By Laurel Sanders, Director of Public Relations and Communications, Optical Image Technology (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Get everything right the first time.”
“Outperform our competitors with better service.”
In challenging economic times, these goals are imperative. Yet achieving all three simultaneously can be challenging.
According to AIIM’s State of the ECM Industry 2010 report, 41% of businesses aren’t confident their digital information (except emails) is accurate, accessible, and trustworthy — a severe obstacle to efficiency. Forms are a small part of the web of business information. Yet when content is captured accurately and managed properly, eForms address the challenges of accuracy, accessibility, and trustworthiness while transforming service, increasing profitability, and encouraging sustainability. How? By:
... Capturing data quickly, consistently, and cost-effectively.
... Offering self service.
... Making the information captured on forms useful instantly, enterprise-wide.
... Establishing a framework for information governance.
However, just implementing eForms software doesn’t guarantee results. You must understand your business objectives and ensure the solution you choose will meet those needs.
This checklist will help you to develop a customized requirements list to ensure your eforms solution meets your unique needs.
Useful forms begin with good design, so the design function must be user friendly, flexible, and adaptable. Examine your broader organizational needs so your selected product meets requirements as your installation expands.
Will your solution let you:
___ Design custom forms, or will you be restricted to templates?
___ Add unlimited components to the design canvas, with form length expanding according to your needs?
___ Align, match, select, delete, or erase form components during the design process?
___ Decide the order in which form-related actions will be completed?
___ Save unfinished form designs so you can complete them later?
Also, are online user guides and tool tips available to guide you through every step of the process?
Applying Form Controls
Form controls help designers to ensure standardized documents are completed correctly. Ideally, they enforce behind-the-scenes rules, dictating how each form should be completed and used.
Can you apply:
___ Form controls wherever you want them, to regulate how forms are completed?
___ Data entry controls for each field you create, so you can ensure quality data input?
___ Validations that compare data entered on forms with pre-specified criteria for each field?
___ Data sources to the eForm, so data captured in pre-specified fields can be extracted from (or pushed to) other databases and applications, recycling information meaningfully and eliminating errors?
Data — the specific fields of information that you collect, such as name, contact information, dates, terms, and more — drives processes forward, enabling smart and timely decision making.
___ Apply validations that compare entered data on a form against specified criteria and alert users when entered data is invalid?
___ Extract pre-specified form data as variables within a business process, allowing specific content to be available without making entire forms visible to users? (This is essential if sensitive information is stored on the form, and some of the data needs to be processed by employees who shouldn’t see every detail.)
___ Configure your ECM system to store form data in a third-party database or other external location after a form has been completed or submitted?
Form Administration and Security
Regulations and internal policies demand controlled access to sensitive information. eForms that are part of an integrated electronic document management (EDM) solution let you secure sensitive information while making sure those who need it have appropriate access.
Will your solution let you:
___ Assign forms to specific groups, controlling who can access, view, delete, annotate, or sign them?
___ Hide specific text on forms so only specified user groups can view it?
___ Configure actions that should occur whenever a specific type of form is submitted (send an email, launch a business process, send data from a form to another source, convert a form to PDF), based on the needs for that form?
___ Configure validation criteria and specific datasources for each form type?
___ Apply hot keys to certain actions as desired, to make work more efficient?
End user needs vary greatly, and an eForms product should be adaptable enough to meet diverse requirements.
Will your forms product:
___ Convert forms to PDF when desired?
___ Provide helpful online user guides and tool tips to guide you through form completion and submission?
___ Apply drag-and-drop design components to assist end users in completing forms?
___ Index completed forms as PDFs, forms, or both, as desired?
___ Add a form (or its PDF) into a package of documents and send the complete package into a business process?
___ Search for completed forms?
___ Resize your windows and workspaces so you can work efficiently?
Launch a Business Process
Ultimately, you will most likely want eForms to launch routine business processes and exponentially increase efficiency. Will your solution:
___ Automatically launch a pre-specified business process when a form is submitted?
___ Amend/manage form data within a business process?
___ Make specific forms viewable at the correct time within a business process?
___ Use a submission to trigger an email message, accompanied by a link to the form?
___ Create drop-down menus to guide data entry and ensure relevant, accurate data is collected?
End the content chaos
If you are already implementing EDM, eForms will help you to gain control over your content at the point of capture, where benefits are greatest. If you’re evaluating EDM for the first time, consider eForms and business process automation as part of your strategy from the beginning so you can extract the full value of digital information. Understand short- and longer term needs so the technology you select supports your goals. Make sure your vendor is as committed to your success as you are, since a strong partnership dramatically improves business outcomes.
Fast, accurate, and customer-friendly service is the aim of any business. eForms, EDM, and good planning can help you to achieve all three. Now…get started!