Jul 2021
6
Mins read

Form Automation: What Is It, and How Can Businesses Automate Repetitive Processes and Data Collection With Forms?

Form automation is the backbone of digital business. It provides a way to collect and process data, quickly analyze it, and make decisions based on that data. Unfortunately, companies without form automation rely heavily on manual processing of forms (often referred to as paper-based or legacy systems). These are time-consuming for staff, not to mention prone to human error. This article examines the benefits of automated forms in greater detail, including some examples to illustrate how form automation can make your life easier.

Is your organisation up to speed on best practices for forms? If you aren’t using form automation, then you are missing out on significant time savings and data insights you could easily overlook. 

Today we take a closer look at how form automation works, its wide-ranging applications that are available to businesses, and how to choose the right form automation software for your organisation.

CentricMinds offers digital form automation as part of our workplace platform.

What is form automation?

Form automation is the set of software processes that allows for standardised and easy creation of digital forms, delivery, filling, and return of forms, an optional approval step, then collation of returned data into a database, and, potentially, automated actions performed based on that incoming data.

At each step of the process automation is built-in, so the only human involvement - and potential ‘wait’ time - is in the creation of a form, the filling in of a form, and an optional approval of the form.

Digital forms aren’t just available on desktop either. With responsive mobile forms, it’s easy for employees, managers, customers, and clients alike to use mobile devices to capture digital data and submit it quickly.

For example, you would like to know how your customer service officers do at their station in stores. You install a tablet next to the service desk, with a feedback form displayed. Once a customer fills it in and chooses to submit it, this is sent to your database. Your database is connected to an up-to-date dashboard of team performance across multiple and individual stores. From these insights, you can see high performers or where more attention is needed. You are also able to cut down manual time spent responding to incoming complaints and accolades via email, socials, and phone this way too.

What are the advantages of digital forms over paper, email and spreadsheets?

Significant time savings

The main advantage of digital forms over traditional types of forms such as paper based, email, and spreadsheets is that everything is near-instant, to increase productivity. The only time-blocking activities in the process are creating your form, the user filling out your form, a potential human approval of a submitted form, and then deciding how to format collective output data. 

Built-in error-checking

Error checking and data quality checks can be built into forms, such as word limits, numbers outside of bounds, must-fill radio button selection, etc.

Organised and available data

Since digital forms are back-ended by a database, this data is now always available in one place, timestamped, and does not decay or get lost.

Pre-filled elements

For instance, an employees details may be prefilled on a form for an internal job promotion, while the same form could go out to outside candidates. This removes double data entry duties.

Easy to update

Digital forms can be changed instantly to encompass new or changing conditions.

Version history

Digital forms can be versioned to recover or view previous versions.

Access controls

Setting up granular access controls means that you can decide which people, departments, and business users can see individual form responses and/or insights from the collective data.

Improved user satisfaction

Digital forms are easy to use over paper-based. When you automate repetitive requests and approvals, everyone is happy.

Improved provider satisfaction

No more filing, spreadsheet management, manual follow ups, and more!

Follow-up tasks automatically

Workflows can be created on specific triggers such as end of a submission period, a new submission, a late submission, a particular answer, and more.

What are the benefits of automating data collection in business?

According to Salesforce’s 2021 Trends in Workflow Automation report, “75% of technical leaders who have implemented automation report time savings equivalent to at least four hours per 40-hour week.” That’s a baseline 10% time savings across your whole organisation

Automating data collection in business isn’t just beneficial and doesn’t just save time and money. These days, automating these workflow processes is essential in remaining on top of performance, compliance, operational efficiency, innovation, team management, and market share. Digital forms are just one avenue of business automation and can be used widely across your organisation for a huge range of applications.

What are some examples of form automation for mobile frontline workers?

  • Inspections in the Food and Beverage Industry
  • Audits in the Healthcare Industry
  • Safety Inspections and Field Audits for Construction, Oil and Gas
  • Corrective Action and Preventive Action (CAPA) in Biotech and Pharmaceuticals,
  • Incident Reports in Retail, Transport, Oil and Gas
  • Audits and Compliance in Retail (Loss Prevention Audit Form, Planogram Compliance Audit)
  • Safe Return to Work Form post-Covid

What are some examples of form automation for office WFH teams?

  • HR requests, via automation of employee onboarding, employee feedback, travel requests, contractor and freelancer requests, job recruitment
  • Learning and training requests
  • Purchase form, expense form, and procurement requests and approvals
  • Customer onboarding forms
  • Maintenance requests
  • IT requests

Choosing forms automation software: Things to consider

There are a large number of form automation software products on the market, which can make it tricky to discern which one will be the best fit for your business. While this isn’t a forms automation buyers guide per se, here are some things to consider when weighing up your options.

Does it offer web and responsive mobile options?

Whether the form software is offered only via web (browser), or via web and a standalone app, the software should be easy to view and use across device types. This is especially important when you need to capture data in the field.

How much customization is possible?

Different form providers have different levels of customization available. For instance, they may purely have free text answering available, or the option to choose drop-down menus and radio buttons, upload images and files, embed images, videos, and more.

Can it be branded to my business?

Business branding always looks more professional. Consider whether this is a must-have when choosing your software.

Does the software limit the number of fields?

While it’s best to limit the number of fields in forms so that you don’t experience user fatigue, some software limits the number of fields based on cost.

What is the monthly cost - per user, forms created, responses?

There are a lot of different pricing options in the forms software market. This means you’ll have an extra step in calculations when comparing across different providers to obtain an average monthly figure.

What insights does the software provide from my forms?

What are the built-in insights available with the software? This may include the number of forms submitted per day, sent forms vs filled forms, 

How much automation does the software provide?

Free form software is generally very limited in the type of automation it provides. For example, the only automation might be an email sent to a form owner on receipt of a new submission. You want forms to be as automated as possible to provide the best benefits to your business.

How safe is your data?

Is your forms data encrypted before sending? Where is it stored? What security controls are placed on storage? These are all questions to dig into.

What CentricMinds offers

CentricMinds offers a single platform that connects people to work and team members, providing an employee experience for a mobile workforce and in-office teams - and automated forms are a central piece of the platform.

  • No code form creation and design for simple to through to complex forms 
  • Use no code workflows and boost your outcomes
  • Managers and employees are able to access forms from a central dashboard
  • Easy to configure automation of form submission, routing data to people, databases, export data to internal systems, or to CSV, XML or PDF files
  • Via app or web, display forms that employees use regularly, or for frontline workers provide them with access to a list of forms they use daily to complete tasks
  • With the reporting dashboard, managers can view which forms are actively used in the last number of days, and drill down to the details of collected data, creating custom visualizations including charts, graphs and tables
  • Secure data management processes and storage, with optional HIPAA compliance configuration

Get started with CentricMinds

If you are looking at form automation software for your business, we think you will love our platform. Reach out to one of our consultants to book a free demonstration of the power of our forms functionality.