E-forms are electronic versions of any paper form; forms – and the data collected with them – are a vital part of many industries. In the service maintenance industry, these forms are crucial for achieving the compliance records so vital to record keeping and communicating the information with clients.
We know that transitioning from these paper forms to e-forms will not only save time, it will improve the consistency and accuracy of your records, reduce any risks of human error and miscommunication, and significantly reduce the time it takes to share the data with the whole team.
Using modern mobile technology to upgrade your systems to e-forms will significantly improve the quality of your data and increase efficiencies in your organisation. This guide is for Facility Management businesses to implement these electronic forms and see significant improvements in data collection and processing in 5 easy steps. Planning-Process-Quality-Delivery-Data
However, we know that this transition can be challenging and complex – which may have already delayed your organisation taking the leap. How that digitising of your records and forms will look needs to reflect the culture and needs of your organisation.
The most important question before you begin the transition is this: what benefits are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to be more efficient? Improve the communication and processing of data? Reduce costs? Ensure the consistency of audits and compliance?
Implementing e-forms in your organisation can do all of these.
Preparation and Planning
- Set out clear and concise expectations and guidelines for what information you need to collect – and, more importantly, why you need to collect it, and what you plan to do with the data you’ve collected.
- Monitor and check the process to be sure that your end goal – gathering meaningful and useful information – is simple to collect, assess, and measure.
- Which electronic and digital processes can be automated? For example, delivery records, invoice processing, payments and working hour trackers; all of these can significantly improve cashflow.
- Decide which core business systems will need to be integrated with the e-form system, to streamline data sharing and automation.
- Decide which technologies to integrate (NFC, barcodes, QR codes) again knowing why you need them and what benefits they will bring.
- Decide which members of the workforce need this technology, and train them to their levels of technical ability, ready to utilise it best.
- Take the opportunity to review the processes your workforce carry out and data you collect. Question whether they are necessary – remove duplication, centralise data storage and information processing.
- Inform every stakeholder (management, admin and support and workers at ground level) and make sure they understand the benefits you’re working towards, and how to use the systems.
- Inform and involve end-users – those who will be processing the information, and those who will be using the reports and data consolidated by the forms.
- Ensure that every necessary member of the team has a device which supports the e-forms system and can access these in the workplace.
- Plan for regular reviews and updates; no new system will meet 100% of your needs – but adapting this digitised process is far simpler than your previous system allowed for.
- Set targets for improvements so that you can track the impact of your digitised system for evidencing ROI with measurable data.
- Ensure that you understand the workflows for each form and that the relevant audience receives completed data and analysis.
- Simplify the language in the forms, and use icons and images in place of lengthy text where possible.
- Be consistent with the language you use; for example if one source uses the word ‘site’ and another uses ‘building’ decide which is accurate, and use it across the whole system to avoid future confusion.
- Consider any data outputs and reporting format when forming the questions and designing your templates.
- Design and features can be shaped to suit your devices; smartphones and tablets function differently, and your system is built to your preference.
- Pick lists and option lists can be input as menus and drop-downs which your team can select from.
- Signatures, checkboxes and photographic evidence can be included digitally and assigned to the form.
- Very little manual text entry might be required in most incidences – simplifying the process of inputting information.
- Each e-form follows the defining data outputs and reporting requirements, collecting only the data you need.
- Make your forms easy – over complicating things will mean your staff are reluctant to use the system.
- Make the process simple to repeat.
- Pilot the new system with a small proportion of the team initially: be sure to balance this pilot between a range of employees – those with a lot of experience, new members, older members and young, those with technological minds and those who struggle, to truly assess the realities of implementing it in your team.
- Assess their successes and improve where necessary before rolling out to the whole organisation.
- Ensure that suitable reporting is in place to monitor the process of digitising your data collection and review.
- Be prepared to act quickly, making changes in response to real-time feedback from your workforce, to ensure that the data being collated is high quality.
- Continue this monitoring and improvement process as needs evolve.
- Scanned documents are not data; the value of data is far more than a flat image.
- Data is actionable in real time; your organisation can respond to information as it happens, streamlining your work orders, identifying where you can save money, time and investment.
- Consider ways you can add further value by incorporating other technologies you already use – simplify your processes, automate reporting and compliance.
- Consider how data you have previously collected can be used to improve the repetition of information – for example, identifying patterns of data in previous visits or records and pre-populating e-forms for future site visits.
- These e-forms not only collect and process data, they can identify where processes, efficiencies or even staff do not meet your standards allowing you to make improvements and streamline systems and processes in future.
- Real-time information at your fingertips
- Overview of workers and performance at a glance
- Comparative data in one easy to access location
- Management tool for remedial and corrective actions
- Lower cost for managing both people and time
- Reduced risk of error or missed information
- Better standard of compliance and audit completion
- Improved commercially beneficial knowledge
- Lower cost of storage and back-office staff for processing the data vital to your organisation