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5 Reasons Why Home-Grown Solutions Don’t Last

5 Reasons Why Home-Grown Solutions Don’t Last

Sep 14 · 1 min read

Some organisations come to Legito from a competitor solution, and some have no existing solution, but today I’m talking about organisations who have built a home-grown solution that isn’t meeting their needs.

Organisations with a requirement for automation are frequently big enough to employ technologists somewhere in the building. Or maybe they have a few people who have become experts in doing clever things with the usual office applications. One can do a lot with the standard suite of Microsoft office applications, especially if you’re willing to write some VBA code or macros. If your team needs a quick fix to a tedious or repeat task, there are many reasons why it might be appealing to build something rather than buy a solution from a vendor. If it fails, there’s no obvious penalty, or difficult conversations about wasted expenditure, and at least you can justify why you need to buy something instead? But…

5 reasons why home-grown solutions don’t last

 

1. Document automation is harder than it looks

Building sophisticated solutions is technically demanding when you get beyond mail-merge, quick-parts, and other quasi-automation tools in Word. The first document automation solution to achieve commercial success had over one million lines of code – and it was years before vendors could offer the automation options you can get now.

 

2. Home-grown solutions get stranded when people leave or move to other projects

I worked with an organisation that used a clever spreadsheet to calculate pricing. It was issued to all the sales execs. No doubt, the guy who created the spreadsheet was an Excel wizard, and the tool was smart. And then he left. Not a single person could fathom how to update the spreadsheet.

 

3. Office applications evolve

I have a family member who worked for a large public organisation I dare not mention. That organisation generated some rather important documents. A keen individual wrote a script for Word. He shared it with colleagues. Soon, everybody used it. Microsoft brought out a new version of Word, with the .docx format – and the script was incompatible with the new version. The IT team had no awareness of the automation. As the new version of Word rolled out, it just stopped working. Sure, he could have updated the script – but he had authored many documents, and it would take time – which they didn’t have.

 

4. In-house solutions are not built to be resilient or secure

Automation does more than execute tedious work. Modern business needs for automation frequently include business controls and compliance. There’s a need to ensure tasks are done correctly by people with the designated authority and backed up with auditable records. Business processes invariably require processing of personal data or confidential information. Enterprise-grade security and resilience must be designed into a solution, and that requires skills which are scarce.

 

5. Off-the-shelf solutions have a lower cost of ownership

Volume fees from numerous users finances the build cost of commercial software. More commercial software is now supplied as a cloud-based solution which includes the cost of hosting the solution and providing support. The true cost of building and deploying an in-house solution is probably not measured – but it’s real and costly.

5 Reasons Why Home-Grown Solutions Don’t Last

Sep 14 · 1 min read

Some organisations come to Legito from a competitor solution, and some have no existing solution, but today I’m talking about organisations who have built a home-grown solution that isn’t meeting their needs.

Organisations with a requirement for automation are frequently big enough to employ technologists somewhere in the building. Or maybe they have a few people who have become experts in doing clever things with the usual office applications. One can do a lot with the standard suite of Microsoft office applications, especially if you’re willing to write some VBA code or macros. If your team needs a quick fix to a tedious or repeat task, there are many reasons why it might be appealing to build something rather than buy a solution from a vendor. If it fails, there’s no obvious penalty, or difficult conversations about wasted expenditure, and at least you can justify why you need to buy something instead? But…

5 reasons why home-grown solutions don’t last

1. Document automation is harder than it looks

Building sophisticated solutions is technically demanding when you get beyond mail-merge, quick-parts, and other quasi-automation tools in Word. The first document automation solution to achieve commercial success had over one million lines of code – and it was years before vendors could offer the automation options you can get now.

 

2. Home-grown solutions get stranded when people leave or move to other projects

I worked with an organisation that used a clever spreadsheet to calculate pricing. It was issued to all the sales execs. No doubt, the guy who created the spreadsheet was an Excel wizard, and the tool was smart. And then he left. Not a single person could fathom how to update the spreadsheet.

