By Tom Franceski, DocStar
Electronic forms — also referred to as e-forms — are not new, but there are many businesses and organizations that still use paper forms. Many forms are prefilled, printed, and then used to record a signature. Some companies use a word-processing program to create a fillable PDF and end up printing the form to retain a paper document.
If your business hasn’t made the switch, read on below to learn nine compelling reasons your business should make the move now to abandon paper forms and switch to electronic forms.
According to AIIM, the average cost to process a simple paper form is $4.56. If you have 5 people who handle 5 forms each day during a five-day week, that’s 125 forms at a cost of $570 per week or $29,640 per year. According to a recent study, companies in the U.S spend annually more than $120 billion on paper forms, and most forms are outdated within 3 months. Electronic forms dramatically reduce these costs.
According to one recent study, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year, Carbon footprint implications aside, this exacts a significant financial toll. The true cost of paper isn’t the cost of the paper itself, but the costs associated with handling the paper, including printing, capturing, distribution, storage and retrieval. Eliminating paper from the start can have a huge economic and ecological impact.
Paper forms pose problems in routing for review and approval. Often, forms must be copied or scanned so multiple individuals, groups and department have access to the information on the form. Sometimes forms are misplaced, which makes timely sharing impossible. Consider: If the information on the form is important enough to be on a form in the first place, it needs to be in a format that allows for easy document sharing with the ability to control access and security.
Electronic forms are inherently easier to access remotely using any device. More importantly, access can be easily controlled – ubiquitous access doesn’t equate to open access as document security is managed with a few clicks. With the distribution of work to remote, non-centralized locations, the ability to provide for secure, anytime, anywhere access to forms is essential.
E-forms support data validation to ensure information that’s being captured is in a valid format (for example, telephone and email information). Electronic forms also allow for automatic formatting and calculations, further reducing errors. Form fields can be integrated with current databases for synchronization, ensuring the right data is flowing where it needs to go.
E-forms can be easily integrated with other business platforms, including HRIS, ERP and accounting platforms from companies such as Microsoft, Infor, Sage, SAP and Epicor. Related forms can be bundled together to form a document package so the forms can be gathered, grouped, reviewed, approved, and distributed quickly and easily in a consistent and accurate process. The forms reside in the enterprise content management platform but are synchronized with the appropriate business platform and databases.
Forms typically pass through many reviewers, and some of these are making changes to information collected. Who sees the form and what changes were made can be extremely difficult to track using paper forms or scanned documents. E-forms are trackable, enabling users to see who viewed the files, made changes, know where the form is in the work process, and report on its status.
In the U.S., the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act of 2000 granted legal recognition of electronic signatures if all parties to a contract choose to use electronic documents U.K. have similar regulations as well. In most countries, electronic signatures are treated the same as a written signature. Electronic forms are easy to distribute, easy to sign and easy to verify; this is all done securely with advanced safeguarding to prevent fraud and misrepresentation.
Electronic forms allow for automated notifications of workflow assignments to ensure faster, more efficient processing across every department. Real-time workflow integration streamlines the entire document management process, and secure, anytime, anywhere access ensures that forms are getting to the right people, no matter where they’re located or how they chose to connect.
As companies look to digitize more transactions ala digital transformation, e-forms can be one exceptional place to start. Electronic forms increase data and workflow visibility, shorten cycle times, improve service and eliminate paper and paper-related expenses. All the above are compelling reasons to adopt e-forms as they can deliver significant return on investment for your organization.
About The Author
Tom Franceski is vice president and general manager of DocStar (www.docstar.com). DocStar’s proven business process automation technology and workflow expertise empowers organizations to operate at peak performance, navigate change, and grow.