Overcoming Obstacles to Forms Simplification and Digitization

We’ve been helping a number of clients recently in modernizing their approach to forms and data capture – think paper or PDF forms in which a customer enters data to provide instructions or authorize a transaction. While there are plenty of reasons that it should be a no-brainer for firms to modernize their forms, many organizations struggle to get the support needed to make real progress in this historically neglected area.

Here are three major obstacles we see organizations facing, and ideas about how to overcome them to get your forms modernization effort moving.

Obstacle #1: Forms Improvements Aren’t Tied to Customer Experience or Digitization Initiatives.

Most firms agree that improving their forms is “the right thing to do,” but that’s not enough by itself to get organizational commitment to invest in it. To overcome this obstacle, make forms modernization an enabler to a higher-profile strategic initiative.

For example, some firms may have broad-based strategic priorities to simplify customer touchpoints and reinforce their brand. Such programs will have workstreams in areas such as marketing, branding, front-office processes, and back-office processes. But such initiatives will also require major changes to forms and documents that its customers interact with or receive.

Other firms may have more targeted strategies, such as streamlining the client account opening and onboarding process, end to end. This too requires changes in front-, middle-, and back-office processes – but success will be far greater if the initiative scope includes consolidating, simplifying, and digitizing the various forms used in the onboarding process (e.g. for account feature setup, authorizations, initial money movement for account funding, etc.)

So make form modernization an integral part of such initiatives, rather than taking a bottom-up approach to form redesign that’s driven by operational efficiency.

Obstacle #2: The Right Tools Aren’t in Place or Used in the Right Way.

Most of our clients already have tools from vendors like Adobe, Quadient, Smart Communications, or OpenText– but the tools are often deployed in pockets and used for only narrow use cases, not used as standardized platforms. Then there are populations of forms across the enterprise that are developed in Word and other Office tools, and managed (often poorly) at the business unit level. This means that the organization can’t easily take advantage of the kinds of advanced capabilities that modern tools might be able to provide.

To overcome this obstacle, firms should first define and analyze their major use cases for forms, and then establish enterprise standards for the right tools to support them. Are you looking to publish or distribute fillable forms for e-signature and electronic submission? Then you’ll need to determine if you are going to publish them via a portal, and how you’ll capture the data that’s returned. Are you looking for an advanced wizard-driven experience for data capture, with the ability to generate a document of record after the online experience? This requires a different set of capabilities.

These are the sorts of questions you’ll need to answer when determining your major use cases Once you have support for addressing your use cases, you can determine the best approach to standardizing your technology platform, single-sourcing your content and supporting consistent user experiences across your use cases.

Obstacle #3: The Right People Aren’t Involved.

At many firms, the approach to forms management hasn’t changed for years. There may be different teams responsible for managing the forms of different business units, and different IT groups involved. This means different points of contact or mechanisms for the business to request form changes. It can be time-consuming for Product, Legal, and Compliance stakeholders to review and approve the changes. And it can take weeks for IT to implement form changes and schedule the releases.

Many firms that have done a good job with these kinds of obstacles are those that have established a shared services organization that’s dedicated to forms development, forms management and forms solution delivery. Such groups do much more than just form design and implementation work. They are the expert practitioners, and they are the stewards of the form content – ensuring that the forms adhere to the organization’s brand standards, design standards, and language standards for tone, voice, and readability. And they have resources that take a consultative approach with the business units and with reviewers and approvers – helping define requirements, identifying solutions that leverage available capabilities, and managing the review-and-approval process with stakeholders from Business, Legal and Compliance.

Success requires top-down support from senior leadership, who champion the forms modernization effort, drive the connection to strategic imperatives, provide oversight for program direction, and reinforce that direction within their business units. Bottom-up efforts run the risk of floundering, with no clear direction or alignment across disciplines.


So if you really want to make meaningful advancements in form modernization, remember to focus on these areas:

  • Tie into the bigger strategies and initiatives at your firm focusing on customer experience and digitization of service.
  • Define your use cases and align your technology portfolio to address their requirements.
  • Establish a shared service with the executive-level support needed to drive form modernization initiatives and solutions.

The Seven Roadblocks to Digital Transformation and eForms

Rich Medina
Joe Fenner
I’m VP of Consulting. I oversee Doculabs’ delivery team and consulting practice, as well as leading numerous client engagements.