 

3. Office applications evolve

I have a family member who worked for a large public organisation I dare not mention. That organisation generated some rather important documents. A keen individual wrote a script for Word. He shared it with colleagues. Soon, everybody used it. Microsoft brought out a new version of Word, with the .docx format – and the script was incompatible with the new version. The IT team had no awareness of the automation. As the new version of Word rolled out, it just stopped working. Sure, he could have updated the script – but he had authored many documents, and it would take time – which they didn’t have.

 

4. In-house solutions are not built to be resilient or secure

Automation does more than execute tedious work. Modern business needs for automation frequently include business controls and compliance. There’s a need to ensure tasks are done correctly by people with the designated authority and backed up with auditable records. Business processes invariably require processing of personal data or confidential information. Enterprise-grade security and resilience must be designed into a solution, and that requires skills which are scarce.

 

5. Off-the-shelf solutions have a lower cost of ownership

Volume fees from numerous users finances the build cost of commercial software. More commercial software is now supplied as a cloud-based solution which includes the cost of hosting the solution and providing support. The true cost of building and deploying an in-house solution is probably not measured – but it’s real and costly.

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5 Word Tips

5 Word Tips

July 13 · 5 min read

1. Preserving cross-references after inserting a paragraph

I need to explain the wrong way so that you see the benefit of the correct way. Suppose you have ten numbered paragraphs and insert a new paragraph after paragraph #3. If you move to the beginning of paragraph #3 and hit return to create a new paragraph, your new paragraph becomes number 3 (correct) and the old paragraph #3 is renumbered to paragraph #4 (correct). But, here’s the problem: any cross-references to the old paragraph #3 will still point to paragraph #3 even if you cause Word to update the fields. The references now point to your new paragraph instead of the text now in paragraph #4. The references will be incorrect, but no error will be reported. Instead, go to the end of the paragraph before the insertion point (rather than the beginning of the paragraph at the insertion point), and then hit return. When you update the fields, cross-references to old paragraph #3 will now point to new paragraph #4.


2. Updating cross-references when Word the ‘Update Fields’ menu is greyed out in Word. 

Hit Ctrl A and F9. It usually works (but not always!)

 

3. Reading contracts with definitions

Contracts tend to have defined terms, and the definitions are often grouped in one place. When reading a contract, it’s helpful to read the defined term. It’s a nuisance having to scroll back to the defined term and then forward to the text you are reading. Use View/Split to create two panes for your document. You can scroll separately in each. Have the definitions in one pane, and the main text in the other. Better still, if you have two monitors, have definitions on one monitor and the main text on the other.

 

4. Reinstating deleted text in a document with tracked changes

Microsoft ought to find a way to do this. Tracked changes show other readers what you have changed. Suppose a reviewer deletes text and you object to the deletion, so you want to show the text reinstated. The easiest way is to ‘Reject deletion’ but that won’t be apparent when you return the document, and it looks like you are being underhand. You need to (i) click ‘reject deletion’; (ii) Ctrl C to copy the text reinstated; (iii) undo the ‘reject deletion’; (iv) Ctrl V to paste back the text – which now appears as a tracked change.

 

5. Avoid empty pages

If you insert a page break in an automated document, don’t be surprised if you occasionally get an output document with an empty page. Instead of inserting page breaks, go to the paragraph properties of the first paragraph of the text you want on a new page, and select ‘Page break before’.

 

5 Word Tips

July 13 · 5 min read

July 13 · 5 min read

1. Preserving cross-references after inserting a paragraph

I need to explain the wrong way so that you see the benefit of the correct way. Suppose you have ten numbered paragraphs and insert a new paragraph after paragraph #3. If you move to the beginning of paragraph #3 and hit return to create a new paragraph, your new paragraph becomes number 3 (correct) and the old paragraph #3 is renumbered to paragraph #4 (correct). But, here’s the problem: any cross-references to the old paragraph #3 will still point to paragraph #3 even if you cause Word to update the fields. The references now point to your new paragraph instead of the text now in paragraph #4. The references will be incorrect, but no error will be reported. Instead, go to the end of the paragraph before the insertion point (rather than the beginning of the paragraph at the insertion point), and then hit return. When you update the fields, cross-references to old paragraph #3 will now point to new paragraph #4.


