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Transforming Businesses with Electronic Forms – Part 1

Note: This is a three-part series that aims to provide you with all the information you need to understand and implement eForms within your organization. 

Part 1)  eForms 101 – Everything You Should Know About Electronic Forms

Paper-based forms are rapidly being substituted with electronic forms (eForms). Even paperwork-heavy industries such as real estate and healthcare are taking firm steps towards a paperless environment. This shift became necessary as organizations realized the risks they’re up against, including:

  • Possible data loss due to the vulnerability of paper
  • Lack of space because of growing number of file cabinets
  • Limited collaboration and editing capabilities
  • High associated costs

If these issues have been bothering you, maybe it’s time for you to go paperless with eForms.

What are eForms? (And What they Aren’t)

According to the most basic definition, eForms are the electronic versions of paper forms. However, this definition doesn’t do this innovative solution much justice. In fact, based on this definition, the term would encompass fillable PDFs that are printed, signed, and emailed, faxed, or mailed. And fillable PDFs are nothing compared to the integrated eForms that effectively streamline and automate integral business procedures.

That said, a more accurate definition would be: an end-to-end solution that effectively and securely streamlines the submission and handling of data. According to this, eForms connect end users to enterprise processing systems without the intervention of humans in between. While they can be ‘smart printed’, they’re more likely to be used interactively on a computer or even mobile screen.

How Organizations Benefit from eForms

85% of business processes rely on forms. Therefore, organizations need to step back and assess the efficiency of their current data collection process. Yes, paper forms do offer advantages, including convenience and preference. However, these pale in comparison with what eForms have to offer.

In fact, here are six ways electronic forms can revolutionize businesses and their processes.

#1 Eliminating Paper

eForms capture, verify, and integrate data within critical business systems and eliminate paperwork from almost every process in an organization. This, in turn, prevents paper chasing and the following three problems associated with it.

  1. Prompting users to fill forms will require a lot of time. Instead of doing their jobs, personnel entrusted with form filling will be stuck ensuring that the right forms get to the right people.
  2. Paper forms increase liability. Not only can they get lost or damaged, they can be moved forward without proper authorization.
  3. Paper forms can take a long time to be processed, especially if data requires manual extraction.

#2 Improving Organizational Efficiency

Electronic forms effectively streamline business processes and improve overall efficiency. As most information is not limited on sheets, capturing and moving it into core business systems is faster and more affordable.

eForms lower operating costs and cycle time. On average, they can save 15 minutes and $5 per form. However, these amounts cover filling paper forms and processing them only. The time and money spent on storing forms isn’t included.

#3 Improving Data Accuracy

eForms ensure accuracy of data during collection and submission to business system databases. While collecting data, eForms may be configured to be pre-filled by an existing database. That way, users only need to confirm this information. eForms also come with drop down menus and auto-complete text boxes, further limiting user error.

As for data submission, field and form-level validation capabilities ensure that data is accurate and complete before storing it in databases. However, the biggest benefit of eForms is eliminating the need to have data entered manually from paper forms. Therefore, chances of data entry errors and data loss are greatly reduced.

#4 Contributing to Automated Workflow Implementation

Workflow automation coordinates activities of individuals within an organization, ensuring that the right people get the information they need at the right time. It empowers individuals by making them feel connected and part of a larger community. It also saves time, money, and effort while increasing employee productivity.

Companies that are yet to automate their workflows can begin by implementing eForms. As they’re easy to configure, decision makers can determine how they’re distributed across the organization. For instance, sales orders can be sent for approval to managers before being forwarded to distribution for delivery. As a result, the organization’s workflow will become seamless and quick. Moreover, employees will grow more accountable.

#5 Going Green

Electronic forms are eco-friendly because they eliminate paper and reduce organizations’ carbon footprint. While many businesses tend to put sustainability on the back burner, eForms offer many benefits, including:

  • Enhanced Brand – According to the Natural Marketing Institute, 68 million American buyers factor their personal, social, and environmental values in their purchase decisions. Of these, 58% of consumers are likely to purchase from organizations that actively reduce their impact on the environment.
  • Efficient Operations – Sustainable business practices increase the efficiency of operations. As a result, organizations will enjoy decreased costs, increased profits, and better regulatory or legal compliance.
  • Improved Financial and Investment Opportunity – Goldman Sachs revealed that companies with robust social and governance policies outperform the general stock market. Moreover, A.T. Kearney reported that companies committed to sustainability performed better than their peers and were protected from value erosion.
  • Increased Employee Retention – Employees these days are interested in working with companies that are proactive with environmental programs. 52% of employed adults feel that their employers should do more about the environment. Therefore, organizations can retain employees and guarantee their loyalty by embracing eco-friendly initiatives such as eForms.

While eForms won’t make organizations eco-friendly overnight, it can show their dedication to the cause. However, they shouldn’t stop there or else they’ll lose employees’ trust altogether.

#6 Increasing Data Security

Electronic forms provide additional security layers to data. Users may need credentials to access forms and the saved results. Similarly, only authorized personnel can view the data saved in secure data centers. Therefore, vital information won’t fall in the wrong hands.

An eForm can also be configured to only show specific fields depending on users’ roles. This capability ensures that personnel gain access to only relevant data. This spares them from having to search unrelated data to locate what they need.

If these advantages tempt you to adopt eForms in your organization, you have your work cut out for you. The first thing you need to do is properly plan how to replace paper forms with electronic ones. The next installment of this series will guide you through this tricky step. Stay tuned for the next post on Monday.
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