By Brian Sugarman on August 25, 2021
Tags: Business Operations
Converting your paper forms into digital forms instead? The switch from paper to digital brings you new possibilities on what to include and how to create your forms to optimize your results. This article covers some of the ways you can create better forms using digital form builders.
Instead of trying to replicate your exact paper form, it can be useful to think outside of the box to come up with smarter ways of collecting, sharing, and storing your information. You can definitely keep the same look and feel of your paper forms in the digital world, so think about how the technology can build upon what you have to make it even better. Here are 13 ideas on how you can start creating forms to maximize your results.
You never know what information your workers are going to jot down when it comes to paper forms. Many times you are left with missing fields or incorrect information that creates additional work to fix the mistakes.
But with digital forms, you can create required fields that help to ensure information is filled out completely. A required field you may see marked with an asterisk to denote that this field can not be skipped over. This is a simple feature of a digital form, but it can go a long way to helping you get the information you need for complete data.
While making fields required will give you more complete data, creating standard fields will help you to get more standard data. Standard data may seem unimportant, but when you go to run a report you will find that standard fields ensure you have accurate reporting.
Take for example a form field that is asking you to fill out a client’s address, including their state. If the client lives in DC, your submission from the field could be formatted as several different options (i.e. Washington, Washington, D.C, DC, etc.). When you go to run a report of all clients in DC, you may be left with incomplete data since the spelling is inconsistent throughout your data.
The best practice here is to standardize how you collect data with the digital form. By making the state field in this example a “drop-down” list with predetermined options, your data will come out uniform. Be careful with open-ended form fields and instead use a drop-down list or check boxes to ensure information is formatted consistently across submissions.
By moving from paper forms to digital submissions, you have the ability to include new types of media in your submission. Including images can be added to your form, so that an employee can take photos on their mobile device and have it attached to their submission.
This can be useful for things like inspections, where you also have a report that is generated after the completed inspection. Showing images in those inspection reports bring greater detail and more value for the client to see exactly what is being documented in the report.
Signature capture is an essential part of many forms, from invoices and quotes, to inspections and audits. This feature is simplified with digital forms, giving your teams the ability to sign documents directly from a tablet or mobile device. Make sure that you include signature capture on any of the forms where you need to verify approval or want a digital record in the future of an agreement between parties.
Another added advantage of digital forms is the ability to use native mobile features, like GPS tracking captured by a cell phone. You can include this information in a form submission, so that the exact location is captured and documented in your final report. This can be useful for use cases where you need to document and verify the exact location, like a job site inspection for example. GPS coordinates can also be tracked as a hidden field, so it’s collected automatically when the worker is on a specific job site.
One of the biggest challenges for field teams can be calculating math on the spot for an estimate or invoice. An added benefit of using digital forms is that you can actually create calculations within the form, so that all your calculations are performed automatically. For the person filling out the form, they will simply need to input the correct numbers (i.e. hours worked or parts used) and the calculation will be done for them. This simplifies the job for teams and ensures that there are no costly calculation errors.
Many industries rely on barcodes on the job, including industries like Retail, Manufacturing, Construction, or transportation and logistics. Digital forms can include barcode scanning, allowing your teams to submit this information directly from their mobile device or barcode scanning hardware. This feature saves companies time by enabling them to quickly scan codes into their forms without having to manually type 12+ characters into the form field. It also helps reduce errors in data collection, since typing out data manually can often introduce human error. Barcode scanning and QR code scanning is another great add-on to enhance your digital mobile forms.
Creating forms with the option to collect a digital payment is a nice feature for companies that work directly with clients. This feature can help your business get paid faster and simplify the process for clients with seamless digital payments and invoices. Many digital forms on the market today will allow you to connect to a payments platform like Square, so you can capture credit card payments directly from your mobile device or tablet from a customer.
A simple paper form can be time-consuming to fill out all of the appropriate information. When you move to creating your forms digitally, you can also leverage tools for enriching your form field data with information that is already known. For example, you could bring in data from your CRM system, so that a customer’s address is pre-populated in the form, rather than having that filled out by hand. This type of data integration allows for faster form submissions and makes the job easier for employees.
Similar to a scenario where you would want to integrate data into your forms, you may also want to have a data integration set up to take your form submission data and push it into another database. For example, you may have an integration set up with payroll or accounting systems to process invoices or timesheets based on the data that is submitted within a form. This can streamline and automate your business processes, and helps increase productivity for your staff. Consider data integrations when creating forms, as this can be another advanced way to leverage the technology to save your business time and money.
When creating forms, you may also want to take advantage of the ability to assign and collaborate with different people at your organization. Form builders will allow you to dispatch or assign a form to one person at your company and then have a workflow setup to pass the submission to another person to complete their assigned task. This type of collaboration and workflow features within forms, allows you to create forms that can be distributed to multiple people in real-time.
After all of this hard work you have done to collect accurate and rich information through your form submissions, the final step is to make sure you are putting that information into the hands of anyone that needs it. This could be in the form of a report that is automatically sent via email to the appropriate stakeholders, or it could mean using analytics reports to identify trends in your business. A digital form builder allows you to share information in real-time, cutting down the time it takes to create and share reports. Analytics are becoming more widely adopted to spot trends within the submission data to discern patterns.
Another way to create better forms is to use a platform that is built to support compliance. OSHA and HIPPA are two of the common compliance requirements in the US when collecting information. When selecting a platform for creating digital forms, be sure that they can support compliance needs for your organization when handling this critical information. Most best-in-class form builders will have this feature built into their platforms, but it’s an important one to remember when you embark on creating your digital forms.
GoCanvas is a mobile platform that makes it simple for any business to automate how work is done, replacing outdated processes and expensive paperwork. The GoCanvas App works on all smartphones and tablets, helping companies easily collect information across their organization, share it instantly with others and gain real-time insights on their business operations.