2. Updating cross-references when Word the ‘Update Fields’ menu is greyed out in Word. 

Hit Ctrl A and F9. It usually works (but not always!)

 

3. Reading contracts with definitions

Contracts tend to have defined terms, and the definitions are often grouped in one place. When reading a contract, it’s helpful to read the defined term. It’s a nuisance having to scroll back to the defined term and then forward to the text you are reading. Use View/Split to create two panes for your document. You can scroll separately in each. Have the definitions in one pane, and the main text in the other. Better still, if you have two monitors, have definitions on one monitor and the main text on the other.

 

4. Reinstating deleted text in a document with tracked changes

Microsoft ought to find a way to do this. Tracked changes show other readers what you have changed. Suppose a reviewer deletes text and you object to the deletion, so you want to show the text reinstated. The easiest way is to ‘Reject deletion’ but that won’t be apparent when you return the document, and it looks like you are being underhand. You need to (i) click ‘reject deletion’; (ii) Ctrl C to copy the text reinstated; (iii) undo the ‘reject deletion’; (iv) Ctrl V to paste back the text – which now appears as a tracked change.

 

5. Avoid empty pages

If you insert a page break in an automated document, don’t be surprised if you occasionally get an output document with an empty page. Instead of inserting page breaks, go to the paragraph properties of the first paragraph of the text you want on a new page, and select ‘Page break before’.

 

More Weekly Articles

Switching to a more modern solution – is it worth it?

Switching to a more modern solution Is it worth it?

About Charles Drayson

Charles is a UK lawyer who has used document automation for 20 years. He has worked for large law firms, corporate legal teams, and has automated legal and non-legal documents. He writes for Legito to share his passion for using automation to get work done. “I get a kick out of creating good content and seeing it used repeatedly and reliably by colleagues without fuss and bother”.

Switching to a more modern solution Is it worth it?

About Charles Drayson

Charles is a UK lawyer who has used document automation for 20 years. He has worked for large law firms, corporate legal teams, and has automated legal and non-legal documents. He writes for Legito to share his passion for using automation to get work done. “I get a kick out of creating good content and seeing it used repeatedly and reliably by colleagues without fuss and bother”.

Charles Drayson

May 24 · 5 min read

Charles Drayson

May 24 · 5 min read

Capital expenditure on software sold with a perpetual licence discouraged switching. Now, vendors sell more software on a subscription basis. The subscription model works for software vendors if most customers continue to use the software for a long time. Vendors have an incentive to reduce churn with regular updates and new features. That trend favours software deployed as software-as-a-service from a cloud-based platform. This should be good for customers: no capital expenditure (on software or hardware), regular upgrades, and less risk.

If your current solution disappoints, it should be easier to switch. Of course, it’s not quite that simple.
How do you rationalise changing to another system?

…SaaS solutions sold with subscriptions ought to be good news for organisations that want something better…

…SaaS solutions sold with subscriptions ought to be good news for organisations that want something better…

Document automation solutions have been around for years, but the market wasn’t big enough to support multiple vendors. Document automation was then limited to document assembly (generating tailored documents from templates driven by variable data provided in the form of an ‘interview’). The product was aimed at lawyers, and it’s fair to say they made productive use of document assembly, and still do. Vendors issue updates occasionally. Most updates merely extended document assembly to harness more tricky features like automating tables and keeping up with changes in Microsoft’s features and file formats.

Document assembly has evolved to be more competent and comprehensive. I’ve been using document assembly solutions for about 20 years, and it’s now rare to find a requirement that cannot be templated and automated somehow. More recently, the trend is towards improving the user experience rather than adding significant capability. If your only requirement is document assembly, it’s not difficult to find solutions that will do the job. If your organisation has already deployed a document assembly solution, there’s no reason to suppose it won’t continue to do the job.

