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Why are templates wrong for document automation?

Document automation, or the design of systems and workflows that assist in the creation and dissemination of documents, is a complex process that allows companies to minimize data entry, cut downtime spent proof-reading and reduce human errors.

There are several ways to develop, create and manage such processes. At a high level, you can develop using two approaches: the template approach and the modular approach. Although the template approach is the most used approach in document automation, we believe that it’s not the most efficient.

The template approach

With a template approach, each document is created using a single template as a base where placeholders are inserted in the place of certain numbers and values. This approach allows for quick manual document creation, as you can simply replace your placeholders with the numbers you need. However, it is slow to implement for automation purposes because large amounts of code need to be re-implemented each time a new template is created. It also means that language can differ from document to document simply because the person drafting one template decided to phrase things different to the person that drafted the precedents which crease ambiguity. Finally, it is more expensive to maintain for two reasons:

1) If you wish your lawyer or law firm to review your documents, they will need to do so one by one, and 2) Whenever there is a new upgrade or universal change to your documents, every single template needs to be updated individually, which is very time-consuming.

The modular approach

A modular approach is more complex and difficult to implement. The idea behind it is that you have one single template that includes every single potential variation. One of the key advantages of using a modular approach is that your documents don’t have arbitrary language changes within sections that should be consistent, meaning that only the features of each individual document are important, not the overall combination of those features. Development is also much faster and less error-prone.

Managing the automation after the initial set-up becomes more accessible too, making the job easier for future employees to come along and make changes, which reduces key person risk. It also means that fewer documents need to be reviewed after making changes to your documents, allowing you to save on legal fees. This is because you only need to check the wording for a particular feature once, instead of checking that wording for every single template.

At the end of the day, both methods discussed above have their merits. The simplicity of the template approach will continue to prevail in businesses that are at the beginning of their document automation process, but the modular approach has so much more to offer in terms of efficiency savings and should be the go-to solution for any company that expects to grow fast and expand their business rapidly.

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