All industries make use of some variety of form.
Most companies and institutions are admin driven and require forms to be submitted, processed and of course acted on. And because all these organisations are so dependent on forms, it is unsurprising that so many are now seeking to escape from the tyranny of paper formats - which I think we all agree are unreliable, time consuming to process and painstaking to amend.
The transition from paper to electronic forms must be seen as a given. Considerably faster and easier to process, electronic forms are more intuitive; they reduce labour costs and improve reliability and precision.
Electronic form solutions enable companies to collect data from customers, store it electronically and then process it with automated systems. This enables those responsible to edit data more easily, and to maintain customised processes locally or across the entire enterprise.
Electronic forms can’t do anything about antiquated business rules. But they provide a more accurate, intuitive replacement for paper forms than standard HTML forms or cold data entry screens. Organisations looking to streamline form processes should consider a total solution that can effortlessly manage the creation and storage of both electronic and paper forms.
Using XML-based forms to make it easier for your people to gather, store and share information is currently the optimum solution. XML-enabled forms simplify business process automation by enabling organisations to define how they want information captured and entered through rich forms they create and also to decide how the information is used by back-end systems throughout the organisation.
With XML-enabled forms, workers can group, sort and track data from a large number of forms without having to open each one. This makes information gathering and sharing in a shared workspace easier and more efficient.
The Microsoft solution
Using InfoPath™ 2003 enables the creation of rich, dynamic forms that company teams can use to gather, share, reuse and manage information.
Entering the data electronically means no repetitious, ineffective and tedious data entry, freeing time to do more interesting and important work. Validation - with lookups and pick lists in the forms - means that the data is consistent and accurate. Data captured in forms is stored as XML, making it easy to integrate with other systems.
InfoPath integrates with Microsoft® Windows® SharePoint™ Services to provide a quick and easy way for teams to collaborate using Windows SharePoint Services form libraries.
The server-based deployment model makes InfoPath forms available to everyone in your organisation - and built-in version control detects when the solution has been updated so that users always have the most up-to-date forms.
"This whole process meant we took a much deeper look, and questioned the way we operate. As a result, the department runs much more smoothly and is more strongly unified."
Sharon Adkin, Project Manager, Department for Education and Skills
This was first published in January 2005