There are easily over 1.2 billion gigabytes of data online, and the content deluge doesn’t seem to be slowing down if you look at the number of emails you handle every day and how many documents your company sends internally and externally. It seems ridiculous how much documentation a single company needs to generate and circulate between its own departments and then to its clientele. This is where document creation software like Windward Studios come in,
These solutions offer beautifully designed, customizable document templates to help automate document creation. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg—like the need for templates is just the surface of the multifaceted challenge of modern documentation. What else does Windward Studios offer, and what limitations can you expect from the solution?
This article delves into the pros and cons of Windward Studios, digging deep into the facets of the document automation solution, and if it is good enough for you not to consider a full document management software. How does Windward leverage templates and wizards and what sets it apart from the rest? Does it employ useful document logic and does it efficiently and seamlessly integrate multiple data sources? Once you’re done reading this article, you will learn Windward Studios’ strengths and weaknesses.
The modern business requirement of sending documentation to and fro both internally and externally has spawned a sub-sector of sorts of business processes management solely focused on documentation, aptly named document management. After all, issues with documentation and document management account for over a fifth of productivity loss in businesses. In more practical and alarming terms, that’s over $19,000 worth of productivity losses per worker per year.
Workers lose time searching for the right document, sending different versions of the same document back and forth, and securing signatures and approvals for various types of documents from several different process stakeholders. Likewise, document creation tops the list of single most time-consuming information work, based on an IDC study.
Document automation management companies like Windward Studios provides several solution sets for these interlinked and overlapping issues, from template automation to version control to eSignatures. Each offers valuable benefits individually—e.g. eSignatures save around $20 per document and reduce turnaround times by up to 80%—and together, the pros stack up for even more advantages.
Speaking of pros, the advantages offered by Windward Studios, as you will read below, all revolve around how well it solves a key document management problem. The extensive research done for this article includes Windward user feedback regarding real-life, practical issues encountered with the provider, often related to a critical component of the software, but usually not unique to Windward as a solution, but more inherent to the document automation process in general.
Meanwhile, the platform should not be confused with file-sharing systems, which you may also need if you’re remotely collaborating on sensitive files. There are plenty of file-sharing software solutions out there that provide a secure workspace to share documents.
Windward Studios is a document management and automation software that offers document templates, processes, and solutions that help modern businesses deal with their documentation requirements. The automation offered scales to even the often massive needs of large companies while also offering smart customization options that allow users to quickly generate the beautifully crafted documents they need with a lot of control regarding how they look and function.
On top of this core functionality, Windward uses “smart document logic” to make its document designs and generation capabilities even more powerful and useful to clients. Furthermore, the document creation software also incorporates additional related solutions such as seamlessly integrating multiple data sources and types and importing document formatting including tags for cross-platform efficiency. The software also integrates with e-signature software should you decide to go fully digital with your contract management process.
In a nutshell, Windward Studios is like an office applications suite with a focus on creating documents and making management pipelines more efficient—on steroids. The software is used by global brands like HSBC, Pfizer, and Volvo to meet their document management and automation needs, speaking to the scale of requirements that Windward can provide for, as well as the complexity of documentation pipelines it can navigate.
Before embarking on closer inspection of the pros and cons of Windward Studios, it is important to understand how it functions. The solution delivers in three steps: information goes through the Windward Designer, and then processed through the Windward Engine, and finally outputted into the format preferred.
While the three-step process is straightforward, each step encompasses several facets. The Windward Designer, for instance, is not just an intuitive template customization user interface. It connects multiple data sources to the template, lets users customize it in their office application of choice, and even use conditional logic that lets users customize content inline. The Windward Engine, on the other hand, processes that data collected and merges it with the customized template. Finally, output file types include a variety of options: from DOCX to PDF to HTML.
While straightforward, the three-step process is actually a few degrees more complex than how templates work in standard office applications, in order to be efficient and flexible in scale both in terms of mass document creation and complex documentation pipelines.
This three-step process might initially seem a little limiting, especially if your document management demands are massive, or if you have custom needs you think might require a bespoke process of its own. However, most of the time the three-step process is sufficient, and usually, any additional or custom needs do not require any changes to the existing Windward Designer-to-Engine-to-output pipeline—only minor alterations, additional integrations, or something else that can be tacked on as a value-add.
With the three-step process at its core, Windward Studios also offers a lot of value-adding features and functionality both within the pipeline and in addition to it.
Is the Windward Designer templates generating errors? There is a built-in debugger for that. Need to import templates? There’s a tool for that too. Need to run a macro to streamline the data input to your templates? Windward supports over 130 macros and over 95% of all MS Excel ones. Already have an existing, proprietary document management platform and you need Windward’s capabilities integrated? You can embed the Windward engine into your own application with 14 lines of code or less.
Essentially, Windward Studios offers a core SaaS with a suite of features designed to streamline your documentation creation and management needs, and simply browsing the company’s exhaustive list of functionality, you can see that it covers a lot of ground in one package.
If you’re considering individual features or functionalities into your decision-making process, it would help to not only look for those specific features/functionalities in Windward Studios’ lists but also understand how those work within Windward’s own ecosystem and how it would benefit your own.
Document and data management are irrevocably intertwined—in fact, document creation begins with information input, usually via forms. Furthermore, documents may also require data from other documents: invoices need accurate data from quotes, for example, which, in turn, require information from a number of other sources.
