Go to any technology trade show and you’ll have hundreds or even thousands of vendors trying to tell you that their products are absolutely essential. Some are well established companies peddling proven solutions, while others are smart start-ups that see a true need in the market and aim to solve a problem in a creative new way. Then there are those that are just hopping on a bandwagon – like Internet of Things (IoT) or Big Data – because, like Hansel in Zoolander, it’s so hot right now.
In an increasingly crowded marketplace, it can be difficult to assess the merit of each offering and to separate the hype from products that can truly help your team work smarter and faster. We believe that electronic forms fit in the latter category. In working with many clients in higher education, finance, healthcare and many other industries, we’ve seen that pushing paperwork is a common challenge that delays processes, diverts staff members’ attention away from value-add tasks, and drains budgets.
The solution? E-forms. Here are seven reasons you should take another look at this time-saving, cost-busting, workflow-speeding technology, which can truly change how your business operates:
- Cuts paper from the source: Switching from hard copies to electronic versions removes the need to scan or manually capture paper documents. They’re integrated right into your Content Services system and tied with relevant records in other business applications without user effort. This is one very small piece to a larger puzzle.
- Classifies and indexes documents: With e-forms, you no longer need to determine the document type and index values in your Content Services solution. As this is done automatically, your team members have more time to focus their efforts and expertise elsewhere. It also provides the benefit of eliminating human error and the resulting redundant effort that’s necessary when a form is attached to the wrong record or misplaced.
- Data control: E-forms can be placed behind a portal with required authentication. This passes information like a student, patient, or vendor’s name or ID into the form (and improves document security, as well). While I may fill out “Big T” on a paper-based form, my real legal name will remain Tyler and therefore that is what’s needed in the form and is maintained in your system of record or ERP.
- Access to the raw XML or data of the form: People in all industries are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on data extraction and OCR tools. By making your forms electronic, you now have access to each document’s raw data without any need for spending extra on a data extraction application. This data can be fed into your ERP, reported on, or integrated with other systems based on your unique business needs.
- Mobility: HTML5 introduced some unique tools for web designers to ensure that your web content (eForms) will look good on any device a user is viewing it on. It is critical that working with e-forms is as simple and straightforward as completing the registration for a new app downloaded from the App Store. Organizations need to ensure they are adopting electronic forms solutions that make use of HTML5 to ensure that users can fill out, electronically sign, and make use of any mobile device’s camera, photos, or other functions.
It is estimated that over 50% of all website traffic is coming from mobile devices. We have seen a 20% increase in this figure over the last 3 years alone and organizations should expect this keep growing into the future.
- User experience: Going digital delivers a better experience for all parties involved in forms-centric processes. It’s not only easier for the folks filling out the forms, but also for those employees on the back end who are interacting with the documents, keying data, or issuing approvals. We have all gone to a new doctor for the first time, or applied for a new insurance policy online. There are many sections within traditional paper-based forms that say, “Complete section 3 if…,” or, “Only provide answers in the following section if you answered ‘yes’ to question 4 above.” An electronic form can use logic to ensure that only relevant sections and questions on forms are presented, as it knows all the user’s previous responses and can account for that to make the experience of completing the form as straightforward as possible.
- Accessibility: Last but not least (and in fact, arguably one of the most important benefits) is accessibility. An electronic forms solution enables those who have hearing, sight, or other physical impairments to interact with your documentation in new ways. This is an absolute must when considering an e-forms technology. If you care to learn more about Accessibility, check out this blog post I wrote a few weeks ago: https://shamrocksolutionsllc.com/six-tips-revolutionizing-accessibility-strategy/
In summary, don’t think about e-forms as an isolated technology, but rather a way to kick-start improvements across your entire organization. Whether you employ it to industry-specific documentation – like consent forms in Healthcare, claims in Insurance, or grade changes in Higher Education – or universal processes such as new employee onboarding and expense reimbursements, switching to electronic forms can make a big difference in your daily operations. If I told you there was a way to cut costs, speed workflow, and boost productivity, you’d probably take it, right? Well these are just three of the advantages of e-forms. That’s what I call a win-win-win!
Written by Tyler Groepper, Vice President of Sales, Shamrock Solutions