'll cover:

  • How Does Document Generation Software Work? Overview & Benefits
  • Document Generation: Build From Scratch Or Buy?
  • 3 Biggest Obstacles When Building a Document Management Generation Solution From Scratch

How Does Document Generation Software Work? Overview & Benefits

Document generation software has a long list of advantages. 

Let’s first take a look at the top seven benefits first before discussing building one from scratch.

1. Significantly reduced time

According to ReferralMd, a typical office worker makes around 61 trips to the fax machine, printer, and copier.

Additionally, an average of 4 weeks is lost in businesses on misfiled, mislabeled, or untracked documents.

You can significantly reduce time spent on document management as well as generation, with the right software.

You can also quickly write a single contract or mass-produce updated policy documents in less time. 

Or, you can save time by automating review and approval with your document generation software. 

With less time spent on document generation, you'll have more time to focus on tasks that will help your company expand.

2. Fewer mistakes

Accuracy is crucial. Small mistakes, like typos or omitted legal declarations, might lead to major issues. 

Cutting, pasting, manual formatting, and recalling what should be included in each form of communication are all eliminated when standard templates and automatic document production are used. 

As a result, you'll make fewer mistakes and have better consistency.

Is document automation right for you?

See our guide on what makes document automation possible for more info on this.

3. Integration is simple

Document generation software is advisable as it easily integrates with your existing tools. 

They integrate with Powerpoint, Excel, Microsoft Word, and other popular office apps. 

Data sources also help with the design components, formatting, and text you need to create bespoke templates and high-quality documents.

4. Improved branding

Document creation software makes it simple to add uniform branding components to all of your documents. 

You and your staff can easily produce professional-looking papers that reflect your own identity.

5. Effortless compliance

In banking, insurance, government, legal, and finance, legal disclosure is required.

Forgetting to provide or update information essential for legal compliance might get you in a lot of trouble. 

Compliance controls are included in most document-generating solutions. 

They assist you to avoid compliance concerns by guaranteeing that legal disclosures and other critical information are instantly included when needed. 

6. Increased client satisfaction

Your ability to quickly develop and deliver authentic documents with uniform format and branding will satisfy your customers.

To sum up this section, some of the most common document templates you can automatically generate include:

  • Invoices and bills.
  • Cash receipts.
  • Financial statements.
  • Medical tests and reports.
  • Patient information records.
  • Confirmation letters.
  • Agreements.
  • Contracts.
  • And more.

Document Generation: Build From Scratch Or Buy?

Organizations that need automated document and record management in their portals can develop functionality from scratch or use a paid (or free) PDF generation API.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the build vs buy framework.

Whatever option you choose, it must bring real business value.

Typically, this falls into the categories of:

  • Differentiation - You're looking for custom or unique features that are not found in other software or market.
  • Market maturity - Competitors are investing in new features and thus, they've become table stakes. You need to build or buy these features to keep up.
  • Market share - You may already be a category leader and growth requires you to expand into new verticals.

However, building or buying document generation software that doesn't align with your business goals or meaningfully helps you stand out can be wasteful.

With that, you should also be looking at:

  • The problems your new software or tech will solve. If you’re considering building document generation software from scratch, chances are, you have unique needs that current software doesn’t solve.
  • The scope of the project - costs, resources, budget, development cycle, and so on.
  • Integrations - Whether or not your new product will integrate into your existing product.
  • When you can expect to see ROI - time-to-value has a direct impact on ROI. The faster you can deliver a product and drive value, the stronger your upper hand in building the software will be.
  • Other associated risks - Security risks, who will be responsible for issues or bugs, and so on.

Of course, this is very contextual and takes a longer time to fully decide.

Our short answer is that buying an API is more convenient and resourceful in most cases. Especially if you’re running a big business working with repetitive documents that can be automated.

Take a look at our guide on document generation in healthcare: build or buy for a detailed breakdown of this.

Now, let’s take a look at some problems and obstacles you’ll come across if you decide to build from scratch as well as other points you should consider.

Below, we’ll also cover some specific cases of when you SHOULD consider building a document generation solution for your company.

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3 Biggest Obstacles When Building a Document Management Generation Solution From Scratch

An effective document management system is crucial to making sure your business operations function smoothly.

Done well, automated document generation can save your operations teams a lot of time and money.

But if you’re focusing on building a solution from scratch, here are some obstacles you might come across.

Obstacle 1: It takes a lot of time and money

As with starting any kind of a new project, one of the biggest obstacles you’ll come across in building a document generation solution from scratch has to do with its allocation of time and money.

