Halloween is over for another year but perhaps the ‘manual’ drafting nightmare continues today. Perhaps it’s those NDAs you get constant requests for that you wish were automated or those Data Processing Agreements that you need to do before the SCC deadline later this year. Either way – there is an automated way – and this article gives a bit of an idea of some of the considerations you’ll need to think about when looking at document automation for the first time.
The chances are that when reviewing document automation the considerations will be something like the following list:
- How much does it cost (and on what basis)
- Does it do everything I need it to do
- How do I implement it
- How do I maintain it after it has been implemented
How much does it cost (and on what basis)
Each document automation tool out there will have a different pricing model – but most are based on user licenses ie you buy access to the platform for X number of users. It might be those users have different rights (e.g. admin, read only, etc). It might also be the case that there are discount tiers after getting X number of licenses. The reality is though that although it is easy to sell on this model it doesn’t really assist the buyer who is looking to be innovative.
For example, if the buyer has to buy on a user license model then sooner or later there will be a conflict between experimenting with new users when rolling out vs having to pay for more licenses. This will slow things down if the person tasked with rolling out always needs to reflect that the licenses are being used. For those people within an organisation that take some convincing before using it they’ll still need access to it even if they don’t use it immediately. On paper it’ll look like money not well spent, or they’d not be a good candidate for buying more licenses. However, the reality is that if obstacles are in their way they won’t even be able to log into it, let alone champion its use within their own teams. Not having access is an easy excuse for those that are not keen to change the way they currently do things!
The way Ment offers their services is different. With the majority of plans it offers unlimited standard users so it can be scaled as quickly as possible by providing access to document generation to as many people as possible. There is therefore space and time to innovate with different groups of users – safe in the knowledge that you don’t need to present a business case for each new license!
Does it do everything I need it to do
Each document automation tool is different but the premise of all of them is the same – they can take a document, add data points and conditionality to it, and allow a user to generate it quicker than they would be able to do it manually. Everything on top of that is what separates each one. Some might be more user friendly, some may have unique integrations, others might have more unique ways of harnessing data. It is therefore important to determine what your requirements are before you start looking at the tech. Getting drawn in by the tool with the greatest functionality may sound good – but if you barely utilise it then you’re paying over the odds for something you don’t really need. To give a graphic design analogy – it’s like buying Photoshop and having to get someone trained on it when all you needed was Canva.
Requirements are going to be subjective and specific to your own organisation’s needs. However, when it comes to functionality – the more complex the solution is the more training will be required to use it. More training also probably means more cost and more complexity probably will mean a slower roll out as it’ll take longer to fully utilise it – and may require niche (and expensive) resource.
Ment has been designed so that ease of use is paramount – making it easy to scale for both template authors and standard users alike. It also offers a four week pilot in which some of the templates can be automated and authors trained – allowing return on investment in a very short space of time. By the time the pilot ends it’s possible for lawyers or other users to scale up themselves without support (more information here).
How do I implement it
A big question that should be asked every time as there is a sliding scale for implementation. At one end there are companies that do the automation for you and just provide you access to the template questionnaires through a portal. It outsources the template automation to the vendor but it comes at the cost of a fairly expensive subscription which you’re likely to be reliant on (as you don’t own the templates).
On the other end which we’d describe as ‘full control’ you have access to the platform and can create templates from it – but that you’re left to create them yourself. Within this section you’re going to have platforms that are easy to implement and those that are not easy to implement. Easy will be no code or low code platforms. Not so easy is likely to be tools that require more extensive and less intuitive tagging more akin to coding.
For the easier end of the scale the ideal is that it can be picked up quickly and easily – and therefore will scale easier and people can get the value out of it quicker. At the harder end of the scale this is likely to require a decision on getting appropriate resource and/or further training to get people up to speed. If you have to devote a lot of time to training and mastery of the platform the chances are that roll outs will be slower.
How do I maintain it after it has been implemented
Another question that should be asked every time. The ideal is likely to be that you have full control over your templates so you can maintain them as and when new market-standard wording or legislative/regulatory changes need to be made. You should consider who will maintain templates after they go live – whether it is legal ops resource or the lawyers themselves.
This consideration is likely to be answered by how easy it is for the relevant maintenance person to pick up the document automation tool. For example, a lawyer isn’t going to maintain their own templates if they have to spend days or weeks getting to grips with the tool at the expense of their chargeable time. So again, this may be a question of whether you need to bring in resource to be able to carry out the maintenance or whether you procure consultancy services to carry out the maintenance.
Luckily Ment has been designed in a way that you are able to quickly pick up the tool and run with it. Lawyers therefore are able to maintain their own templates without the need for additional resource – which is a big cost (and time) saving.
Photo by Anna Schvets