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When was the last time you heard someone say they love doing paperwork? Chances are you never have. For most employees, filling out forms is an annoying, if necessary, part of their workflow.
With forms automation software, businesses can cut down on the amount of time staff spends on paperwork while improving the way they record, track and store important data.
In this guide, we’ll provide the information you need to choose the right forms automation system for your team, such as:
What Is Form Automation?
Think of form automation as the creation of digital versions of your paper forms, including:
- Work orders
- Internal company records (e.g., financial reports)
- Client-facing documents (e.g., invoices)
When forms are automated, there’s no need to write anything by hand—just open or create the form you need on a computer or mobile device and have it filled out electronically.
Your electronic forms can be designed to resemble the physical ones you already use, but the computerized versions usually require less work and time. Software vendors offer the tools to do this and much more.
Forms automation software provides you with the platform to create, manage, access, complete and authorize forms without using paper.
When entire companies (rather than individuals or small groups) employ a forms management system, it’s called “enterprise forms automation.” Forms automation software vendors cater to every business size. We’ll cover deployment options later in this guide.
Common Functionality of Forms Automation Software
Specialty-specific features aside, we’ve compiled this list of the most common capabilities in forms automation software:
|Form design and creation||Many vendors allow you to simply send scanned versions of your existing paper forms, and they convert them into digital ones. Or, design your own forms from scratch using a variety of templates, layouts and tools (e.g., drop-down menus, check boxes and radio buttons).|
|Form storage||Software programs keep templates and completed forms in a centralized location, allowing users to categorize and easily retrieve documents.|
|Autofill||Set up forms to prefill certain fields with default values. Automatically populating sections in this way makes forms easier to complete.|
|Digital signature||Customers, clients or supervisors can sign forms electronically through the software. This is especially valuable for documents that require validation, review or approval.|
|Offline access||Many cloud-based solutions remain functional in offline settings. Remote teams can submit automated forms through the program and the forms update on their own once internet access is regained.|
|User permissions||Business administrators can set user roles and permissions to ensure only authorized parties within their companies have access to particular forms.|
Forms Automation Software Benefits
Here are some of the ways form automation solutions can help businesses with their paperwork processes:
Top Benefits of Forms Automation Software
Forms automation software can be deployed in several different ways. Before you begin evaluating vendors, you'll have to choose between the following options:
- Best-of-breed vs. integrated suite: If you’re strictly looking for forms automation capabilities, this will be an easy decision: best-of-breed solutions will give you exactly what you’re looking for with no excess functionalities. However, some businesses, such as marketing companies or retailers, may benefit from purchasing software that offers forms automation in addition to other useful applications in one total package. A content management software suite, for example, includes forms automation, plus e-commerce, social networking and content publishing applications.
- Perpetual license vs. subscription license: Would you rather pay an upfront lump sum for your software or make periodic payments over time? It’s important to note that most subscription license software vendors have tiered pricing depending on the number of users; more users typically means higher monthly or annual fees.
- Cloud-based vs. on-premise: Since most cloud-based products allow you to update forms when you’re offline, you shouldn’t let concerns about remote access factor into this decision. However, be aware that some vendors charge fees for additional storage on the cloud.
As you begin evaluating products, you’ll notice that most cloud-based deployments require a subscription license regardless of whether they’re best-of-breed or integrated suite solutions. The one you choose will ultimately depend on your budget, needs and expected number of users.
Market Trends to Understand
As you begin the process of software comparison and evaluation, there are some emerging market trends in the field of forms automation that you should consider before making your final selection. These trends will help you understand recent developments in the field of forms automation and guide you in selecting the ideal system for your business.
Technology that enables rich content will be built into forms. Modern forms automation solutions are being developed with rich content, such as interactive content, animations and more to improve the overall user experience and decrease the chances of abandonment. Also, the rise of digital media in customers’ personal devices, such as modern input methods and new cameras, is the driving factor behind the creation of more rich content in forms.
Use of mobile forms increases. Mobile forms previously allowed only simple workflows such as approvals, but they are now expanding to encompass more critical tasks and complex forms, making them useful for field operations, real estate, field sales and insurance businesses.
Cloud-based solutions to be the priority. Forms automation software offerings are mostly cloud-based, so form data can be stored completely in the cloud.
Adoption among health care providers rises. Currently, health care providers, such as hospitals, clinics and ambulatory facilities, are continuously dealing with rising financial pressures that may directly affect the delivery of quality care among patients. So, providers are looking for innovative solutions, such as forms automation systems, to improve their overall revenue. In addition, advanced forms automation solutions are enabling hospitals to cut operating costs and optimize their revenue cycles. These solutions also ensure data integrity across the health care provider’s administrative, financial and clinical systems.
Your Guide to Top Forms Automation Software, March 2021
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