Put your paper forms in the shredder
Paper forms have been with us forever. When you think of filling out a form, it is the paper version that usually comes to mind.
There is a common misconception that making the move from paper to mobile forms is a slow, expensive and complicated process. Large organisations particularly shy away because the perceived IT complexity is too great or too costly.
By taking a more practical approach the truth is that it's a lot easier than you might imagine, and there are many benefits to putting those paper forms through the shredder.
Take an industry like civil construction. Forms are needed for every stage of the process, from safety to compliance to worker efficiency, and when they're on paper they can get lost, misplaced or cause delays as they have to be physically moved from one department to another. Moving forms to a mobile app eliminates this risk.
As the price of paper increases, so does the cost of forms, especially when multiple versions are needed. Mobile forms help reduce costs and reduce your environmental impact.
The immediacy of data provided by mobile forms allows Business Analysts to make timely and qualified decisions.
Instead of handing pieces of paper around, searching for them in file cabinets or sifting through the post, a mobile form can be shared throughout a business simply by pressing a few buttons on a smartphone or tablet.
They're not going to get lost in the post, ripped and torn, or cause errors because someone's handwriting is difficult to read. The quality of the data is better, and if there are people in the business that are dyslexic, forms can be completed using voice dictation and selecting options from lists.
By minimising re-keying and the time spent chasing paper forms around the company, the admin time is reduced.
What it all boils down to is making the move from paper to mobile forms means your business will have better access to information, reduce costs and become more efficient.
So how do you quickly and easily make the move from paper to mobile forms? The tech challenges are not nearly as daunting as you might think; you don't need to be a developer to build your own form.
We've broken it down into 4 simple steps.
Your goal in the beginning is to review all your paper forms and determine what challenges they have, such as:
Once you've worked out the problems, it becomes easier to decide how you’re going to iron them out using the mobile version.
It follows on naturally that the next part of this step is to work out what data is most important for your business. What do the forms need to capture, and who needs to see the results? What’s the purpose of each form? The trick is to be data-driven - think about how you want to examine and interact with the data, and how the data will appear on the backend of the system, e.g. when designing questionnaires.
|TIP: Don't be intimidated by perceived technological barriers. Not only is the move from paper to mobile simpler than you probably think, with the right tools you can actually build your own forms and customise them for your business without developer knowledge.|
Once you've reviewed all your paper forms, identified the major issues and decided what you want your data to achieve, the next step is to consolidate all your current forms. Collect samples of all the forms your business is using regularly, and decide if:
Think about the process of going through the form from the perspective of who will be filling it out. There should be a natural, logical flow, especially if the form is going to be used at some point to facilitate a discussion or a meeting.
Going through the consolidation process will give you a fresh perspective on the kind of data your forms are capturing, so you can improve on it. This will result in a better quality digital result.
The great thing about mobile forms is that the data they capture is a lot more secure than paper. The information can be protected in any number of ways, but with paper the only option is to physically lock it up, which creates logistical problems when it needs to be accessed and shared. So mobile forms mean that not only will you capture better and more comprehensive data, but it’ll be easier and more secure than the paper version.
It’s important not to 'overthink' this, and first focus on simply collecting the data. Simply having in digital form but a major advance for everyone in the business, without rushing to expensive or possibly complex integrations.
Making the shift to mobile data collection can open up a world of data that can provide insight into your business effectiveness and help increase your operational efficiency.
TIP be on the lookout for improvements that can be made as your mobile forms are being used, and listen to feedback from those using them. If you've gone for a custom-built solution, your provider should be willing to make updates.
The initial testing stage should ideally be done with a small pool of internal users. If you've employed a professional to help you make the move from paper to mobile, they'll work with you to decide who are the best people to be testing the mobile forms.
It’s critical to include a sample of your most important stakeholders, i.e., the ones who will not only be using the forms regularly, but who will be looking at and analysing the data the forms provide.
Once you've completed testing internally, it is time to roll it out to external users such as suppliers and contractors. It's a good idea to work with both novices and experienced mobile form users; each will give you different yet relevant feedback you can use to tailor your forms.
When you've completed the testing phase, collate all the feedback and review with your provider and your primary stakeholders. It's at this point you'll decide what changes need to be made.
With the initial three steps completed, it's time to roll it out to the entire team. When you do, it's a good idea to run a series of internal workshops to get everyone up to speed. You’ll need to ensure that everyone’s smartphone or tablet is capable of accessing the forms and filling them out.
Demonstrate how the new forms work, especially if you've customised them to include drop-down lists, checkboxes, calculations and multi-choice options.
Describe what will happen once each form is completed, and for those staff who need access to the information generated by the forms, make sure they're given the appropriate privileges.
Document how each team will make the conversion from paper to mobile. Depending on how much paper a department has been using, there may need to be a period of time where selected staff members are tasked with building new forms on the mobile app.
Mobile forms, and the data they capture, provides numerous benefits to businesses and organisations that go above and beyond what you can do with paper data collection. Mobile forms eliminate time-consuming and often costly paperwork, as well as improving the quality of your data and increasing the efficiency of your business.
As your business moves from paper to mobile forms for data collection, follow these 4 steps to better ensure a smart, comprehensive and smooth transition – and to fully take advantage of the key features of mobile technology, anywhere, anytime.
FormTab enables organisations to easily build and deploy their own mobile forms. Within minutes you can be up and running with mobile forms deployed into the field, online or offline, and efficiently collecting data. It is easy for staff to learn and use, and flexible to accommodate change as your requirements shift.
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