E-Forms: How Businesses Stop Paper at Its Source
As a process improvement expert, one of the areas I’m interested in is the number of paper forms that are used by, and that come into organizations. From membership forms to order forms, tax-exempt forms to registration forms. How many paper forms does your company use and/or receive every day?
The cost of paper forms can quickly pile up and both businesses and their customers feel the pain.
Electronic forms, also known as E-forms can improve the situation, while cutting costs, and reducing the use of paper. Companies who stop paper at its source see big increases in efficiency, control and bottom line improvement.
What is an E-Form?
Quite simply electronic forms provide a user interface to data and services, typically through an internet browser interface. These forms enable users to interact with enterprise applications and the back-end systems linked to them. E-government and E-commerce are good examples of solutions that make use of electronic forms to interact with constituents and customers. The first time you ordered from Amazon, you used an electronic form to set up your account. When you E-file your taxes using an online tax program, you’re using a complex series of online forms to provide the data that enables the program to calculate your tax liability or tax refund.
Typically, any type of paper form can be transformed into an electronic form, including:
- Expense reports
- Job applications
- Patient intake forms
- And more.
Benefits of E-Forms
While many of are still using paper, and justifying it because “it works,” ask yourself this question: Would you rather fill out a paper form with a pen, or type the answers? Most of us these days are comfortable enough with a keyboard that the answer is obvious. If you’re the person using the information on the form to process an order, assess a request or diagnose a patient, would you rather read a hand-written form or a typed one? Again, the answer is obvious.
In addition to ease of use, these forms offer:
- Improvements in efficiency and control
- Lower costs
- Elimination the need to print, store and distribute
- Faster processing
- Automation for formatting, calculating, looking up and validating information
Here’s Your Take-Away
Compared to paper, electronic forms allow businesses and organizations to focus more fully on the process or underlying problem that the form is designed to initiate. They are more “intelligent” than paper – they can understand the roles and responsibilities of the different participants of the process, and in turn, automate routing and much of the decision making necessary to process the form. This innate intelligence that an electronic form provides reduces error and speeds the process from start to finish. Learn more about Forms Processing.
This is a win/win for both the customer and the business.