How to Shape, Manage, and Control Your Business Information: Tips for Using E-Forms Effectively

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato viewed everything as a form, and every form as an ideal version of an object. His notions hold true with an increasingly popular business tool: electronic forms (eforms), which allow organizations to stipulate the ideal form for content so it enters their organizations as consistent, desirable, and ready to use. (Had Plato lived to see eforms, I think he would have approved.)

To generate desired efficiencies, electronic forms demand meticulous attention to detail. Each form must shape the content it captures to maximize meaning and usefulness for those who rely on it. When they’re well designed, forms gather quality content and use it intelligently. Built-in controls provide tools to capture and make meaningful information useful wherever it has value. This article will help you understand considerations in designing and using online forms so they will supply the control, compliance, and results you’re looking for.
The basics

Web-based forms that are part of an integrated document and process management system ensure:

* Form content is standardized, consistent, and complete
* Content is available and searchable within moments of creation
* Forms can be accessed, amended, routed, and submitted securely from anywhere, anytime
* Authorized persons can view, edit, and delete forms and their content
* Audit trails of content creation, access, and transactional use are always available, allowing quick response to reviews, reporting requirements, litigation, etc.

In essence, eForms make your people more productive, efficient, and compliant.
What eForms provide that paper forms don’t

If you think you can just scan your paper forms and forego this article, you’re right…and wrong. Scanning paper is a big step forward. However, creating content digitally – rather than scanning the paper later – renders significant added controls:

* increasing the probability of productive search;
* promoting quick completion of collaborative forms;
* making submitted content available instantly;
* enforcing governance policies; and
* promoting significant cost savings (no paper).

Creating eforms isn’t difficult, but reaping the rewards requires more than replicating paper forms. If you plan to automate processing using eforms – a huge benefit — you need to don your thinking cap before you start designing. Here are some standard steps for eforms projects and questions you should ask yourself before you begin.
Conduct a form inventory

Analyzing your forms leads to effective streamlining, ending the collection of duplicate information for different uses and reducing inevitable errors.

Ask:

* What form types do we have (expense reports, applications)?
* What purpose does each serve? (Documenting form function will help users select correct forms when multiple options exist.)
* Is there data duplication between forms?
* Can form types (or content) be eliminated or combined?

Gather accurate information

Research claims 5-10% of your time should be allocated for quality control. Assuming your workers’ error rate is typical 3-5% – or even 1% — errors and correction are costly. Rules-based eforms enforce your rules, collecting clean data by:

* Regulating data collection protocols
* Confirming procedural compliance
* Creating automated reports by throwing form contents against your business rules

Ask:

* What specific information is needed (First name, document ID number)?
* Can content be extracted from existing data sources (line-of-business software, customer database)?
* Must data sources be re-executed when documents are updated?
* Which metadata (such as an invoice number you plan to import from your accounting system) should not be subject to change?
* Which fields should be mandatory? Which can be optional?
* In which order should questions be answered to enable logical, quick form completion?
* What data restrictions would help to ensure accurate data entry? (Examples: prescribing an acceptable date range or the number of digits for an ID number; forcing users to choose responses from drop-down menus.)
* Can we automate numerical calculations using existing data?
* Is the information users will need for successful search marked mandatory?

Classify content so forms and information can be found quickly

Indexing is critical to a successful eforms implementation, since it catalogs crucial information people expect to retrieve. These questions will help you wrap your mind around classification so diverse users can find the information they require when they need it, without fail.

Ask:

* How would I describe this form type and its function(s) within our organization?
* What metadata will workers need to search for historical, reference, or legal purposes (name, document type, customer ID number, etc.)?
* How are documents currently grouped – by department, function, or another method?
* Does it make sense to adapt current practices as an indexing scheme, or can they be improved?

Enforce adherence to governance policies

Purchasing eforms as part of an integrated document and business process management suite lets you control how they are accessed and used throughout the document lifecycle. Your security settings follow each form throughout its creation, storage, and useful life, leaving a clear, continuous audit trail from generation through destruction.

Ask:

* Which groups of users need to access to this form type or its contents?
* Should users be permitted to re-index documents after they have been classified?
* Which feature rights should each user group have, such as the right to retrieve, view, annotate, email, or delete this form type?
* Should metadata values (such as accounts over a certain sum) be used to restrict form access?
* After this form serves its purpose, will we need it for historical, legal, or reference purposes?
* How long must this form be retained in order to comply with regulations?

Since regulations keep mounting and penalties for non-compliance are increasingly severe, governing who has access to your information and how it is used is critical.
Regulate the flow of work

Artist Donald Graham once quipped, “The world seems to be made up of a never-ending series of overlapping forms. There always seems to be something in back of something else.” So it is in business; processes typically use multiple forms that overlap and depend on each other. The greatest efficiency is when eforms automatically launch routine processes, expediting the distribution and completion of work. Even if you implement forms simply as a way to collect and store information, keep your eye on process automation, where the greatest savings and benefits occur.

