A couple of weeks ago I was standing around at a BBQ with the rest of the men drinking beer and watching the host burn the meat (my definition – BBQ – outdoor frying by people not always adequately skilled in the cooking of food). Anyway, as usual with new acquaintances I found myself in the “so what do you do for a crust?” conversation.
In a nutshell we sell and implement software applications to improve business performance. When you dig a little deeper you uncover the wide range of applications we have at our fingertips to solve business problems. My new BBQ buddy asked me a good question – what area do you enjoy the most? That was easy for me to answer: workflow and business process management. (For most organisations their transactional operation is well managed and the future opportunity for business transformation is better process.) So from a product perspective that means XMPro .
Another sausage, another beer and another great question – “so what do you mean by intelligent web forms?”
At a most basic level, an electronic form is no different from a paper one. It is a list of fields on the page where you are expected to put in some information that will make it possible for this form to be processed by someone else, whatever the actual purpose or goal is. Of course the problem with paper forms is that they exist in isolation of everything else. They know nothing about you, your requirements, the current context, the avenues open to you, etc. If you “digitise” that form into a web-form you get no real advantage from it other than not having the pen and paper involved anymore.
We can do better than that. An intelligent web-form has the following traits:
- It knows who you are or can help you more easily identify yourself.
- It can automatically build relationships between you and your ‘place’, perhaps your geography, department or entitlement, etc.
- It only shows you the parts of the form that are relevant to you right now (if you are just starting the form you don’t need to see the ‘for office use only’ section at the bottom).
- It will allow you to automagically ‘scrape’ data from a Word or Excel document to short cut the data entry process.
- It can verify the information that you enter in real time. It might be integrated to business applications that control the choices you can make, or possibly online services to check public data like company number or local service provider, etc.
- It can display up-to-the-second contextual information that may help you decide how to best complete the form. This could be historical patterns, current status or predictive analysis.
- It can let you discuss and collaborate with others within the form without completely stopping the process. (eg. “Hey Natalie and Peter, when each of you do A do you find it better to then do B or C afterwards?”)
- It may allow you to execute parts of the form in the sequence of your choice, it does not always have to be a linear path through the task. (eg “Before I create this new business proposal I will request a credit check on this prospect, I am not sure they are a good credit risk”).
- It allows you to review the path taken by this matter so far and who were the people involved (including any collaborators).
- It will allow you to respond to unplanned events that help you complete your activity or to assist others in completing theirs and progress the matter. (eg “I’m currently doing a fresh-eyes risk assessment ….. and I found a puddle of oil under this machine that needs urgent attention!”)
- At a particular junction it may offer you dynamic assistance on possible best next actions to take modelled on best practice or circumstantial analysis of previously successful outcomes. (eg “Based on the last 1,000 times this process was completed under similar conditions and circumstances, the best thing to do next is ….”)
- It is integrated into the business rules and service delivery in a way that ensures the form is properly progressed to each next stage and the process is visible throughout its life cycle and auditable thereafter.
- It is controlled by performance goals and escalation rules to automatically reduce delays.
- The same form works regardless of whether you are in a browser, Outlook, SharePoint or on your mobile device.
Intelligent web forms combine the efficiency and cost savings of electronic data capture with the orchestration of business rules, task dependencies, data relationships and performance and quality control. They turn data into information and work into outcomes.
Relax, I didn’t commit social suicide around the BBQ that day, I just gave him an example. When a manager hires a new person at Professional Advantage they fill in an easy one page web-form of the person’s details and job role. After that, the system completely automates the process of on-boarding that new person into our business. On the day they arrive at the office, their desk is ready with a PC, mobile phone, business cards and magnetic name strip; all their tax and payroll forms are prepared; they’ve been added to all the business applications they will need like email, timesheets and expenses; their access card is programmed and a friendly buddy is waiting to take them by the hand and introduce them around. All done with the minimum of fuss and maximum of efficiency through XMPro.
You can read more about Professional Advantage and XMPro here.