How To Generate Documents From Databases

Introduction

In every organization, a database plays an important role in holding the entire organization’s data across functions/departments. Organizations create a variety of documents from this data. They create Sales proposals, invoices, and after-sales documents, Procurement contracts, NDAs etc.

Some industries such as legal, mortgage, and real estate are inherently document intensive and documents play a central role in day-to-day transactions. The document-generation requirements tend to vary a lot from creating one document to the generation of hundreds of documents in one go.

Organizations share generated documents with internal and external stakeholders including customers, vendors, and partners. This is driven by compliance requirements and for communication purposes.

In essence, generating documents from database data and their distribution is an extremely important job for organizations.

Direct creation of documents from Databases

In traditional databases, data inside the database is stored in tables and they have a logical connection among them.  Hence, Database solutions don’t have document design capabilities. NoSQL/document databases store data in JSON or a JSON like documents and not great for document generation either.

If you are a master of SQL commands, you have a lot of choices including off-the-shelf PL/SQL packages. But for a non-technical user/business user, the options are limited. The first option is to knock IT department door for help. However, business documents undergo frequent changes and getting IT bandwidth every time for document generation is difficult.

Hence, you find business users tend to look for a solution that allows them to

  • Create/modify templates easily conforming to organization’s brand and design guidelines
  • Generate documents on click of a button

Let’s look at the tools for addressing these requirements.

Common Tools and Approaches

The most common solutions being used are not built for document generation and hence offer only a little automation.

Reporting/BI tools: Tools such as Tableau, Jasper, Crystal reports generate reports but they lack in document design. These are best suited for creating interactive reports.  Though they make the document generation easy, business users still need to depend on IT help for template creation and template changes.

Publishing tools:  Data merge and Mail merge functionality offered by publishing tools such as Indesign, Microsoft Word is good only for basic document merge. For example, if you are looking to create a nice report with bullets, conclusions and other written text, and pre-formatted numbers then a publishing tool is not the right choice. Moreover, these tools have several limitations including the inability to suppress blank rows, date & number formatting errors etc.

Document Generation Software

Document Generation software addresses the above pain points very elegantly. Business users can create/edit templates in their favorite editors. With a DIY interface, they can populate database data into templates to generate documents.

Tools such as EDocGen take it a step further by removing the pain of template creation. Users can use existing documents as templates for document generation.

They offer dynamic population of text, tables & images and are extremely flexible to cater to different kinds of business documents. As these are cloud applications, they enhance collaboration, intelligence, and mobility of your team to work from anywhere on any device.

Most importantly, you can automate the document generation and delivery using Zapier. Zapier has integrations with traditional databases such as MySQL, MSSQL as well as online databases such as Knack, Caspio etc.  For example, you can set-up a trigger for every new record entry into the database. This trigger fires and creates a document every time a record gets added to the database. Even the delivery of documents to recipients via email can be automated.

If Zapier doesn’t support your Database program, document generation software offers you other options. You can export data database data in Excel, XML, or JSON format and use it to populate templates.

In summary, document automation software is the perfect solution for automating document creation from your database.

TS Murthy

Murthy is co-founder of document generation product startup EDocGen. He has deep passion for paper free world and productivity apps.

2 Responses

  1. David Nealey says:

    It is great to see various databases being used to create complex documents. Some of us have been doing this with Microsoft Access for years. Our documents include structured and unstructured content, charts, and infographics. Our applications output documents to standard Access reports, PDF, and RTF.

  2. Thanks David for nice words. Glad you liked it.

Leave a Reply