I recently gave a presentation at our Nexus convention about eForms — and how they can produce real business value. Although the presentation was meant for those who have not spent much time analyzing the benefits of e-forms, some real industry heavyweights showed up. Unfortunately this was a lost opportunity because if I had more time I would’ve handed over the microphone for additional eForm paradigms and parables. Alas I had more material than time. Here’s a brief discussion of some of the topics I covered.
An eForm is of course an electronic representation of a paper form. In fact, many eForms look exactly like their paper counterpart. When a paper process goes electric, you’re not just leaving the paper behind. You are opening the door to processing times that are dramatically more expedient, and a host of other advantages.
Because of their inherent characteristics, eForms:
- save money
- When it can costs $20 to file a document and up to $314 per filing cabinet for the real state it consumes, you know storing paper isn’t cheap. And it can cost up to $220 to reproduce a lost document.
- are green
- Since the United States is the world’s largest producer and consumer paper, and for more than half of all organizations paper use is on the rise – the green choice is to reproduce paper processes electronically
- are malleable
- What if you just snail mailed one million requests for information and then discovered a fatal error in the text of your paper document. You can do the math here — it would be expensive to fix this, and slow. Online eForms can be changed in flash with very little effort or cost.
- are fast
- It’s true that performing optical character recognition is pretty quick. But that leaves out all the document preparation and scanning time, not to mention time spent correcting OCR errors. There are no OCR errors in eForms and processing is of course very very quick.
- are accurate
- eForms have a lot of advantages over paper forms in terms of accuracy. You can perform database lookups and provide extensive online help with links to vast information resources on the Internet or your intranet. But more importantly you can have script ensure that required fields are not skipped and that incorrectly formatted data is never entered. These days, you can just click a checkbox to perform a lot of validation checks within an e-form product.
- improve customer service
- Faster processing of customer data improves customer retention and satisfaction. Reduction of lost or compromised customer data inherently improves customer satisfaction. Money saved by converting a paper process to an electronic process can and oftentimes should be redirected toward customer satisfaction initiatives.
Before getting started on a new e-form project, it is wise to consider return on investment. Make sure that you have a justifiable volume for the effort. Then I think you should focus on forms with low complexity allowing everyone in the process to learn the ropes. There will be plenty of time in the future — probably the very near future — to ramp up the complexity because requests will likely pour in.
Please keep your eye open for a follow-up eForm 101 blog with a discussion of workflow integration, more thoughts on ROI, and some useful tools and techniques for ramping up quickly.