According to Uptech, the ballpark range of software development varies anywhere between $50,000 to $250,000 and higher.

While there are tactical steps you can take to reduce the costs of your document generation solution development, there is no denying that the project will consume a lot of your budget.

Meanwhile, in favor of using a document generation API, the 2 main advantages include:

  • According to McKinsey, 59% of businesses going paperless with a document generation system achieved full ROI in less than 12 months. And 84% achieved payback in under 18 months.
  • And the fact most document generation software ranges from as low as $20/mo to $100/mo to $2,500/mo and higher. This will largely depend on how many pages you're working with per year. See Inkit’s pricing page for a pricing calculation based on the number of pages you’re managing.

So, when looking at the financial ROI of a document generation solution, the savings also include:

  • Immediate savings on printing-related costs.
  • Reduced end-to-end collaboration and document creation times.
  • Improved accountability and decision-making.
  • The opportunity cost of employees working on more productive tasks.
  • And more.

And finally, according to TotallyPaperless:

  • One four-drawer file cabinet holds 15,000 to 20,000 pages of paper. It costs $25,000 to fill and $2,000 per year to maintain.
  • Additionally, it costs around $20 to file a document, $120 to search for a misfiled document, and around $250 to recreate a lost document.

While these are approximate numbers, it’s safe to say that working with paper is much more expensive and time-consuming.

Another option is to consider balancing paper and digital for your business if you can’t make the full switch immediately or still need to use some paper documents.

Obstacle 2: Ongoing support once the project is wrapped

Product development and maintenance are important. 

You may not have the time, funds, or staff needed to build software from scratch.  Because, once the document generation solution is built, you still need to allocate resources to maintaining or supporting the software.

For many companies, this isn’t feasible as it can distract them from their core offering.

Resources that were dedicated to this project might need to be moved to other initiatives. And if the workload exceeds the capacity of your organization's workers, you might struggle to keep up with other projects and deliverables.

Obstacle 3: Highest standard of security

Many company documents contain confidential information that must be kept safe. 

Manual processes, on the other hand, provide almost no security protection. 

It is quite easy to get into such systems and extract confidential information, which can be devastating to a company's operations in some situations.

According to UpGuard, the most common causes of data and information leaks include:

  • Misconfigured software settings and safety parameters.
  • Social engineering or human negligence.
  • Recycled passwords.
  • Physical theft.
  • Software vulnerabilities.
  • Default passwords.
  • And more.

When building a document generation solution, you’re essentially taking the prevention of sensitive information getting out into your own hands.

And so, you’ll need to take into consideration:

  • GDPR, HIPAA, FINRA, and other industry-standard compliance.
  • Data security.
  • Avoiding industry fines.
  • Security features like encryption, audit log, webhook notification and integrations, 2FA support, and more.

The point is:

You’re not just building a document generation solution from scratch.

You’re also keeping track of and actively securing your sensitive data and customer information.

Thus, you’ll also need to implement complicated security settings and permission features.

Audit logs and user role setup features make security management much more convenient, as you’ll be able to operate securely. 

This way, you’ll be able to constantly track who viewed, opened, or edited important documents last. And be assured that only certain people will be able to access specific documents or files.

Where To Go From Here

With all that said, what are some cases when you should consider building custom software in-house?

Building custom software might make sense if the problem you’re facing is:

  • Difficult to solve.
  • Complex or unique.
  • Accessible via your product and development team's capabilities.

Though that’s not often the case with document generation software and electronic document management systems (EDMS). Since many software are optimized for certain industries or use cases.

However, to answer the question, you should consider building a document generation solution from scratch IF:

  • The software is tied to your company's core competencies.
  • You need full control.
  • You have excellent project management and support systems in place.
  • You can take advantage of economies of scale.
  • You have outgrown your existing software in terms of features and don’t have a lot of options from other software.

And that about wraps up this guide to this guide to document generation building problems and obstacles.

If you're looking for the highest standards of security and to establish zero trust for your documents…

You should know that Inkit was built specifically for this.

With Inkit Render, you're getting a document generation system with a built-in security platform.

Whether you’re looking to process 100 confidential reports or 100,000 customer documents, you can do so with a simple API request with Inkit Render.

Predesigned image that shows how instant document storage works

Is Inkit Render the right document generation platform for your business?

Before you start building one from scratch, be sure to look into how Inkit Render helps whether you want to generate documents automatically, secure important PDFs, or centralize your document storage processes

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The easiest way to automatically generate and manage paperless documents at scale.
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