Working at HotDocs the last few years has given me a unique perspective about the ease and use of automated document generation. Working in IT support and having HotDocs software at my disposal has allowed me to automate a lot of the manual and regular processes I inherited, and I’d like to go in to some of the choices that have emerged there.
Improving the technology we use at HotDocs is an ongoing process, and unsurprisingly with any enterprise level decisions there’s going to be a lot of time and care involved in making sure the right product is brought in. This has led to some unusual cases where HotDocs could be used to fill the temporary gap and ease a lot of the manual elements of these processes.
One such process is the generation of standardised emails when sending out software and other links to customers and users. I found that often when software needed to be sent out, I would have to write a new email, getting the links from another location. It also lacked any form of automatic tracking, which meant there was no ready access to information about the software that had been sent out to a customer previously.
The use of HotDocs in my daily routine meant I had a tool capable of meeting all of these needs at my disposal, but on a much smaller scale than the solutions that our customers use. My goal was to use HotDocs to replace a single cog in a machine, rather than to replace the whole machine.
The solution went through three iterations.
- A HotDocs Template that automatically creates the email using standardised font and layout
- An interview that can semi-intelligently predict and parse information given to it to complete itself
- An automatic log generated by HotDocs as part of the assembly process.
So with that in mind, lets look at the finished solution
First is the appearance of the interview, the user experience of the support representative. We capture some basic information about the request: Email, name, company name, and any associated support tickets. Because these requests invariably come in via email, we have written in a computation that reads email addresses in the standard Outlook format, and take the first and last names from that automatically. This turns a single piece of text entry into three pieces of usable and workable information.
Once the customer information been entered we can specify what we’re sending out. The screen in this instance allows you select common entries from drop down lists, but also allows you to make your own custom entries if what you’re looking for isn’t on the list.
In the sequence below, I fill out the interview questions for HotDocs Developer 11.2.4, and as soon as I select a software and version combination that the interview is aware of, it will automatically populate and lock the remaining details that are known.
In this case, we know what the zip link is, and the decryption password. We know that a licence key can be included, but that in some circumstances it is not necessary. We leave that open to the support agent to fill out if they desire.
This saved a lot of time looking up entries in our system to find out particular links and decryption passwords, copy pasting, and so on. It’s designed to allow multiple pieces of software or other links to be sent out, including things that the system doesn’t automatically know about. One common thing that gets sent out along software is recordings of training sessions. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to adjust the template to know about these things since they typically get sent out only once or twice ever, and so free text entry is allowed.
Once the interview is filled out, we finish the Interview and get two documents produced. The first of these is the email content we’re going to send to the customer. It contains installation links and passwords for decrypting the zip files after downloading.
the second of these is an automatic receipt document that is saved. It’s automatically named and dated using information from the interview, and a word macro to facilitate the output. If you look carefully you can see the filepath generated by HotDocs, that will be where the file is saved to. I’ve frozen the process to allow the screen capture to be taken, but generally the receipt is not on screen for more than a second or two.
This solution is soon to be phased out, but it serves as an example of the versatility and flexibility of HotDocs when used in a small team environment. It doesn’t have the integrations of a full company wide solution, but it still significantly reduces the time spent on my day to day processes simply by itself.