How to Automate a Document Workflow in Four Steps

If you haven’t already automated your document workflow, you’re unnecessarily wasting resources and employee time. Similarly, your conversions are almost certainly suffering.

Document workflow automation has become the norm in the modern corporate space. Whether you’re responsible for a global enterprise or a one-person small business, workflow automation is an achievable goal that provides many benefits. 

This blog post walks you through the process of automating your document workflow, from affecting a change in your organization’s culture right through to implementing a best-fit software solution. 

  1. Recognize the Benefits of a Paperless Office

If your company still believes in the value of using paper documents, you first need to address this misunderstanding. Highlighting the benefits of a paperless office can go a long way in persuading key decision-makers of the importance of document workflow automation. 

Here are the main reasons to go paperless:

  • Saves costs on storage space for paper documents.
  • Provides easy, fast access to documents for employees.
  • Allows for instant transfer of data from forms to databases.
  • Enables the use of time-saving electronic signatures for senders and recipients. 
  • Ensures secure storage and compliance with data protection laws. 

There are other benefits that digital documents provide, but these are the main ones. Fostering an understanding of why paperless document workflows drive efficiency will ensure adoption and use across your company. 

  1. Create Assets to Streamline Document Creation

Many companies assume that automating their document workflow results in an entirely hands-off approach. But this isn’t the case. Some processes can only be partially automated. 

In particular, document creation will almost always require some form of human input, even if it is only to review an auto-generated invoice or receipt. 

Assets like pre-written templates, legal content, and reusable visual elements like tables, graphs and videos can all help streamline your workflow. If you don’t already leverage tools like these, consider setting aside time to create them 

Furthermore, high-quality workflow automation software provides features that enable users to store and retrieve assets during the drafting process. Some even provide reusable assets as part of their service. For example, PandaDoc offers users a large library of ready-to-go document templates. 

  1. Determine Which Automation Features You Need

The features of different workflow automation platforms often vary significantly. 

For example, an enterprise-level solution will typically offer dedicated vendor portals (for suppliers to access and share documents), support for multiple languages, and extensive developer tools. An app aimed at smaller businesses is unlikely to offer this kind of functionality. 

Think about the specific automation features that will most positively impact your business. Generally speaking, you should pay attention to the following areas:

  • Auto-creation of “audit trails” and electronic signature certificates.
  • Follow-up and renewal correspondence sent to unresponsive clients. 
  • Approval notifications sent to managers and executives within an organization. 
  • Auto-population of proposals and other documents with pricing and product data.

There are many areas of a document workflow that can be automated. Ultimately, it is up to you to determine which are non-negotiable for your business. 

  1. Identify Necessary Integrations Based On Your Current Tech Stack

Integrations can save significant amounts of time and financial resources. By automating tasks between platforms and ensuring the seamless transfer of data, hundreds of employee hours that would otherwise have been spent on menial tasks can be saved. 

Practically all workflow automation apps provide integrations. Determine which ones are essential, given the nature of your tech stack. For example, connecting with accounting, customer relationship management (CRM) and project management tools will usually be necessary. 

A Zapier integration, which enables you to connect with thousands of apps and can sometimes make up for the absence of native integrations, is always a big plus.