One might be surprised at how many organizations (even progressive, innovative ones) handle forms. Indeed, despite many advances in technology, there is still a job market for data processing “inputters” and filing experts. We have worked with companies who continue to store vast amounts of paper forms, all of which contain data that’s important to the company operations. Imagine what it takes to get those paper forms reviewed, signed, delivered and filed. Then, consider what happens when someone needs the information from those forms when they are stored in a file cabinet in some remote location. It makes me think of the final scene in Indiana Jones where the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were chiseled, are sent to a cavernous warehouse, likely to be lost forever. That makes me, as a BPMS software evangelist, shudder with horror.

Businesses create, distribute, manage and secure ever-increasing amounts of information, all of which is crucial to daily business operations. The vast majority of that information is dynamic; it is constantly manipulated, validated and reviewed as part of regular processes. Decisions are made based on this information, and it is essential that the right users have access to the data that is most relevant to them.

To optimize the processing of many kinds of information, most organizations have implemented some number of electronic forms (eForms) since they easily integrate with back-end repositories, are flexible, and eliminate errors that result from paper forms. Additionally, eForms can be easily adapt to initial business requirements, then updated as the requirements change. We all recognize that the information that goes into a form is dynamic. As a result, at some point it will need to be updated. eForms allow you to manage the entire lifecycle of the form , as well as the data that is contained within it.

Process Director’s eForms are Web-based forms that can be easily developed , as they are based on a Microsoft Word plug-in that is familiar to most users, whether technical or otherwise. Those forms can then be published, and made available to users who access them from their browsers. Our thinking is that easy creation and management of eForms means that workflow, routing and oversight of those forms actually enhances the processes they are a part of. With Process Director, process owners can create and manage eForms of almost any type without requiring coding. That’s truly the case, as our happy customers can attest.

We know that the people who benefit most from the data in forms are the business managers who need to make decisions based on that information. With that in mind, we have given Process Director a flexible, yet powerful, graphical user interface that allows managers to control the behavior of forms and designate the routing flow they should take. This can be done all according to defined business procedures and rules.

Why do we emphasize forms so much? As one component of business process management (BPM), eForms are a basic necessity. First , they provide the most elegant and precise way of capturing data. Second, they provide a format for communicating data to other users.  Third, automating forms provides dramatic time savings. Routing paper forms from person to person within an organization, sometimes across time zones and geographies, can take days – or weeks. Using eForms, data can be reviewed, commented on and approved in a fraction of the time.

One of our customers recently told us that she had three people review and approve one form within one process in five (yes, 5!) minutes. That same form and process took weeks prior to automating it. How much more effective, then, is that process? It goes without saying.

And, by the way, since there is an underlying workflow, email alerts are sent automatically to notify users when there are forms waiting for them review, approve and/or address.

BPM software provides an actionable format for collecting, delivering and managing information. eforms and workflow enhance decision-making ,ensuring that leaders and managers within the organization are more and better informed. Isn’t this what you want for your company?

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