But, why stop at document assembly?

…Document assembly is great, but more organisations are now tempted to switch solutions because they need to do more than automatically generate documents. And, most of them are not law firms… 

…Document assembly is great, but more organisations are now tempted to switch solutions because they need to do more than automatically generate documents. And, most of them are not law firms… 

While documents remain at the heart of many business processes, we want to automate more processes, and automate more of each process. Most humans (yes, I include lawyers in that grouping) don’t enjoy processing documents. Our organisations hand us a mandatory process, and we have to contort, negotiate and manage our way through it. Every time something changes, we have to get approvals. When we get busy, it’s hard to keep track of things using email. No wonder there’s a backlash against documents, especially long documents. They don’t fit neatly into a world that insists we get more done in less time.

It’s easy to visit a business team and find supporters who would like to ease their business processes. They know their existing methods are imperfect. Most of them could tell you what needs to be done to improve them. You can get all this feedback very easily…if you’re a colleague having a chat over a coffee at lunchtime, or if you’re a spouse who has to listen to all the things that are rubbish at the office (even the home office). They are much less likely to be forthcoming to a software sales exec! Be honest: 

Most people are sceptics when they see a technology solution that promises to make things better. But, if you haven’t looked at a modern solution, that scepticism could be misplaced. 

Most people are sceptics when they see a technology solution that promises to make things better. But, if you haven’t looked at a modern solution, that scepticism could be misplaced. 

Let’s look at the business case for switching to a modern document automation and document lifecycle management solution, assuming you already use an older document automation solution. 

Start your free trial

Some vendors, including Legito, will happily set you up with a free trial. Usually, it’s limited to one month, but ask Legito to extend the trial period if you need more time. If you are already using an older solution, it should be easy to pick a document to try on the new system. If you’re looking at Legito, we can usually connect you to a consultant who can help you migrate an existing template so you can see it working in your trial. This is your chance to check out two issues: how easy is it to move existing documents to the new solution, and how is the experience of using them?

Migrate existing documents

Switching from an older solution is usually quicker than starting from scratch. You have already identified the documents worth automating, and you already know how the documents work. Many of us at Legito have used older systems from other vendors, and we have helped other organisations make the switch. If you need help migrating existing documents, we can guide you on what’s involved. 

All it takes is one tool

When you switch, the first thing you’ll notice is that a solution like Legito can span your whole business process with one tool. It’s probably one of the reasons why you are thinking about the move. You don’t have to use every feature from day #1. Start with the improvements that your users will notice most. It’s easy to do more over time gradually. Aim for the smallest initial project that delivers value. Avoiding a big implementation project is an excellent way to win hearts and minds.

The ability to customise is key

Legito is easily customised – build a business case that isn’t limited to one team or process. Organisations typically deployed legacy document automation systems to provide a specific solution for a specific team. We find that organisations are switching from legacy solutions because they want to use one tool across the whole enterprise – they don’t want the overhead of managing user communities using different tools. Still, every team wants a solution that is designed for them. The HR team wants an employee-centric view of the world (offer letters, employment contracts, reference requests, joiner and leaver processes). The real estate team wants a property-centric view (lease documents, renewal reminders, facilities contracts).

Customising isn’t just about changing the look of the application (although that is nice) – it’s also about building a model of your data that matches the business needs. This ability reduces the total cost of ownership while at the same time increasing user satisfaction. If you are thinking of changing, the ability to customise (and get access to a wider range of tools within one solution) is key to ensuring you won’t outgrow the next solution.

Reduce technical debt

Switching to a no-code solution reduces technical debt. ‘Technical debt’ is a way to describe the difficulty of moving from an old code-based system to something new. It’s a concept representing the effort, cost and risk of having to re-code a solution. Some document automation solutions use scripts to deal with more complex documents, so that organisations need ‘template developers’ to create and manage them. Some users of such systems have been reluctant to walk away from a portfolio of templates that includes so much of that script. If technical debt holds you back, your applications will become increasingly harder to maintain, and users will become disillusioned. It makes sense to switch to a no-code solution.

