Forms 2.0 : Not Grandpa’s Forms

Collecting data with digital forms

5 Requirements of the New Digital Form

Forms have been a way of life as long as I can remember.  I filled out forms in school, forms for sports, forms for work, forms in the military, forms for taxes, and on and on.  Hell, I even filled out forms on a typewriter (Link to wikipedia for those young enough to not know what that is 😉 Wikipedia Typewriter) .   We have come a long way since the typewriter, or have we?   Why are most forms so damn static?  Why do I have to re-enter information over and over again, when they know who I am?  I really cringe when I see some of the  machinations (check-one $20 word per post) of the digital form world.  And in business, poorly designed forms lacking strong design mean lost time, incorrectly entered data and missing information.  So, I asked myself a critical question, “Why are most digital forms still so damn painful?”  I think there are several reasons, a few outlined below:

  • Most digital forms are just a duplication of their paper brethren
  • Forms are thrown together on the fly without thought given to the underlying requirements
  • Most forms are not designed with the end user in mind

In steps the Form 2.0.  The new forms on the street are intelligent, informative and “smart”.  They go way beyond the basic data entry, and provide an informative dashboard for collecting information and making informed decisions.   Below are 5 requirements of the new form, and can also be deemed as a technical requirements for any organization looking to implement:

  1. Modular Views – How many times are you forced to have multiple applications open to fill out a form?  The new digital form is really a digital dashboard, with info, charts and graphics all designed to make a quick informed entry of data.
  2. Data-Centric Design – the first step in any form design happens at the data layer.  Being able to surface information quickly, with no code from all types of data sources is an absolute necessity, as well as writing information to the right system(s) upon completion.  K2 has some really cool, patented technology called a SmartObject that provides powerful data access.  More here: K2 Data & SmartObjects
  3. System Spanning – Organizations are complex beasts today, and they leverage a wide variety of systems: SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft SharePoint, etc.  Interfacing with all your Line of Business Systems is absolutely critical in today’s world, and is a true requirement for optimal form efficiency.  Being able to read and write to all your departmental and enterprise systems through a single interface can streamline processes, and improve productivity.  Of course, this also needs to be done with little or no code.
  4. Automation – Keystrokes kill efficiency, and form automation is key.  The use of intelligent drop downs, fields that auto-populate based on user credentials and lookups to core systems are examples of automation.   The automation should guide the user, validate data, and drive the required end result.
  5. Dynamic Functionality – A dynamic form can morph its layout based on a wide variety of input.  Examples include the addition or removal of fields or views based on data entry.  Another is this notion of “state”, where a form can be changed based on who is filling it out, or where it is surfaced in a process.
Digital form requirements
Example of Forms 2.0

Thoughts?  Anything I missed?

SharePoint As A Catalyst For The Paperless Office

Digital Forms, Workflow and Build Your Own Applications

Forms, Workflow, Scanning and BPA

Presented this overview at SharePoint Saturday in Utah this past weekend.  Some good info on how to drive paperless transformation with 3 distinct technical phases: scanning, digital forms and workflow.  In the end, tie them all together by Building Your Own Apps (BYOA).


What’s Missing From Most Paperless Initiatives?

Paperless Office and BPM

A Phased Paperless Strategy for Success

The Paperless Office seems to be quite elusive for most organizations, and paper processes are still quite pervasive in most organizations.  Why is that?  It seems that predictions of paper’s demise have been around for a very long time.  There are many challenges, some of which are listed below:

  • The Tech Works, But It Is About People – people just love their paper.  For every project I have ever seen, there are some staunch holdouts.  The “Debbie Downers”.   Folks that just won’t give in, and this can be a serious challenge.
  • The “We are Paperless Tomorrow” Issue – the transition to a digital office needs to be slow and planned.  Large scale paperless initiatives always fail.  Small bites will provide the greatest opportunity for success.
  • Lack of Integration – Just buying 3 scanners at Office Depot, and plopping them on desks will not create a paperless environment.  Software is required to facilitate automation, and integrate with existing systems.
  • A Long Term, Phased Strategy – An office with minimal paper can only be achieved through some serious planning, and a phased approach.

So now that we have established some of the common challenges, lets talk about the 3 key phases of any paper eliminating initiative.

  1. Scan/Capture – preventing paper from flowing into your organization requires that you build a policy surrounding key entry points of this efficiency killer.  Most notably, the mail room, key employees and printers.  Examine your processes, and identify the point of origination, and shoot to automate those input points.  Implement scan and capture technologies to kill the paper before it can enter your organization.  Focus on eliminating printed paper that becomes part of any process, and put a keen eye on employee functions where paper is generated.
  2. Implement a BPM/Workflow Solution – We all know that paper processes are extremely inefficient.  What better time to focus on process improvement and monitoring than during the transition to digital.  Along with digitizing the routing, approvals and other pieces of your process, you can now leverage reporting and intelligence within Business Process Management (BPM) suites to improve both efficiency and productivity.  Want to see the difference between workfow and BPM?  See our article here: Workflow vs. Business Process Management
  3. Implement Digital Forms – Now it is time to take on any existing sources of paperwork that lie within your organization.  Creating digital forms, backed by a workflow/BPM solution, will now eliminate a huge source of inefficiency from your organization.

With this phased strategy, you can reduce your paper burden, and create a productive, efficient environment.  Thoughts?  Did I miss anything?