Documents are an essential part of every organization and need to be created on a daily basis, numerously and across the whole company. The list of scenarios is endless: From sales quotes, to HR contracts, invoices or insurance policies. Despite this, document generation is often considered to be time consuming, frustrating and painful – for both the business and IT alike. Which solutions are you able to offer, when a business user approaches you with their document automation needs? Relying on the out-of-the-box Microsoft possibilities or scripting something yourself may increase your workload further and might cause even more frustration while limiting your possibilities. But it doesn’t have to be like that! This article sheds light on the main challenges of document generation and how to solve them.
When it comes to document generation, organizations usually follow one of these approaches:
In many companies Copy/Paste is still the prevailing mode of how documents are generated. The content is already present in the organizations’ systems like in SharePoint list entries, in documents stored in SharePoint libraries, Excel spread sheets or a CRM or ERP like Dynamics 365. When a document, needs to be generated, the business user opens a template, which is usually a Word document marked with yellow place holders, and simply copy and pastes the content from their systems to the designated areas. It’s flexible and individual, bus also tiring, costly and error prone.
To overcome those challenges, companies often resort to some sort of easy automation. That is using VBA, mail merge or macros. Like Copy/Paste, this approach is also flexible and individual, and means no more CRTL + C and CTRL + V all day long, and manual errors are reduced. However, documents can still only be generated nine to five and your big enemy is adaptability.
The third, and seemingly powerful approach companies follow, is to rely on All-in-one document generation, for example from their ERP or CRM system. This allows for sever side automation, and the ability to create documents 24/7. However, it’s neither individual nor flexible. Have you ever seen an appealing looking insurance policy? Probably not! The reason is, that for designing such templates, you need to resort to coding. As a consequence, the business users and marketing cannot work on the documents themselves, which results in corporate design by IT.
Technical Options on the Microsoft Platform
As there are so many disadvantages to the three main approaches of how business documents are created, there must surely be another way? The Microsoft platform provides us lots of options on how to compile documents:
If you stay within Microsoft 365 (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), you will be able to design attractive looking documents, but that’s about it – forget about automation or data integration. Another way would be to use scripts or Power Automate to generate your documents. That is, once again flexible and individual, however programming is always involved, which excludes your business users and the management, design and adjustment of templates falls back to IT.
Then, reverting to SSRS reports allows you to generate documents automatically at a 24/7 performance. However, in this approach, a lot of programming needs to be done, which results in an extensive amount of of time, resources and money invested, even for the smallest adjustments and integrating corporate design standards is impossible or at the very least, painful.
The solution: the document generation engine dox42
But thankfully there is a solution: In order to combine the advantages of attractive document design, many data sources and server side document automation, you should resort to dox42. It empowers your business users and allows your documents to become a primary means of customer communication, since they will be visually appealing, personalized and individual, while being generated automatically from various data sources and without manual effort.
dox42 is a powerful document generation engine that allows for attractive document design in Microsoft 365 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and enables business users to design and adjust templates themselves. It is a no-code tool and data from all sources like SharePoint, Dynamics 365, SAP, Excel, SQL, etc.. can be integrated easily and without technical knowledge. Also, you can run the document generation on a server, and it’s up to you if that is cloud or on-premise. With just one simple click or workflow all your documents are created automatically. This results in high performance automation, and as dox42 natively integrates with the Microsoft environment, like SharePoint, Teams, Dynamics, Power Automate and Azure Active Directory, the user experience is seamless. So you cannot only profit of automation, but of an excellent process and also high-security document generation.
dox42 customers automatically create all kinds of documents like contracts, quotes, orders, invoices, presentations or others. Furthermore, with only one click they can store the generated documents in a SharePoint library of their choice with the corresponding meta data and impersonation information of the logged in user, send the document via e-mail, create draft e-mails, sign it with docusign, etc… The possibilities and scenarios are endless. dox42 also fosters collaboration, hence managing templates and generating documents directly from MS Teams is another powerful option. And the best thing is, it is so intuitive, that it can be set-up or adjusted by a non-tech-savvy business user anytime.
How does dox42 work?
dox42 Online allows for native integration with SharePoint Online and other systems, and utilizes the full security of Azure Active Directory Authentication.
To begin with, you always start with the design of your dox42 template in Microsoft 365 in either Word, Excel or PowerPoint. The layout and design possibilities are powerful as you can integrate data, pictures, dynamic diagrams and tables, text blocks, documents, calculations, rich text fields, conditions, repeated sections and many more, easily and from all sources. The add-in is so intuitive that every business user can design and adjust a template themselves. Watch how to set up your dox42 templates easily, and without technical skills here.
Next, the templates are uploaded and stored to SharePoint Online. Choose your preferred library and open a Teams Channel to allow your template designers to collaborate. This allows for a streamlined template management, and adjustments can be done within minutes.
Afterwards, and since we are using Azure Active Directory for security and impersonation, the dox42 Online Server needs to be registered as an application in AAD. (You can request your dox42 free trial here). Copy your app details to your dox42 Online Management center and you are all set.
dox42 SharePoint Modern App
Generate your documents directly in Teams
Collaboration is an important aspect, also when it comes to document generation. Especially in times of remote work, document creation causes a big challenge for many organizations that still revert to manual compilation. Microsoft Teams has been seeing a huge spike in users, which made digital collaboration a lot easier. Luckily dox42 also integrates with it, allowing to collaborate on documents and to generate them directly from Teams.
For that, open a new or existing Teams Channel and add your SharePoint site with your dox42 SharePoint App calls. The users can collaborate and chat about their project and generate the document within their Channel without ever having to leave the comfort of their Teams environment.
Generating documents from MS Power Automate
Sometimes data needs adjustment, even if a document has already been generated. For example if you hire someone, and the salary gets re-negotiated. While we are a fan of having the truth in the system, it is important that the documents always contain the latest information. Hence, alternatively, or in addition to using our SharePoint App, you can utilize Microsoft Power Automate to trigger your document generation. Simply set up a dox42 custom connector, choose upon which action a document should be generated and you are all set!
Let’s Recap – the challenges and the solution
As you’ve read, document generation is an essential business process that causes a lot of challenges in everyday work life for both the IT and business users. There are lots of things to think of: From attractive document design to integration of various data sources, automation, security, business user enablement, and more. It needs a powerful tool that can handle those obstacles and turn document generation into a streamlined and well-orchestrated process. dox42 is a software that does exactly this, by empowering the business user, fostering automation and collaboration, no-code data connections and native integration into the Microsoft stack.
Read what some of our customers say:
“Working with dox42 not only saves time and nerves, it helps both us and our customers being one step ahead in the daily competition.” Burkhard Kresser, Seior Corporate Solution Architect, Alpla
“With the help of dox42, it is now easy for us to accomplish such standards efficiently, by automating predesigned templates from our marketing department with ease.” Marc Rieger – Project Manager & Application Owner, ABB
“dox42 quickly became one of our favorite products. The tool is very slim, and yet really flexible for even technically complex scenarios. Processes can be completely digitized in a short time.” Andreas Gümbel, SharePoint/BI Development, Liebherr-Hausgeräte Ochsenhausen GmbH
Curious to learn more and try dox42 yourself? Watch our dox42 Customer Success Story at ESPC Online or request your personalized online demo and 30 day free trial via firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author:
Lisa Pulsinger | Senior Technical Evangelist | dox42