Electronic forms are often overlooked when it comes to capture, as people think it’s easier to look at getting rid of file cabinets versus changing processes and adding technology. In my opinion, that is like treating the symptoms of the problem, rather than treating the problem itself. With that in mind, here are 8 reasons to add eForms to your capture strategy.
1. Reuse existing forms
Many eForm products allow you to reuse your existing PDF and word documents, rather than having to create them from scratch. This allows your users to feel immediately comfortable, and ensures continuity with the look and feel of your forms.
2. Capture information
Paper forms are nothing more than data trapped on a physical page, and they require extensive labor to process and extract that information. With eForms, data can be exported as .CSV, .XML, and sent directly to databases as soon as they are created.
3. Reuse data and eliminate manual data entry
If you already have data like customer information, or contact information in a system, most eForm packages will allow you to connect to databases like your CRM or HR system and reuse it. For example, if you are an employee renewing your insurance enrollment, by typing in your social security number you can complete all of the form data. Capture traditionally has been a manual process, requiring extensive labor to key in information, and scan paper. With electronic forms, all of these middle steps are eliminated, saving a great deal of time and money on processing.
4. Collect signatures
One of the main reasons people are reluctant to adopt electronic forms is the perception that electronic signatures aren’t valid. They’ve been legal for over a decade in the USA, and are widely accepted globally. (Source
) Some of the common ways of collecting signatures on forms are through signature pads, using password challenges, and by signing directly on a touchscreen.
Here is an example of the different ways to sign an electronic form:
5. Route and approve forms
Forms often kick off workflows and approval processes. Since eForms are captured electronically, sending e-mail notifications and handling approval processes digitally is a given. It’s much easier to track things in a workflow system, than trying to track down paper files and lost documents.
6. Integrate with your other systems
Electronic forms are typically stored in formats like PDF or TIFF, giving you a digital copy of the form itself. The data from the form should also be available for you to integrate with other systems. If you are looking to add electronic forms in your organization, make sure that the software you choose has the ability to integrate seamlessly with your applications.
7. Version Control
Version control on paper forms is a nightmare, and imprecise at best. With paper forms you have no way of knowing that every person is filling out the correct version of the form that change on average 5 times per year. With electronic forms, you know the latest version is being completed, you can track who filled things out, and have a complete audit trail of all user activity, with line of sight into the business process. Customers regularly tell me this is one of their main headaches with paper forms.
8. Provide access on mobile devices
The holy grail of electronic forms and mobile capture is not only eliminating paper, but being able to process information anywhere in the world. The best of breed applications support things like iPad applications, and let you access forms from any mobile device. If you are in the market, plan ahead and consider how your customers and team members use things like Blackberry’s and tablet PCs.
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