Ask:

* Which data on each form is needed for processing or decision making?
* Is the entire form needed, or just specific data?
* At what point in each process is the information needed?
* What integrations would allow seamless data transfer from other systems to the form?
* When the completed form is submitted, should it automatically create a PDF?
* Should form submission launch one or more specific processes, email acknowledgements, or other actions?

What you need to know

Version control: Form completion, review, and signoff can involve multiple people, so versioning is critical. Make sure your product tracks when saved documents were created, edited, viewed, and deleted. It’s helpful during the forms lifecycle, audits, and eDiscovery.

Ease of use: Like any technology, this is vital to adoption. Assess whether your product has a user-friendly interface with tools to help users, such as flexible windows, moveable work spaces, and interactive user guides. Although training is important, tools that are easy to use will shorten the learning curve.

Browser-based access: As employees become more mobile, web access to work is becoming crucial, offering flexibility, round-the-clock service, and saving trips to the office. Even if you don’t think you need it now, you will – so think ahead.
Summary

Successful forms management demands that you:

* Invest ample time in design so you consistently get what you need;
* Create a thorough indexing plan with input from all levels of staff so diverse users can consistently find what they need to be efficient;
* Understand and leverage the interrelationship of the forms and processes in your business through eforms and process automation so you can offer better service and realize significant savings.

With these goals in mind, along with these guidelines to help you on your way, you’re on the path to enable smart, sustainable business practices that will make your business more agile, profitable, and successful.
Why choose DocFinity?

Powerful. Reliable. Affordable. The architecture behind DocFinity creates a powerful, flexible document and process management suite that is reliable, easy to administer, and scalable to varied needs. All products are designed around the most contemporary and reliable server architecture, with complete functionality underwritten in web services that are published to clients for easy, thorough integration.

* Browser-based forms let you submit, access, work on, and route forms from any location.
* Configurable security and feature rights ensure sensitive information is protected.
* DocFinity is easy to use, administer, and support: one logon gives authorized users and administrators access to documents, content, and prioritized task lists.
* An intuitive interface with configurable options such as moveable and resizable windows and adjustable column widths maximizes each worker’s productivity.
* Seamless integration with DocFinity document, content, and business process management/workflow software and your existing information systems enables quicker turnaround, better service, and significant cost savings.
* Affordable pricing with licensing and subscription pricing options for organizations of all sizes.

If you’re looking for state-of-the-art technology that you can afford, with friendly and quality support and services wherever you need it, we can help.

*****

Optical Image Technology offers an integrated suite of imaging, document management, and workflow software, including document archiving, lifecycle management, electronic forms, and email management products. To learn more about our products and services visit our website at http://www.docfinity.com, email info@docfinity.com, or call us at 800-678-3241.

Home Based Business – Information on Submitting Your Website to the Directories

When you submit your website URL to the Internet web directories, it is know as directory submission. It is one of the most efficient ways of enhancing the link popularity of your home based business website by getting one-way links.

If you are interested in getting inbound links you must take the directory submission route. One of the effective ways to rank higher in the search engines is to enhance the link popularity building. It does not cost much.

Basic information:

Knowing about URL — URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a unanimously accepted terminology throughout the world. It is possible to locate any document or file on the Internet using URL which is uniform. Be careful that you don’t make even a single error of a comma or space. If there are errors the website will not be accepted by the directory editor.

Making title — The title should be small having about three four words that describe your home based business product or service on which the site is based. Keyword should be used cleverly in the title.

At the same time keyword should be randomly used 2 to 3 times in the description. An interesting description will help generate good traffic. The usage of keyword should in no way suggest as if you are doing advertisement of your website.

The anchor text:

Ensure that the anchor text or title is dissimilar to other directory. This will help you avoid spam issues. Many inbound links having the same title can be considered as spam. So if you want to have best campaigns for your website, try to alter your titles.

You can take the help of any keyword selector tool that will help you know which words to use while creating the content. This will ultimately help in increasing the popularity of your home based business.

Be careful while selecting the category for submitting your website. First find out what the proper category of your site is. You can do this by resorting to trial and error method since not all directories have one and the same method of classifying their categories.

Avoiding spam mails:

You will be required to give the e-mail address for verifying your listing. While doing so ensure that you use a different e-mail address for directory submission. This way you will not be getting those useless and unwanted spam mails in your normal inbox.

For good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) the directory where you wish to submit your website should be regularly updated. It should have high page rank on Google. Ensure that the web directory is static and is categorized properly.

The final stage:

Search engines do not index the websites which are newly launched. For search engine visibility, you will need a quick backlink support. Initially make not less than 1000 directory submissions. In the subsequent months the number can come down to 200-400 submissions per month. This will help you deal better with search engines and spam issues.

So follow these guidelines for submitting your website to right directories. This will help you generate quality traffic to your site thereby enhancing the prospects of your home based business.

Is Your Critical Business Information Protected with Remote Data Backup?

How would your business be affected if there was a fire or flood that completely wiped out your computer system? How long would it take you to recover? Data backup and specifically, remote or online data backup is ABSOLUTELY something that the smart business owner (small or large) should consider and implement.

