The ultimate guide to digital workflows: configuration, deployment, and pricing
Do digital workflows guarantee smoother operations? Well, they’re supposed to. But try telling that to the businesses that lost loads of money trying to implement ‘best practices’ and ‘best workflow automation solutions on the market’. After going through all that, these companies either refuse to attempt digital transformation all together, or have ceased all efforts in trying to figure out what went wrong.
This blog will help you understand the anatomy of business processes and how to turn them into digital workflows without losses or breakdowns.
What are digital workflows?
Digital workflows are a part of everyday business processes that consist of sequential and predictable combinations of tasks and data. The term ‘Digital’ here refers to streamlined operations. Digital workflows help users instantly look up critical data, keep track of processes and tasks, and automate them.
Let’s see how it works with real business cases.
One of our users —a recreational facility company — was dealing with a recurring problem when processing documents that required reviewing and signing by multiple parties. Although Microsoft Word and Office are industry standards, sharing documents via email and messenger caused confusion among updated versions, and mobile was out of the question.
What’s wrong with sending documents via email?
Documents and tasks managed via emails can easily get lost in someone’s inbox.
Since documents can easily get lost and forgotten, deadlines are hard to track and enforce.
All notifications related to documents and tasks should be sent manually. If you forget to send an email or you send it to the wrong address, documents and tasks too easily get lost in the void of cyberspace.
And finally, there are far too many steps between you sending your email and your recipient receiving it.
Our user remarks:
“People couldn’t open up, edit, or complete things we needed when we needed them. OR if they were trying to do it on a computer, there were version issues we had problems with like ‘it doesn’t fit in the box’ etc. These were regularly ongoing issues.”
By implementing digital workflows, the recreational facility was able to eliminate most of the routine time-consuming aspects of their daily routine. For example, a birthday party reservation form is available to be filled in via public link. When a parent has filled and submitted the form, the information is automatically pushed into the Swimming Pool facility’s spreadsheet. Available time slots for arranging a party are also pre-filled in the same spreadsheet. Once reserved, a notification is sent to the Admin and the completed Slate is archived to the client’s Dropbox. All these steps are automated by airSlate Bots once a party reservation form is submitted.
And just like that, parents can celebrate their child’s birthday without ever having to use the phone, fill out and submit papers by hand, check back for availability, or resubmit a form from scratch if a slot is already taken.
Digital workflows are how the facility’s staff is able to control and monitor what is happening and when. This means they’re much more responsive to things as and when they occur and are able to stay on top of tasks as they come in, rather than at a later time.
The current state of digital business processes
According to recent statistics, 70% of companieseither have a digital transformation strategy in place or are working on one. Nearly 77% of companies say their relationship with technology is average or above average. And 65% of companies are positive about their ability to adapt to technological disruption over the next three years (data from 2018).
At the same time, of the $1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation in 2018, an estimated $900 billion was wasted when initiatives didn’t meet their goals. Only 16% of employees in the survey said their company’s digital transformations had improved performance and were sustainable for the long term. According to Forrester Research, more than 50% of digital transformation efforts fizzled out completely in 2018.
Moreover, 87% of companiesthink digital transformation would be disruptful to their industry, but only 44% are prepared for a potential digital disruption.
Organizations say their biggest obstacles in achieving success with digital business initiatives include:
Lack of sufficient budget
Lack of staff
Lack of correct skill sets
The need to replace legacy systems
For many companies, becoming a digital business means enabling worker productivity through tools such as mobile, data access and AI-assisted processes, and the ability to better manage business performance through data availability and visibility. They also want to satisfy customer expectations, understand customer needs, and provide secure, optimized access to assets. And of course, companies want to achieve top-line growth through digital product enhancements.
All of these goals require a smart combination of technologies. But the problem is that there are too many technologies to choose from. These technologies are expensive, they require a lot of training, and many companies find themselves ill prepared for such changes.
The reality is that digital workflows are here to stay and are becoming more available and easier to implement so that every company will eventually be able to integrate them with their existing processes. Let’s figure out how to assess your business’s real needs and pain points to find the best solution for resolving these issues.
What main steps are involved in a typical business process?
Every business process consists of six stages:
So the first step is the initiation e.g., settling on an idea for the project. At this stage it is critical to do research to see if the idea is realistic, how it would be completed, etc. The initiation step involves consulting the head of the development team and shareholders. The key point during the initiation process is to examine your project for both its feasibility and value to the organization.
The second step is generation. At this stage you’ll begin to draw up a project plan, scope or charter, calculate a budget, the resources needed, and a schedule. All of these items may be changed during project planning. Pay attention to the flexibility of the teams working on the project. In case any delay occurs, you may need to divert resources in order to hit your deadline.
