I’m still surprised by the number of organisations that remain heavily reliant on paper and laborious processes to complete even the simplest of tasks. Each have their own reasons for this behaviour, which more often than not includes the paper-based approach being the accepted and familiar solution, technology and skills constraints as well as the ultimate barrier, cost.
Thankfully, a lot of these organisations are starting to see the real benefit in the paperless/electronic process and seem to be actively moving toward it. So what tools are needed to take them on this journey?
- First and foremost, patience.
Now is probably a good time to mention that there will often be a learning component when digging into forms and business process. It is not uncommon for stakeholders to question why things are done a certain way and if they can be improved. This valuable information needs to be captured and incorporated thoroughly into the design in order to provide a valuable solution.
- InfoPath Designer 2010
A tool that provides a great platform to create forms with minimal ‘development’ knowledge. Simple forms can be whipped up in a matter of hours, where data validation and formatting can all be done the codeless way, with rules.
- SharePoint Designer 2010
A tool that provides an extensible platform for defining the workflow process that is followed when the form is submitted. Processes that may include getting approval from management, for example, can be very quickly designed and deployed with this tool.
So what forms are good candidates for such an undertaking?
Leave requests, expense claims, employment requests, travel requests, IT service requests and stock transfer requests are just some examples of forms (and supporting workflows) that I have converted to their electronic equivalents over the last few months.
Some of these forms were relatively simple, where they were submitted to a SharePoint 2010 form library for approval whilst others have incorporated managed code for more complex processing, and the consumption of web services to enable integration with other line of business applications.
The most exciting aspect of this entire exercise is seeing the immediate benefit that it has on the staff most affected by filling out a form by hand, passing it to their manager for approval by hand, who may then pass it onto another staff member for processing by hand.
Still finding it a hard sell? Maybe key facts such as increased productivity, process efficiency and modernising the workplace should be floated in conversation with the powers that be.
You can read more about Professional Advantage and SharePoint here.