Manual document generation is often a tedious, time-consuming task—not to mention unnecessarily complex.
The whole process can prove costly when you factor in rework (due to manual errors), payroll, and equipment. A recent study found that manual and paper-based processes can be 20 times more expensive than computer-assisted.
Contrary, by adopting document automation and generation software, businesses can increase workflow efficiencies and become more agile — saving both time and money.
But with so many document generation software tools in the market, how do you evaluate which one best fits your business needs?
Below, we’ll help you evaluate document generation software and go over some questions you should be asking yourself before making a decision.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What Is Document Generation Software And How Does It Work?
- 5 Key Benefits Of Document Generation Software For Businesses
- Essential Features To Look For In Document Generation Software
- 7 Practical Questions To Consider When Evaluating Document Generation Software
Ultimately, our goal below is to give you a headstart so that you can spend less time researching and more time focusing on higher-value work.
What Is Document Generation Software And How Does It Work?
First, before we go over the questions to evaluate document generation software, let’s go over how the software works and some other related concepts you need to know about.
Document generation software is a tool that enables users to create, customize, and edit templates to assemble new documents.
These platforms often share similar functionality as PDF creators, and they leverage data from various third-party sources to help users produce data-driven documents.
They can pull data from enterprise apps, databases, XML, Excel sources, and more.
Users can use document generation apps to create a wide range of documents, including contracts, proposals, forms, legal documents, reports, and notes — to mention a few.
For a list of the 13 most common document templates for automated PDF generation, see our full article on the topic.
How does document automation work?
Document automation (or document assembly) is about as simple as it sounds; it means automating the creation of business-critical documents. It uses software tools to create documents automatically from a set of data or templates.
This can include merging data from multiple sources into a single document or creating documents from scratch based on a set of defined rules.
Some types of documents you could be automating include:
- Information notices.
- Invoices and bills.
- Tax documents.
- Request forms.
- Agreements and claims.
- Financial statements.
- And more.
How does document generation work?
Simply put, document generation is the process of producing high-volume business documents.
Typically, the procedure involves using existing templates to create a bulk of documents that are critical to the operation of the business.
It's important to note that, although document generation is a subset of document automation, not all software tools in the market have this feature. Moreover, many available vendors don't offer this function as a separate tool.
What is reporting software?
Reporting software is a subcategory of document generation software used to create reports from data.
However, you cannot create documents with reporting software—but you can use document generation applications to produce reports.
5 Key Benefits Of Document Generation Software For Businesses
Benefits of document generation include:
- Saving time and money.
- Outputting documents across multiple formats.
- Automating workflow processes and business standard operating procedures as far as documents are concerned.
- Increased accuracy and efficiency.
- Consistent branding across all documents generated.
Let’s take a look at each in detail.
It saves both time and money
This is a no-brainer. Manual, repetitive tasks can quickly add up to a lot of wasted time, thus impacting productivity, employee satisfaction, and performance.
Add to that pain the cost a business will incur hiring workers to complete the tasks on time.
Automation helps staff execute tasks quicker, saving business money in the process.
Streamlined document generation helps save hours’ worth of work weekly, improve efficiency, and increase productivity, leading to better control over the business overall.
Considering the average worker, makes around 61 trips per week to the fax machine, printer, copier, and so on, online document generation seems like an obvious solution for workflow automation.
Output in multiple formats
With so many methods of presenting documents, not all people read them in the same way or want to download them in the same format.
But with document generation tools, users can create and share files in different formats that readers can read, download, and store.
The output formats you can create with document automation include word processing files, PDFs, HTML pages, and more.
Automatic creation of workflows and processes
Automatic or semi-automatic document generation can help create and streamline workflows and processes.
You won't need extra personnel to make updates when you have document generation software because everything will be done automatically. In return, business operations get a quick turnaround time—improving customer experience.
Increased accuracy and efficiency
Document automation means less human error, and thus a high level of accuracy and efficiency.
This is critical, especially in industries where something as simple as a comma—or lack of it, could be a deciding factor in whether your business will incur more costs.
Consistent branding across all documents
Document generation tools ensure the creation of documents consistent with a company's branding.
You can customize and save templates with editable information such as text specifications (filename, font type, size, color, etc.), your company's address, contact details, and logo.
This way, you'll always have control over your brand with consistent documentation.
Now, here’s where you should start with document generation software.
Essential Features To Look For In Document Generation Software
It is important to consider the program's features when looking for document generation software.
Indeed, you need a product that can deliver results and guarantee efficiency. Here are key elements that foster the appeal of a document generation tool:
Templates allow users to customize the text/message only where necessary, keeping formatting familiar across many different types of documents.
Before choosing a document generation vendor, you should ensure that the product supports both dynamic and customizable templates to create documents easily.
Some of the most common document templates include:
- Invoices and bills.
- Medical test results and reports for healthcare document management.
- Confirmation letters.
- Request forms.
- And more.
Multiple output formats
A document generation software should support multiple output formats for a better product output experience.
These formats can range from PDFs, Word documents, or web-based forms.