Negotiation is a process that involves consultations between the involved parties to reach a consensus on a particular process/deal. Negotiations can happen at any time within the project life cycle.
Now that the most painful processes are in the past, it’s time to come closer to the execution stage. The approval process means getting the final acceptance of the customer or contractee on the negotiated terms and conditions of the project.
The execution stage is when all of the parties agree on the deal, process, project, contract etc. It is critical to meet with the teams involved and distribute the necessary resources, tasks, timeline, responsibilities, and any other important information related to the project. It is also necessary to make sure that the team understands exactly what the project is and why they should both care and be enthusiastic about it. The execution part of the business process requires deep tracking of each participant’s actions.
The final process is the archiving stage. The project is finally closed. If all is completed to a satisfactory standard, then the process can be archived. This is when inactive information, in any format, is securely stored for long periods of time. Such information may be used again in the future to check previous projects, make sure everything has been done correctly or to find information for future projects.
Common problems when creating efficient digital workflows
In the paragraph about the current state of digital business processes, we saw that processes involving digital transformation are not as efficient as they are supposed to be. Let’s discuss the main pain points that prevent companies from achieving a successful digital transformation.
When businesses begin their digital transformation journey, they often begin by solving a simple problem that turns into an integration nightmare. This is because businesses iterate on implementing workflows gradually, they often find themselves stuck in a type of hostage situation where each part of their workflow is owned by a separate service vendor. They use DocuSign for e-signatures, Conga to generate documents, Salesforce to manage their leads and Box as their cloud storage. They try to integrate them and build an automated workflow solution using services like Zapier or Nintex, but couldn’t foresee the two roadblocks that accompany integration:
It is very expensive. You’ll have to pay for a set of services, custom API integrations and the automation tool itself. Cost estimates will reach into the tens of thousands of dollars just for implementation.
It lacks flexibility and scalability. Every time your workflow changes, you will have to go through the entire configuration process (including API coding) again. So yes, expect to spend thousands whenever your workflow changes.
No flexibility when you want to re-configure workflows
It’s impossible to predict what your workflow will be tomorrow, but it should be your ambition to digitize and accelerate your business in order to achieve growth. You may find that you are the hostage of an inflexible software that prevents your business from developing efficiently.
You can’t quickly on-board new workflow participants
You can’t think of other workflows you’d like to implement that could involve automation, conditional routing, web-forms, contract negotiation, etc.
It takes too long to implement your new workflow or change it
Consider the future needs of your company as its workflow may change or become more complex.
No real automation
Most software providers mislead users by selling them automation tools that don’t possess the real power of automation. What does this amount to? A business pays an enormous amount of money to finally get rid of the need for manually tedious processes and repetitive tasks. And then that business realizes that it still has to do many things manually, and these things are pretty complicated.
For example, Nintex positions themselves as a ‘Workflow automation platform,’ yet it’s Adobe Sign that powers e-signatures for Nintex customers. Others such as DocuSign will provide you with e-signatures and CRM integrations, but they don’t have any automation options except for simple things like sending reminders.
What is even more unpleasant is that in order to build complex workflows and set integrations you have to learn coding skills. Well, this is not what you expected when deciding to streamline business processes. Your company will need to hire more developers and pay them for their work.
So when choosing a platform to create digital workflows, make sure it provides you with Bots. Bot automation is the process of automating repetitive tasks such as data entry. With the help of properly configured software robots, these Bots can complete any task for you without further action on your part.
There are usually two types of Bots:
Automation Bots are used to set notifications, send reminders, populate documents with CRM data, etc., for the purposes of automating your Flow to the fullest.
Integration Bots allow you to integrate your Flow with the cloud services you’re already using and keep everything you need in one place. For instance, you can transfer data from CRMs, SQL databases, spreadsheets and other sources without any additional hassle.
The main benefit of Bots is that you can easily set certain conditions for them and they will perform tasks on their own based on these conditions. No programming or coding skills are required.
Now that we’ve identified the main pain points of digital workflows, we are getting closer to solving the problems of implementation. However, in order to implement digital workflows that will truly assist in the growth of your business, we should first understand the main components of a digital workflow.
Document Generation Software is useful when multiple documents need to be generated and each document contains a combination of:
Static content — the parts that remain the same in each document.
Dynamic content — content that is customized for the audience or recipient of a generated document.
Why should businesses automate document generation?
Every day, more and more data is generated, stored, and reused. It isn’t a question of how to control it. It’s a question of how to stay ahead of it. An organization of any scale in any industry is dependent on accurate data representation and efficient document workflows. When workflows are transparent, projects get done promptly, often resulting in profits. Companies waste massive amounts of cash to automate document workflow. This software segment will reach an impressive $11 billion within the next decade.