All of the important information on your computer like financial documents, email, digital photos, music and more; for businesses: customer files, accounting programs and files, contact & direct mail lists, sales tracking, photos, product information, etc. that would be missed or (more likely) devastating if not accessible should be backed up or saved somewhere other than your hard drive or even local backup systems such as CD, DVED, flash or tape drives or USB. Offsite or remote data back up is imperative to consider if you value your computer’s information.

Your data can be lost in a variety of ways and for different reasons. Power spikes are capable of leading to data loss, especially for computer systems without surge protectors or voltage regulators. Unfortunately, computers are vulnerable to hard drive crashes, virus attacks, theft and natural disasters, which can erase everything in an instant. All of us are possible victims of accidental file deletions or disk reformatting. Not to mention physical hazards like flood, fire or other natural (or unnatural) disaster. Virus or malware attacks can lead to lost files and information for unlucky computer users. Human error or sabotage can seriously damage or destroy files and even backups.

A recent article on AOL News cites a Florida woman, afraid of losing her job, deleting $2.5 million worth of company files from the architectural firm where she worked. “She obviously wasn’t quite right in the head when doing this, but we’re inclined to think that the owner of the business isn’t all there either. Despite estimating the worth of the company’s files at $2.5 million, the architecture firm had no backup systems in place. That’s a recipe for disaster regardless of the sanity of your employees. Even the local Sheriff’s office knows better than that, issuing the following statement: The lesson to be learned here is that you can’t depend on having just one set of records or files and having your employees have access to them. You’ve got to have some kind of backup. Thankfully the files were able to be recovered, but backups of important files are not something you should take lightly.”

Statistics show that one out of ten hard drives fail each year. Another widely published statistic from the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration in Washington states that 50% of businesses that lose their critical data for 10 days or more file for bankruptcy.

Backing up your data is essential and easy to implement, regardless of what kind of computing you do. These days, most people backup their important information on CDs, DVDs, external hard drivers, and flash drives so they can quickly retrieve the second copy if ever needed. However, what they fail to realize is these second copies are just as vulnerable and susceptible to damage as the first copy, especially if they are stored in near vicinity of each other. Using a backup method such as CD-ROM or external hard drive defeats the purpose if it is not kept in a completely remote, different area. Fire, theft, flood, and natural disasters are still viable threats.

Online data storage is a very good alternative. There are other benefits to automated remote data back up services. Automatic backups save at least 10 minutes a day over manual backups. You or your employee spending that time running backups at $20 an hour, translates into about $67 a month in savings. Manual backup media, as discussed, is notoriously failure-prone and vulnerable to environmental damage (heat, sunlight, humidity, liquids, dust) and human mishandling (scratched, bent and dropped, lost or stolen). Security of your critical data when backed up with an online and off-site data backup service can be verified as far superior to manual backup media. It even protects you from theft. If your laptop is stolen,(which happens frequently) you’ll still have all the data.

Home Business Information Everyone Should Know Or Else

Millions of people have dreamed, at one time or another, of launching their own home-based business, and of the incredible opportunities it can provide. You can become your own boss, and work when you want. However, actually implementing this plan is separate from dreaming it. This article provides some advice on how to put your plan into action.

Although some of the perks of working at home, like wearing comfortable clothes can seem fun, you might miss speaking with people on a regular basis, like you did in a prior job. Going out sometimes during the week will help you to keep up personal interactions.

Try a side of comedy with your lunch! A good laugh invigorates your respiratory system, calms your mind and reinvigorate you with feelings of joy and love. If you want to have fun, watch some funny videos on the net! And after the chortles have gone, back to work you go.

Online forums alongside other entrepreneurs of home business can help you find advocates to communicate with. You will learn that there are many online places to meet up with other home business owners. Many people on these forums are willing to offer proven advice that can help guide you through any difficulties you may face.

Offer multiple ways for customers to contact you, including email, telephone and even traditional mail. See if you can stay in touch with your customers through a newsletter, ask for feedback from them, and use site analytics to see what products customers are buying the most often. If they did buy a product after asking a question, maybe your answer is what caused them to pull the trigger.

If you are searching for a product to sell in your home business you should start by asking yourself what product you would like to have. A product or service that fills an everyday issue is one that will appeal to a good-sized customer market. If your product fixed a frequent problem, it is likely to be a top seller.

Make sure that you are the only one that is making financial decisions for your business, if you are sole owner. Giving others access to your business finances means that you will also be responsible if they make foolish choices.

If it is a viable idea and won’t distract from your website, you can earn a profit from requiring membership fees. It’s often possible to create a subscription system that makes more profit for you and provides customers with valuable discounts or extras.

You should have a short paragraph stating your goals for your business objective, keeping it to a couple brief sentences. Give them information about what you do and what you want to do with the business. In these few sentences you should be sure to describe why your business is unique and what your goals are.

As you can see, it will require a little bit of work and dedication to make the jump. If you can manage to pull through and stick to the plan, you will be able to accurately represent your dream in the company’s image and create something that is long-lasting and profitable over the years.