Moreover, some of the vendors of older solutions are relying on the difficulty of moving away from their complex solutions to justify subscriptions that offer poor value for money. “They won’t move because it will be too hard for them to switch.” Is that a good reason to deprive your organisation of the benefits of a more capable solution? No, and it’s based on flawed assumptions and prejudice about the difficulty of switching.

Start your free trial

Some vendors, including Legito, will happily set you up with a free trial. Usually, it’s limited to one month, but ask Legito to extend the trial period if you need more time. If you are already using an older solution, it should be easy to pick a document to try on the new system. If you’re looking at Legito, we can usually connect you to a consultant who can help you migrate an existing template so you can see it working in your trial. This is your chance to check out two issues: how easy is it to move existing documents to the new solution, and how is the experience of using them?

Migrate existing documents

Switching from an older solution is usually quicker than starting from scratch. You have already identified the documents worth automating, and you already know how the documents work. Many of us at Legito have used older systems from other vendors, and we have helped other organisations make the switch. If you need help migrating existing documents, we can guide you on what’s involved. 

All it takes is one tool

When you switch, the first thing you’ll notice is that a solution like Legito can span your whole business process with one tool. It’s probably one of the reasons why you are thinking about the move. You don’t have to use every feature from day #1. Start with the improvements that your users will notice most. It’s easy to do more over time gradually. Aim for the smallest initial project that delivers value. Avoiding a big implementation project is an excellent way to win hearts and minds.

The ability to customise is key

Legito is easily customised – build a business case that isn’t limited to one team or process. Organisations typically deployed legacy document automation systems to provide a specific solution for a specific team. We find that organisations are switching from legacy solutions because they want to use one tool across the whole enterprise – they don’t want the overhead of managing user communities using different tools. Still, every team wants a solution that is designed for them. The HR team wants an employee-centric view of the world (offer letters, employment contracts, reference requests, joiner and leaver processes). The real estate team wants a property-centric view (lease documents, renewal reminders, facilities contracts).

Customising isn’t just about changing the look of the application (although that is nice) – it’s also about building a model of your data that matches the business needs. This ability reduces the total cost of ownership while at the same time increasing user satisfaction. If you are thinking of changing, the ability to customise (and get access to a wider range of tools within one solution) is key to ensuring you won’t outgrow the next solution.

Reduce technical debt

Switching to a no-code solution reduces technical debt. ‘Technical debt’ is a way to describe the difficulty of moving from an old code-based system to something new. It’s a concept representing the effort, cost and risk of having to re-code a solution. Some document automation solutions use scripts to deal with more complex documents, so that organisations need ‘template developers’ to create and manage them. Some users of such systems have been reluctant to walk away from a portfolio of templates that includes so much of that script. If technical debt holds you back, your applications will become increasingly harder to maintain, and users will become disillusioned. It makes sense to switch to a no-code solution.

Moreover, some of the vendors of older solutions are relying on the difficulty of moving away from their complex solutions to justify subscriptions that offer poor value for money. “They won’t move because it will be too hard for them to switch.” Is that a good reason to deprive your organisation of the benefits of a more capable solution? No, and it’s based on flawed assumptions and prejudice about the difficulty of switching.

More Industry Insights

Is it the right time to invest in automation?

Is it the right time to invest in automation?

May 18 · 1 min read

Anecdotally, I hear lots about shortages of labor and materials. The press refer to difficulties caused by Covid and now disruption in Ukraine. Today, I hear the Bank of England see inflation reaching 10% by Autumn, and it seems the commentators think a recession is on the way. If inflation depresses spending, we might then also look at a return of unemployment problems in some sectors. All gloomy stuff.