At the same time, purchasing yet another expensive tool may not solve your business’s pain points.
Using document generation software with systems of record such as CRMs or custom databases
Your document generation software should allow you to connect your document to a data source so that you can map document template fields to CRM records, SQL databases or an Excel spreadsheet. By following this method, you’ll never have to re-enter repetitive data.
Transferring large amounts of data and documents between company departments or branches that have more than one physical location can be extremely complicated and time-consuming.
In cases like this, a document flow usually includes multiple workflows — requiring an organization to share, track, store, synchronize, and approve documents across teams and users working through a variety of apps, cloud services or CRM systems. As projects increase in size, more and more people get involved, and more documents get passed back and forth, creating a dilemma.
Even the most popular platforms for document generation only provide document routing between individuals. Not only do you have to organize data transfers between a sender and a recipient, but also ‘system to recipient’ and ‘system to system.’
How does automated document generation work?
Let’s say a company is negotiating a contract with a customer outside their organization’s workspace. Usually, this process would take days to accomplish and go something like this:
The manager shares a contract containing the organization’s terms and provisions.
The customer reviews the contract, adds their edits and sends the edited contract back to the manager who receives it the next day.
The manager sends the contract with the customer’s proposed changes for review to upper management, losing yet another day to reviewing the edits.
With the right business process automation platform, the entire contract negotiation phase can be completely automated for everyone. When the platform has been set up correctly, both parties are able to redline the contract as the edits that are made will trigger Bots to notify the right people.
This way, all the necessary steps, including edits, approvals and signatures, are processed within the Flow, showing the changes in real-time:
The organization’s representative creates a contract template and modifies it for a specific customer, adds fillable fields, signature fields and checkboxes.
The representative adds roles and assigns fields and checkboxes to this role. All of them have to be checked by the customer, signifying their agreement.
After that, the representative sends the contract out to be reviewed and e-signed by the customer.
How much does document generation software cost?
The pricing structure for document generation software varies based on the number of users, forms, integrations, and access to advanced features. Some vendors offer basic document generation features for as low as $20 per user per month while high end solutions can run as much as $750 per month.
The average business should expect to pay in the range of $200 per month.
Contract management is the process of managing contract creation, execution, and analysis. It aims to maximize operational and financial performance in an organization while reducing financial risk. Even though the aim is to save money and reduce risk, the process proves to be a very time and cost-consuming element for a business. Let’s find out how contract management should be automated. But first, we need to identify the main points.
Nine stages of a contract management process
Contract preparation means identifying needs, establishing goals, setting expectations, and defining risks.
Authoring contracts involves consulting an attorney or in-house counsel to draft a contract.
Contract negotiation requires both parties to view and work on a document together in real-time.
Getting approval means reaching an agreement on the contract’s terms.
Execution of the contract is when all parties agree and sign the contract.
Contract obligations management ensures that the contracting parties fulfill the obligations laid out in the agreement.
Amendments and revisions are about adding edits and changes to the contract.
Auditing and reporting are a part of ensuring that all the obligations are met.
Contract renewal is when the contract is scheduled to expire. The parties may renew their contract based on current terms, or renegotiate them and enter a new contract.
How does contract management work with digital workflows?
An automated contract management cycle should cover the entire process from creation to execution.
Start by creating a data-driven contract. You can upload a document or use a document template from the platform’s form library. Modify it for your specific customer, add fillable fields, signature fields and checkboxes.
After that, you should be able to add roles and assign fields and checkboxes to each role. This ensures that certain roles (recipients) only complete what is intended for them.
Now you’ll be able to share the contract with all involved parties for negotiation and redlining. With the help of the Bots mentioned above, you can send notifications to all parties (recipients) so that everyone stays up-to-date in real time while commenting and redlining takes place.
And finally, when it comes to the execution of a contract –– you can send the contract for signing with a specified signing order that includes role-based actions.
At the end of the contract lifecycle, you’ll be able to archive executed contracts automatically to the CRM or cloud storage of your choice.
Digital workflows help you focus on primary issues without having to waste hours or days on repetitive, organizational tasks.
Digital contract security and compliance requirements
Contract compliance is designed to accommodate the rules or guidelines regarding and related to equal opportunity policies and regulations. For example, equal opportunity for employment without regard to age, gender, religion, disability, or national origin.
However, when you decide to use contract management automation systems you should also pay attention to the platform’s compliance measures.
