Address the chaos, part 2: Ditch your abacus and embrace electronic forms

wooden abacus as a background

In Part 1 of this series, we took a look at how your organization can begin to decrease its dependency on paper. Now, we’re taking the next step and looking at how electronic forms optimize slow processes.

Imagine you are sitting at dinner and receive the check. You look at the total and then want to add a little extra for the hard-working waiter who served you. So, how do you decide what to tip? You reach into your pocket or purse and pull out your…abacus. Right?

Wrong. If you want that perfect number, you pull out your cell phone. If you told someone 100 years ago that you needed to use a telephone to calculate a dinner tip, they would probably laugh at you. Well, first you would have to convince them that your phone isn’t magical and it can’t beam you to the moon, then they would laugh.

But times have changed, technology has changed, and now we have better tools right at our fingertips.

Abacuses versus electronic forms

So if that is a no-brainer for you, why do we still use paper to gather information? 100 years ago, that was the best tool available. But today, we have computers, the internet and software – together creating amazing tools to replace outdated and less reliable tools, like paper.

Therefore, I would like to introduce you to electronic forms. And for those of you for whom these sound familiar, I would like you to ask yourself, per the analogy above, why you haven’t embraced them yet?

Here’s a quick reminder of the inefficiencies of paper:

  • Forms on paper take up storage space and inherit the inaccessibility of paper – including trips to the file cabinet for access
  • They often require some form of shipping or transport
  • For those with systems to make information accessibility easier, they still require manual data entry into those systems

Basically, even for those organizations who have already embraced software like business process management to help automate and simplify processes, they still cannot easily connect paper forms to important processes.

Electronic forms should not be seen simply as an electronic version of a paper form. It’s just like how the modern day calculator (even the cell phone app) can do much more, much differently than what we could do with those old, wooden counters.

The exact opposite of static wood, electronic forms are dynamic – able to change as they receive data or even automatically populate previously entered data. People can quickly complete them anywhere, on many devices and via the web, and immediately submit them. And, when integrated into a broader enterprise content management and IT strategy, e-forms can auto-populate with information from business systems and update those systems with the new information.

And with the right systems, those submissions can instantly trigger automated processes. Try doing that with paper.

Increase your speed, accuracy and completeness

Recent AIIM research indicates that the second-highest priority for organizations looking to improve content capture is increased speed of delivering accurate and complete information to the next process. Leveraging electronic forms instead of paper forms is a great step in that direction.

So in light of the “there’s an app for that” mindset – just like there is an easier tool for calculating dinner tips – there is a much easier tool for allowing your employees, clients, constituents and everyone else to submit information you need to better serve them.

It’s time to ditch the paper forms (and any wooden counters you still have lying around) and welcome yourselves to the 21st century! Hurry up, your customers and business partners are waiting.

Jaclyn Inglis Clark

Jaclyn Inglis Clark

Over the last few years working at Hyland, creator of OnBase, Jaclyn has definitely started to drink the Kool Aid – day and night enthusiastically discussing the wonderful benefits of... read more about: Jaclyn Inglis Clark