Welcome back to this series of articles looking at document automation. If you haven't seen them, please do take a look at my previous posts around the scoping, development and testing stages of automation.
One of the most important and exciting stages of any automation project is getting to sign-off.
What is sign-off?
Sign-off is the final step before your templates are set to live and are made available to your users. This is the point at which both you and your automation experts formally agree that the templates are in a suitable form to start using.
This step is has several deliverables that you should expect to receive:
- Functional logic
- Agreed backlog
Depending on which document automation platform you are using and your arrangement with your automation provider there may be several steps involved in granting users access to the templates. At CCAS we automate templates in a similar way to developing software, with different servers for testing and live templates. This ensures that no changes can be accidentally made to the templates currently in use and also gives a degree of insurance should anything happen to one of the servers. Many of our customers also have their own branded environments and so this separation also lets us take advantage of more bug fixing tools that we wouldn't necessarily want our customers to be burdened with.
Delivery of the templates for us means uploading the templates to a customer's LIVE environment and making sure that the right users have access to them (and conversely that the wrong people don't). At CCAS we often do this on behalf of our customers.
At CCAS we take the view that the functional knowledge contained in the templates belongs to our customers. As such, we will often provide an export of the template "dictionary". The dictionary is the brains of the templates and determines what questions are asked and how answers are used for conditionality or to add content to templates. It can often form a key document for auditing purposes.
When engaging with automation providers you should make sure that you have access to this key piece of knowledge.
A backlog is the list of potential enhancements or changes that you might make to a template. This list can be populated with:
- nice-to-have enhancements that you've identified during the development and testing,
- parts of the scope that you have deferred to enjoy the benefits that partially automated templates will bring, or
- parts of the scope that require further design or investigation to implement.
Documenting these now will enable you to cost them up and make an informed decision on whether to proceed with them and in what order for a subsequent round of automation. For auditing purposes, it also serves as a helpful snapshot in time of the status of your templates.
Guidance and training
Once you have your templates and the right people have access to them your automation providers should be able and willing to provide training on how to use the templates and how users can get the most out of the automated templates. This can be very helpful to encourage uptake of the templates and to help facilitate change management around the templates and the new process that you will have just introduced.
Look out for my final article in this series focusing on maintenance of the templates where the backlog referred to will be particularly useful.
Get in touch
If you've found this article helpful and would like to discuss our approach to template automation further, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com.