You should be able to ensure contract compliance by archiving and locating all of your contracts in a single, secure place while protecting your contract’s information with HIPAA and GDPR compliant platforms.
Check whether the platform you use or plan to use takes security seriously. Platforms like airSlate encrypt user communications with the NSA developed SHA-256 encryption algorithm which protects data transfers between users, or user and server, against external access. User documents are stored on Amazon S3 data centers located in the US.
Contract negotiation is the process of discussing and reviewing the terms of a contract. Doing so is a necessary part of reaching a final agreement between two or more parties involved in a deal.
What are the advantages of automating contract negotiations?
When redlining contracts online, you’ll need to use a contract negotiation platform. This way, both parties can view and work on a document together in real-time without having to send and resend documents multiple times.
With a proper contract negotiation platform you get everything you need for efficient contract review and approval:
The ability to redline contracts in real time. You can share a contract with business partners and let them easily comment and redline it.
Always on the same page with partners. You may set Bots to automatically send reminders and notifications to all negotiators.
Keep contract information up-to-date by automating contract updates and approvals. This way you can reduce errors and track compliance.
A contract negotiation solution allows you to build compliant contracts with real-time negotiations and easy updates. What’s most important is that by replacing the human factor with automated performance, your organization can save a tremendous amount of time and money.
How much does contract management automation cost?
The market for contract management software is reaching a peak in its development with dozens of different solutions available. Analyzing the pricing of the market leaders carefully is critical for making the right decision.
Nintex’s standard edition will cost your company $950 per month.
Conga’s pricing for contract management starts at $55 per user per month.
airSlate will cost you an average of $30 per month. However, you can use it for free. The only difference is that with this plan, full access to each Slate will be limited after the first 30 days of creation.
ContractWorks starts at $600 per month and includes unlimited users (but only 2500 documents). The plan with unlimited numbers of documents will end up costing your company $1000.
This overview could be extended as the list of contract management software is growing every day.
As you can see, pricing varies. So before choosing a contract management solution, you’ll need answers to the following questions:
Do they offer a free trial? How long is it? Is the pricing policy transparent and publicly available to all interested parties? How big is the price difference between a basic package and an advanced one?
It’s important to remind yourself that your team will grow, so finding a solution that scales with your growth is important.
And this brings us to our main point — the need of a scalable, end-to-end workflow solution.
What is an end-to-end workflow solution?
An end-to-end workflow is a process that delivers a full document and data lifecycle while supplying all the necessary components along the way.
An end-to-end workflow platform should include things like:
CRM and cloud integrations out of the box
An online document editor and HTML form builder
Filled-in data collection
No-code workflow routing and automation
Contract management and contract negotiation
Note: It’s the user who can adjust everything, without any engineering support required.
What are the real benefits of an end-to-end workflow solution?
Let us help you understand the specifics of an end-to-end workflow solution based on the airSlate experience:
First of all — this is a single platform. You get everything you need to quickly configure any business process. And there is no need to pay for or manage multiple vendors.
It’s ten times faster to deploy. An end-to-end solution decreases the costs of configuration and time to deployment by up to 10 times.
You can create a team workspace — add unlimited teammates, manage their access permissions, and collaborate on workflows in a single secure hub.
Using such an advanced solution empowers your employees. They get the tools they need to focus on what’s most important for their business.
You get access to advanced analytics that display your business data in real-time, as it happens.
Of course — no-code configuration and automation. You can configure, automate and integrate business processes without the need to code APIs.
airSlate is natively multi-cloud. This is the only platform that is natively multi-cloud, ensuring your workflows function across all your cloud applications at the same time.
Your data is accurate, secure and compliant. airSlate is HIPAA, SOC II Type 2, CCPA and GDPR compliant. These requirements are built into every airSlate process. Two-factor recipient authentication and password-protected documents ensure your workflows can only be accessed by their intended recipients. Moreover, you can track all Workspace access and workflow changes made by admins, team members and business partners in real time.
You can use airSlate for free. airSlate premium features are available the moment you create a new Workspace, regardless of the subscription plan you’ve chosen. The only difference is that the free plan has a time-based retention limit (30 days) for the document Slates you and your teammates create in your Workspace.
airSlate democratizes business automation: for the first time, deploying, automating and sharing workflows is available to everyone in your organization. You and your employees can focus on what’s important: customers, career and business success.
You don’t have to choose between multiple vendors claiming to provide you with an ‘advanced workflow automation solution.’ With airSlate you can just try and see for yourself.
We hope that after using an end-to-end workflow solution, you’ll be able to create efficient digital workflowswithout wasting enormous amounts of time and money. Find the solution that will not only correspond to your current business needs but one that can scale with your business’s growth and development.