The UK has had a problem with productivity, and one assumes organisations globally might now be serious about improving productivity. It’s almost a trite observation to say this ought to favor adoption of automation technologies.

 

Historically, organisations needed capital expenditure to fund investment in plant and machinery to boost productivity. Today, more software solutions offered as software-as-a-service on a subscription basis (no cap.ex.), favourable trials and shorter contract commitments. I don’t think cost has been the obstacle to broader adoption. 

In the field of automation and business process management, I believe projects haven’t come to the top of the must-do list because it hasn’t been the most immediate priority faced by organisations. If most organisations operate with sub-optimal processes, there is less pressure to improve. That must surely be about to change.

I cannot think of a period in my working life when we more badly needed to find ways to get things done. It used to be said: “Better, cheaper, faster – pick any two.” Now we can improve all three vectors at the same time.

Legito’s business is about automating document-based business processes. Such processes might seem far removed from the challenge of distributing grain, energy and health care to where they are needed, but of course they are not. Nobody processes documents for intrinsic benefit – it’s always part of a bigger mission.

Often, it’s about connecting people and organisations to enable them to work together. It’s useful, and we should do it better if we can.

Is it the right time to invest in automation?

May 18 · 1 min read

Anecdotally, I hear lots about shortages of labor and materials. The press refer to difficulties caused by Covid and now disruption in Ukraine. Today, I hear the Bank of England see inflation reaching 10% by Autumn, and it seems the commentators think a recession is on the way. If inflation depresses spending, we might then also look at a return of unemployment problems in some sectors. All gloomy stuff.

The UK has had a problem with productivity, and one assumes organisations globally might now be serious about improving productivity. It’s almost a trite observation to say this ought to favor adoption of automation technologies.

Historically, organisations needed capital expenditure to fund investment in plant and machinery to boost productivity. Today, more software solutions offered as software-as-a-service on a subscription basis (no cap.ex.), favourable trials and shorter contract commitments. I don’t think cost has been the obstacle to broader adoption.

In the field of automation and business process management, I believe projects haven’t come to the top of the must-do list because it hasn’t been the most immediate priority faced by organisations. If most organisations operate with sub-optimal processes, there is less pressure to improve. That must surely be about to change.

I cannot think of a period in my working life when we more badly needed to find ways to get things done. It used to be said: “Better, cheaper, faster – pick any two.” Now we can improve all three vectors at the same time.

Legito’s business is about automating document-based business processes. Such processes might seem far removed from the challenge of distributing grain, energy and health care to where they are needed, but of course they are not. Nobody processes documents for intrinsic benefit – it’s always part of a bigger mission.

Often, it’s about connecting people and organisations to enable them to work together. It’s useful, and we should do it better if we can.

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5 Things I Learned from Document Automation Events

5 Things I Learned from Document Automation Events

May 12 · 2 min read

I will be attending the Legito PowerUp conference in Prague on Friday 17th June. The event is about inspiration, interaction and action – which brings me to my topic today: the things I’ve learned from interactions with other document automation folk over the years.

Chances are there aren’t many people in your organisation with a focus on automation of document-centric business processes. It can seem like a lonely quest. It need not feel like that – it’s been my experience that the vendors and customers in the document automation world like to share. The biggest obstacle to the uptake of automation isn’t our competitor vendors – it’s the latent market of organisations that won’t do anything to improve. We all benefit from sharing stories and experiences to showcase the useful and impactful work being done.

1. Innovations in automation with documents isn’t new and it’s not a fad.

Serious solutions have been around since the 1980s, and lots of clever folk have dedicated a lot of effort to business-critical applications. When I saw who else was working in this area, I realised it would be a career-long adventure. I was motivated to learn more and experiment.

 

2. Getting work done with documents is an enterprise-wise problem.

My first project was about automating the production of outsourcing contracts. However, my problem statement wasn’t fundamentally different from challenges in our other business teams with no interest in contracts. Meeting people working in other areas brought a focus on the core requirements we all had in common.