Many document generation platforms are designed to automate or streamline processes. They should only establish a workflow path for documents once and use the same logic to automate future procedures and workflows.
Most document generation platforms support multiple users and can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
This allows teams to communicate and share information in real-time, whether you're working in the same company, at disparate locations, or you don't work for the same company.
Documents can be digitally signed, confirming that the document has indeed been created by the person whose signature it bears.
This is especially important when generating sensitive or personal information documents, such as medical or insurance records.
These signatures are becoming a must-have due to their security and convenience.
A document generation tool should support the generation of documents in batches.
This way, when you need to generate a large number of documents—and want to save time, you don't have to open each one individually.
Some document generation platforms will also feature adjustable intervals between file generation, allowing you to schedule your work according to your own schedule and business needs.
A good document generation platform should easily be compatible with your database or other parts of your system, allowing the product to track interactions with documents.
For example, some platforms enable automatic tracking of how many times a document has been viewed and send regular reports to designated staff members.
This is particularly useful for organizations with large teams who need to monitor which documents are being used and where they are.
Ideally, you should be tracking your document lifecycle and the stages your document is at currently across different projects.
- Document creation.
- Safe document storage.
- Sharing and delivering.
- Editing as needed, based on user roles and permission settings.
- Compliant archival or destruction as needed.
This is especially important when switching to paperless billing.
Now, let’s cover some practical questions you should be asking yourself to decide.
7 Practical Questions To Consider When Evaluating Document Generation Software
Now, let's get to the best part.
How do you choose the best document generation system for your company?
Consider asking yourself the following questions to make an informed decision:
- #1. Does the system meet your requirements in terms of features?
- #2. Is there customization, so it applies to your brand needs?
- #3. Does it integrate with your other system and tools?
- #4. What file formats does the document generation software support?
- #5. How many users and documents can the solution support?
- #6. What is the price range of the software, and is it worth the value?
- #7. What is the vendor's service level agreement? How do they provide support?
#1. Does the system meet your requirements in terms of features?
When looking at document generation software, you will want to check out what features come with the product.
Here, you can evaluate what configurations and customizations are available to support your business needs.
Consider covering the following features:
- User Interface.
- Notifications and alerts.
- Specific operational processes.
- Branding and logo.
#2. Is there customization, so it applies to your brand needs?
You will most likely want a customizable document generation system that makes it possible to change fonts and titles and add company logos.
This way, the documents feel more personal to you and your team.
If the vendor does not have a customization option or does not offer you the freedom to add to your brand, this may not be the right solution for you.
#3. Does it integrate with your other system and tools?
When hunting for a document generation vendor, you should always check whether the system can integrate with third-party tools like email software or CRM.
These tools are critical to generating data-driven documents that speak your brand's voice.
Moreover, ask yourself, if the system can integrate with other solutions, which one?
This will help you evaluate whether you can use the product with your existing tools and software.
#4. What file formats does the document generation software support?
Does the document generation software create documents in PDF, Microsoft Word, or other popular formats?
This is important because you want to ensure that the final product is in a file format that everyone can recognize and use.
In addition, it's equally important that it can support your company's printing needs.
For example, if everyone at your organization uses Adobe Acrobat Reader, it would make sense to output to that file format.
#5. How many users and documents can the solution support?
Before deciding on document generation software, be sure that it is scalable to meet your needs for the future.
Look at how many users can work with the software simultaneously and how many documents they can create.
More importantly, is the software scalable to match your future requirements. For instance, if you started with a small company with just five users, can your software meet your demands when you scale to, say, 20 users?
If the program can scale quickly to adapt to your company's growth, you will be satisfied with the results in the long run.
#6. What is the price range of the software, and is it worth the value?
How much do you have to spend on this software?
Do they offer an entry-level package that's easy to purchase but maybe lacks some features, or does it require a large amount of investment upfront?
Will the software require additional fees for maintenance or updates?
These are some of the questions you seek answers to so that you don't end up incurring other unexpected costs.
Another question you need to consider is whether you should “build or buy”.
- Building software from scratch - More expensive and time-consuming, but will be custom-tailored to your needs and operations.
- Buying industry-specific software - More convenient but might be harder to get it “just right”.
#7. What is the vendor's service level agreement? How do they provide support?
Here, you want to understand their response times if you need support, especially in emergencies.
Also, find out about the guaranteed uptime.
Remember that while all systems can experience downtime, the higher the availability, the less costly it can be for your business.
Other important things to consider include:
- Does the product's interface multilingual?
- Is there compensation after a downtime?
- How can you get support? Email, live chat, phone?
- Are there different levels of support offered?
- What time do they operate?
Where To Go From Here
When purchasing a new system, it's essential to weigh all options so that you can choose the best product for your company.
Armed with the necessary answers to these critical questions, we hope that you can now make an informed decision before settling for a document software vendor.
We would also like to encourage you to conduct a thorough research about a company before investing in its product.
This way, you can minimize any future risks that could hold your business back.
Finally, if you’re looking for more information on the topic and wondering what this might look like for your industry and organization, see our full guide on document generation APIs.
In it, we cover some essential document management and customization features, industries in which automated document generation is a must-have, and more.