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Document Workflow Automation – The Complete Guide

Download the PDFPeople working at desks on computers

When you say you had a busy day at work, what does that entail?

For most people, a busy day involves emails, meetings, and a pile of documents. Each day may come with many challenges, but the tasks are usually variations of tasks you have performed before. Workflow automation is a solution that creates a process that identifies repetitive tasks and frees knowledge workers from the burden of having to perform these tasks.

And, here in this post, we are specifically going to address document workflow automation.

For many organizations today, improving competitiveness is at the forefront of their annual goals and digital transformation is a key vehicle to achieve that goal. Imagine how many back-and-forth emails it takes most businesses to engage with a client from the time they show interest in a product, to the time they finally sign a contract and deliver. Although communication is important, it is also imperative that the business hours are not taken up performing tasks that can be performed more efficiently.

Common Document Workflows

It is a relief that most companies have some kind of workflow and it is not just anarchy when dealing with documents. Most organizations have sequential tasks to ensure that document processes are executed in an organized way.

For example, an insurance company may meet with a possible client who is interested in life insurance. The company representative will take down notes about the client's need and discuss the options available.

Next, a draft policy will have to be created using a template as well as input from insurance experts to cover every inch of detail. The draft policy will then be shared with the client either through email or delivery of a hard copy. The client then has to read through it, suggest changes or even negotiate the premiums and the document will return to the agent for a final draft. When all parties are comfortable with the document, a meeting will be scheduled where the document will be signed.

Although not every insurance company or even business will have a process exactly as described above, there are still similarities. The main point here is that the process is unnecessarily long. Back and forth communication exposes the workflow to loss of authenticity, error, and guidelines can be flaunted. The common challenges experienced by organizations that use this process include:

  • Documents are hard to track and paper documents present a storage and retrieval problem.
  • Organizations struggle to comply with privacy and security guidelines concerning such documents.
  • The process doesn’t meet the demands of a fast-paced competitive world.

This is why automation of workflows is a better option.

Automated Document Workflows

When document workflow automation is adopted instead, the process is efficient. Templates are a key feature of automation. Returning to the example of an insurance company, the company will create templates to suit different cases and include fields that can be filled by the client to indicate the kind of cover they want along with other details of the policy.

The template will have some mandatory fields and optional ones. The fields on the template include most of the commonly discussed issues when a client meets with an agent.

Instead of a physical application form, the client can access a template online and enter the required fields. This will cut out the back-and-forth emails between client and agent as well as agent and insurance company.

Once the client has completed filling the form, the template will be used to automatically create the insurance policy tailored according to the information provided by the client as well as meeting the organization’s document standard. The document will then be made visible to both the client and the concerned parties within the organization.

The automated document also includes a field for digital signatures. This is convenient because the policy can be signed immediately without the need for delivery and physical presence. Once that is done, the document will be stored in the cloud.

Changes can still be made to the same document in case the client chooses to upgrade their cover. A notification can also be set for the date of expiry of the policy so that renewal can be affected.

Benefits of Document Workflow Automation:

  • Client service is made faster.
  • Documents adhere to organization standards.
  • Knowledge staff are freed from manual data entry.
  • Document management and tracking is clear and easy.
  • Efficient management of workload.

Key Steps in Document Workflow Automation

For a business that already has a workflow in place, it is not so difficult to automate this process. Figuring out where to start may be the hard part, but once you follow these steps, it will become plain sailing. This process will help to create a template that can be used to automate the workflow.

Identify the First Document: Choose a document that is often used and that the organization would benefit from having it automated. The success you have with this document will determine the way forward with the rest. The organization's value position can guide you when choosing the first document.

Map the Document Workflow: A simple diagram showing the different processes involved in creating the document will give clear navigation for automation of the document. At the same time, identify the different individuals involved in carrying out the processes that you have mapped.

Define Users and their Roles: Knowing the users and their roles will help to assign permissions for every user during the process. Some users may just be readers while others are editors and so on.

Link Forms and Fields: A document may have other forms that need to be attached to it. The fields also need to be defined. For example, some fields are editable, some are optional and others mandatory.

Create a Template: Based on the information collected above, you can then create a template that mirrors the different processes of the document workflow. This might be a process that is best done by a professional.

Choose the Tool: Document workflow automation can be achieved with the right software. Choosing the best fit for your need is important since some tools are designed specifically for particular industries. It is important to do research and choose the best.

Implement and Test

With the template in place and the right software, the workflow automation can be implemented for the first critical document and the results can be measured. Some of the parameters for success should be:

  • Time saved.
  • Amount of workload reduced.
  • Money saved.
  • Customer satisfaction.
  • Ease in executing the process.

Every organization may have its parameters for success and those should be used to determine whether change is needed. Once the first phase is complete and successful, the same process can be applied to other critical documents within the organization.

If you’ve just discovered us, we’re excited. Try Windward Hub for free or Windward Core for free and take it for a spin. Start automating your document workflow in just a few clicks starting today.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

Try Windward with our 14-day free trial and start creating documents in quick time with our low/no code solutions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

Genesis Abel

Written by:_
Genesis Abel

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