 

3. Quick projects and quick wins are achievable by just one person.

I had a specific project, and I didn’t have the budget or the inclination to see it become a big ‘IT project’. I was pleasantly surprised to find that one motivated person can deliver tangible results. I found that document automation teams were small but thriving even in big organisations. Meeting peers in other organisations gave me the confidence to launch my first project.

 

4. Vendors want success stories and they will go the extra mile to help you succeed.

Organisations of any size know they need accounts software, office software and usually a collection of similar ‘must have’ tools. Microsoft doesn’t need to persuade you that the ability to create spreadsheets or run a group of PCs is a necessary business requirement. Document automation isn’t like that, yet. Many organisations can function with inefficient business processes and weak documents precisely because they are no worse than the others. For those of us with good solutions in the field of document automation and document lifecycle management, we want to showcase customer success. Attending events is a good chance to meet others who want to help you succeed.

 

5. Everyone has a tip to share for a problem you probably have.

Now that we all use Microsoft Word, almost everyone in the room at a conference will have an annoying puzzle they would like to fix. Attending document automation events directed me to sanity-restoring ways to tame Word. My day job is being a lawyer, but I still get client thanks for fixing formatting glitches in tables, or curing unruly page breaks. I got most of the clever tips from contacts at events. Of course, it was also a chance to find better ways of using automation tools.

 

5 Things I Learned from Document Automation Events

May 12 · 2 min read

I will be attending the Legito PowerUp conference in Prague on Friday 17th June. The event is about inspiration, interaction and action – which brings me to my topic today: the things I’ve learned from interactions with other document automation folk over the years.

Chances are there aren’t many people in your organisation with a focus on automation of document-centric business processes. It can seem like a lonely quest. It need not feel like that – it’s been my experience that the vendors and customers in the document automation world like to share. The biggest obstacle to the uptake of automation isn’t our competitor vendors – it’s the latent market of organisations that won’t do anything to improve. We all benefit from sharing stories and experiences to showcase the useful and impactful work being done.

1. Innovations in automation with documents isn’t new and it’s not a fad.

Serious solutions have been around since the 1980s, and lots of clever folk have dedicated a lot of effort to business-critical applications. When I saw who else was working in this area, I realised it would be a career-long adventure. I was motivated to learn more and experiment.

 

2. Getting work done with documents is an enterprise-wise problem.

My first project was about automating the production of outsourcing contracts. However, my problem statement wasn’t fundamentally different from challenges in our other business teams with no interest in contracts. Meeting people working in other areas brought a focus on the core requirements we all had in common.

 

3. Quick projects and quick wins are achievable by just one person.

I had a specific project, and I didn’t have the budget or the inclination to see it become a big ‘IT project’. I was pleasantly surprised to find that one motivated person can deliver tangible results. I found that document automation teams were small but thriving even in big organisations. Meeting peers in other organisations gave me the confidence to launch my first project.

 

4. Vendors want success stories and they will go the extra mile to help you succeed.

Organisations of any size know they need accounts software, office software and usually a collection of similar ‘must have’ tools. Microsoft doesn’t need to persuade you that the ability to create spreadsheets or run a group of PCs is a necessary business requirement. Document automation isn’t like that, yet. Many organisations can function with inefficient business processes and weak documents precisely because they are no worse than the others. For those of us with good solutions in the field of document automation and document lifecycle management, we want to showcase customer success. Attending events is a good chance to meet others who want to help you succeed.

 

5. Everyone has a tip to share for a problem you probably have.

Now that we all use Microsoft Word, almost everyone in the room at a conference will have an annoying puzzle they would like to fix. Attending document automation events directed me to sanity-restoring ways to tame Word. My day job is being a lawyer, but I still get client thanks for fixing formatting glitches in tables, or curing unruly page breaks. I got most of the clever tips from contacts at events. Of course, it was also a chance to find better ways of using automation tools.

 

Join us on 17th June – leave refreshed with ideas and tips you can use immediately. Many of us have used multiple solutions and worked in diverse teams.

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