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Online Forms: Match Products with Needs!

4 Aug, 2010 By: Laurel B. Sanders, Optical Image Technology imageSource

Online Forms: Match Products with Needs!

Fast, accurate, and better than the competition; no matter what the task is, that’s typically the goal. When we offer quality products and services quickly, reliably, and better than the next guy, customers keep returning.

Although quality customer service depends on your people, their ability to provide quick, reliable information depends on the tools you provide. Online forms help them collect and distribute accurate information quickly and cost-effectively, taking service to new levels.  Whether customers (or staff) use web-based forms to submit inquiries, log problems, order equipment or request services, eForms streamline human involvement and expedite turnaround. User “ownership” of the data improves accuracy, and information that’s collected is presented in a consistent format that can be acted upon quickly. Yet eForms aren’t created equally. The key is to understand your short and long-term needs and choose a product that addresses both.

41% of business managers aren’t confident their digital content is accurate, accessible, and trustworthy, according to AIIM’s 2010 State of the ECM Industry report. Forms are only part of what drives business decisions, but when they are designed carefully and used properly, they improve data accuracy, accessibility, and integrity.  They also enhance service, reduce expenses, and promote paperless (sustainable) business.

Finding what’s right for YOU

Select a quality solution with reliable features you’ll need rather than software with unnecessary frills, bells and whistles. Demand solutions you can configure and alter to meet changing situations.  Choose software that adapts easily to user preferences to ensure successful adoption.

The following checklist will help you to develop a requirements list to ensure the eForms software you choose is right for you. 

Ensuring Good Design

Good form design demands versatility. Functions must be user friendly, flexible, and adaptable to meet multiple needs. 

Ask if the software will let you:

  • Design custom forms independently. 

  • Add elements to design canvases as required.

  • Expand form length to meet varying needs.

  • Select, match, align, select, erase, or delete elements during the design phase.

  • Dictate the sequence for completing form-related actions.

  • Save in-progress designs for completion later.

Adding Form Controls
Form controls help designers to ensure documents are submitted correctly. They enforce the business rules you establish, dictating how each form type should be handled.

Ask if the software lets you apply:

  • Form controls wherever they are desired (so you can set rules for form completion).

  • Data entry controls for each data field, so you can ensure information is appropriate and consistent. (Example: MM/DD/YYYY for date fields.)

  • Validations that compare pre-specified criteria for each value with information that’s submitted and guides end users in correcting errors.

  • Link data sources to eForms, allowing data to be extracted from (or pushed to) other databases and applications as needed.

Managing Form Data
Data drives processes forward, so it’s essential for the specific fields of information that you collect on a form (such as name, contact information, and dates, terms) can be manipulated and used to meet diverse needs.

Check if you can:

  • Apply validations to compare form data against specified criteria and alert users when entries are invalid.

  • Extract pre-specified form content and use it in a process without making entire forms visible. 

  • Configure your document management system to store form data in a third-party database or other external location after a form is submitted.

Managing and Securing Forms
Many business transactions are bound by regulations and policies that demand controlled access to sensitive information. As part of an integrated document management solution, eForms let you secure sensitive content while ensuring those who need it have access.

Consider whether the software will let you:

  • Assign forms to specific user groups so you can control access, annotation, signing, deletion, etc.

  • Hide form content so only pre-authorized users can view sensitive information.

  • Specify actions that should occur whenever each form type is submitted (generate an email, launch a process, send data to another application, convert to PDF).

  • Configure validation criteria and specific data sources for each form type.

  • Apply hot keys to pre-specified actions to increase efficiency.

Completing and Using Forms

User needs vary greatly. An eForms product must be flexible enough to meet varying requirements.

Make sure your product will:

  • Convert forms to PDF on demand.

  • Let you apply drag-and-drop design components to help users complete forms correctly.

  • Provide online, user-friendly guides and tool tips to help users complete and submit forms.

  • Index completed forms as PDFs, forms, or both, as prescribed.

  • Add a form (or its PDF) into a package and automatically push it into the appropriate business process.

  • Search for completed forms and return appropriate results.

  • Resize windows and workspaces so users can work efficiently.

Launching Business Processes
Complete automation uses eForms to launch routine business processes, which exponentially increases efficiency. 

Check whether your eForms software will:

  • Automatically launch pre-specified business processes when forms are submitted.

  • Let you amend and manage form data within a business process.

  • Make specific forms within a business process viewable at the appropriate time.

  • Use form submission to trigger an appropriate email message, accompanied by a link to the form if desired.

Putting Forms to Work for You
Capturing content at the point of creation delivers the greatest benefits.  By putting well-designed electronic forms in your staff’s and clients’ hands, you empower them to provide and access timely information, according to permissions you create. 

Fast, accurate, and customer-friendly service are challenging to deliver. eForms don’t replace personal service, but when they are designed well and integrated intelligently into everyday business, they make it easier, convenient, and cost effective.  

Laurel Sanders is the director of public relations and communications for Optical Image Technology.  For information about the company’s award-winning suite of DocFinity software, visit www.docfinity.com

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