Data and documentation go hand-in-hand. The massive amount of information crunched through business processes along with the sheer number of documents needed to be generated and managed due to all this data mean that a lot of people interacting with a document pipeline or paper trail need to meticulously work with multiple data sources, multiple documents, multiple times. Then there’s also the multiple file formats to deal with, and multiple document generation tools that have their own way of formatting layouts and tags that sometimes do not translate well to another organization’s (or even another department’s) own office applications.
Windward Studios attempts to solve the problem—or at least minimize the fuss—by incorporating multiple data sources, supporting multiple programming languages, and outputting multiple filetypes. Windward can incorporate JSON, DB2, MySQL, MS Dynamics, and other data sources; work with C#, Java, Python, and other programming languages; and output files in XLSX, HTML, PDF, and other popularly used file types.
Since document management is a mishmash of different types of data, different programming languages, different file types, and different layout and in-document tagging formats, there is no single documentation solution that produces pixel-perfect documents 100% of the time.
Researching reviews online, Windward Studios is no exception. Users have pointed out that templates need to be tweaked in a very detail-oriented manner to get published documents that exactly as preferred in the template design. In relation to this, sometimes users would fall back on MS Office PDF generation instead of directly publishing to PDF from Windward Studios, due to some inconsistencies. As mentioned earlier, PDF exporting between different platforms will never be 100% the same, so it may also be a matter of preference (or the fact that some people may be more used to the export functions of general office applications) where users would tweak templates within Windward Studios and perform filetype exporting through a different platform.
Additionally, some users have reported that error messages relating to formatting issues can be vague, limiting troubleshooting options. This extends to formatting issues and cross-software publishing. Again, this is a problem not unique to Windward Studios, but is an issue due to the complexity of software and business process ecosystems.
These same complexities mean that for some users, some complex factors within their templates are lost upon exporting or publishing, such as MS Excel Macros and validation scripts, though Windward Studios mitigates how much this affects everyday use by accepting over 150 of MS Excel macros.
Windward Studios makes good use of wizards and templates to make sure even laymen can simply jump in and start working. It’s essentially plug-and-play.
However, this appears to have cost advanced and power users some functionality.
Users have reported that sometimes a template-based approach makes manual modification trickier than actually having access to even complex coding. Wizards are still limited in terms of flexibility and options, of course, since the user interfaces effectively limit what would otherwise be nearly infinite options when done through code.
In relation to this, some users have reported that refactoring and implementing changes in templates through the user interface requires a lot of clicks, again a result of making the software more accessible to a wider audience. Additionally, at the time of writing, users have pointed out missing some advanced features such as a meta Find and Replace function for identifiers.
So is all the user-friendliness backfiring with some more demanding and complex needs? Hardly—in fact, some users have suggested that some areas of the software are not user-friendly enough, such as SQL extraction, which would reportedly require a brief but steep learning curve for anyone not SQL savvy.
Most of these constructive feedback are isolated incidents and unique cases. Windward Studios makes the solution accessible by reducing technical skill requirements to make it more accessible to a greater many. This naturally makes unique cases more challenging to address, but overall it’s a net positive.
As Windward Studios is in a unique position within an ecosystem that usually involves a lot of different platforms, data sources, file types, and software, there is always a need to efficiently import and integrate with third parties for increased interoperability. For document creation, it is even more critical to successfully import data and tags in a way that preserves their original format or intent.
Some Windward Studios users have reported some difficulty in terms of APIs being a little limited, affecting deployment at scale. This is an issue that all SaaS in all categories and industries face, and you will need to check what import functions and integrations you require to see if Windward supports them. Limited interoperability is a software-agnostic issue where ecosystems are a bit too large and diverse and standardization across sectors is nascent or inconsistent.
One more issue Windward Studios sometimes encounters as a SaaS provider is its software update cycles interfering with operations, i.e. some users report that newer versions of Windward Studios sometimes cause inaccuracies when editing documents created with older versions. Again, something all SaaS companies encounter and they also actively work on improving.
Finally, a brief word on security. Security is always a concern for any software provider, and Windward Studios implements a few features to make sure the documentation it handles—and the data that comes with it—is secure. These features include change trackers that records who changed what on a document and access providers for all file operations and data sources.
On a broader note, relying too much on document creation system for security is not a good thing. You can, and should, always have a broader security layer across your network, and this is where having a reliable I.T. security software comes in.
After a closer inspection of the pros and cons of Windward Studios, it is clear that it is among the top document management and automation providers in the world, so in terms of the general features and functionalities, you’re sure to tick a lot—if not all—of the checkboxes that you’re looking for in a solution. The software also scales to your needs and is quite user-friendly, so accessibility is not an issue, even for new users.
There are a limited number of factors to take into consideration how you want your documentation output to look like and whether Windward Studios can deliver on those expectations. However, some users who pointed out that this was an issue for them worked around the problem by generating documents with Windward Studios and outputting into PDF or their desired filetype through Word or some other application. In short, they were willing to add a bit more to the workflow to continue using the rest of Windward’s features and functionalities regardless.
The rest of the minor issues Windward Studios may sometimes face is not unique to the software provider, but inherent to the process of document management and automation—from lacking APIs to nuanced inaccuracies between a template and generated document. These are generally not problems you can solve by going with another provider, or if they are, it is most probably coincidental.
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