The Importance of Document Automation

When you envision “automation,” what comes to mind? For many people, it's images of large automotive assembly lines. Deploying robotic arms and other modern marvels, these manufacturing facilities are monuments to the power of automation.

However, the real automation revolution today happens outside the manufacturing floor. In offices around the world, automation software is transforming knowledge work—particularly solutions that incorporate artificial intelligence (AI).

The State of AI and Automation

AI chatbots, such as ChatGPT, are attracting attention, especially across social media. Chatbots use large language models (LLM), natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning (ML) to generate helpful answers to questions that are written in plain language.

In professional services fields, such as legal work, organizations must approach AI automation with caution. In one highly publicized blunder, a New York attorney faced penalties for submitting an AI chatbot-generated motion that cited non-existent case law.

Technologies such as document automation—enhanced by AI—will benefit professional services and knowledge workers in general the most.

Defining Document Automation

Document automation is the strategic use of software to assist in the creation and management of electronic documents.

The process begins with identifying common elements and functions in an organization’s documents. Then, organizations use document automation systems to create templates and modules that users can access to generate individual documents.

The Benefits of Document Automation

The most significant benefit of document automation is time saved for knowledge workers.

In the legal field and across other fields, knowledge workers commonly create, edit, review, sign, and approve documents as a regular part of their duties. Being able to quickly build new documents from pre-existing templates allows them to spend more time engaging their complex problem-solving and high-level decision-making skillsets.

Deploying document automation systems for the automation of knowledge also drives consistency and ensures internal and external documents contain up-to-date information.

Document Automation: How It Works

For knowledge users, accessing a document automation system is simple:

  • From the document automation system interface, users select a relevant template for the type of document they want to create. Document templates can be anything from RFPs to lease documents.
  • After the user answers a series of interview-style questions, the document automation system creates an editable first draft of the document. Some conditional fields may already be populated; others may require user completion. The structure and, in many cases, the bulk of the wording will be created for them.
  • From there, users can edit and review the created document as needed. They can also share information and export to common digital file formats such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel.

Document Automation in Law

Document automation in law is particularly important given the essential role documents play within legal proceedings.

Legal document digitalization has fallen behind—even today, massive stacks of paper documents remain a common sight at most law firms. Firms that embrace digital transformation are reaping significant time savings from digital document management.

Document automation systems are the logical next step in knowledge work automation. Knowledge management systems help lawyers and other legal staff draft agreements, forms, letters, and other legal documents quicker than word processors or PDF tools alone.

Document Automation vs. Document Control

Document control is a broad term that refers to the processes by which organizations manage the creation, review, modification, and sharing of documents.

Document automation slots in under the document creation and document management components of document control. But there’s a lot more to document control systems than just document automation. Some essential functions of document control include:

  • Document identification
  • Document storage
  • Version control
  • Document review and approval
  • Distribution
  • Document archiving
  • Document retrieval and access control
  • Document retention and deletion
  • Training and awareness

Both document automation and document control are important aspects of knowledge work management and knowledge sharing within an organization.

How to Choose a Document Automation System

Ease of use is one of the most important considerations when evaluating document automation products and services. A visual, no-code automation interface equips knowledge workers to set up document data with ease and makes automating documents simple for non-technical users.

The use of artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a differentiator among vendors. Many important document automation functions can benefit from AI, including:

  • Document automatic classification
  • Document automatic evaluation
  • Document autoencoder functionality
  • Document auto-tagging

To maximize knowledge management tools, organizations should ask vendors questions about how they use AI or machine learning models for knowledge management solutions.


What is document automation?

Organizations use document automation software to save time generating new, compliant documents at all levels of complexity.

With document automation software, organizations can create a library of clauses or modules for use in templates. This allows organizations to easily create, save, and organize best practices and integrate their playbook with a collection of reusable clauses.

Document automation software can enable non-technical users, such as human resources professionals, to automate documents without the help of IT support teams. Modern document automation software offers an easy-to-use visual interface. Vendors may also offer other self-service tools. For instance, they may offer widgets that help release automated content anywhere or that help generate new documents directly from third-party input.

What do knowledge workers stand to gain from automation?

Effective knowledge work requires sustained, high-level thinking. Any work that interrupts the flow of knowledge workers is a drain on productivity and a waste of organizational resources. Document automation and other knowledge management software solutions save knowledge workers time wasted on mundane tasks so they can get back to solving problems and creating value.