Why Forms Modernization Is Critical

Forms have been neglected for years by many firms – creating poor customer experience, high error rates in data collection, costly re-work in operations, and content maintenance challenges. Why firms continue to neglect forms – or take a very basic pass at digitization – is even more perplexing when you consider how critical forms remain for many customer onboarding and servicing processes – particularly those requiring signatures and retention of documents of record.

Digital transformation of forms is the key to dramatically improving the customer experience while reducing processing costs and streamlining content governance. We’ll dive deeper into various approaches to forms modernization and digitization in a future post. For now let’s focus on common problems with forms and the benefits that you can achieve with forms modernization.

forms current to target state

Common Problems with PDF Forms and Forms Management

  1. Poor customer experience due to confusing content. Without a disciplined approach to form design and creation, quality of form logic and instructional content suffers and can lead to confusing and sometimes disjointed experiences for customers.
  2. Inconsistent branding and voice across forms. Often forms management is decentralized, leading to multiple versions of forms created by various business units.  Disconnected form authors and lack of clear standards lead to inconsistent voice and branding.
  3. High error rates in submitted forms. Born-digital forms can apply logic and standards for responses, avoiding the high error rates from paper forms or “flat” PDF forms.
  4. No reuse of content across forms. When templates and reusable snippets are not part of your forms management approach, it takes longer to find and update instances of content across multiple forms. It also creates a consistency nightmare for everyone involved – line of business, marketing and compliance.
  5. Little use of e-signatures or other automation (prefill, validation, etc.). Lack of e-signatures and automation slows down completion by customers, as well as post-completion processing.
  6. Lack of accessibility for the disabled. Certain form designs and layouts can cause challenges for customers that have vision impairment or other disabilities. Non-compliance with the WCAG accessibility requirements can lead to fines.
  7. Siloed technology solutions. Many firms have a mix of different approaches to managing and publishing forms - which may include form management tools, traditional document composition tools, old letter-writing utilities, and Word document templates. This makes it challenging to manage the content efficiently and take advantage of automation capabilities in a consistent way.
  8. Stakeholders not aligned/resistant to change (Business, Legal, Compliance). Success in form transformation efforts requires good alignment between multiple stakeholders - who are sometimes at odds over use of language, how to simplify the client experience without introducing legal or compliance risk, or even design and layout standards. In addition, attempts to centralize the forms management process inevitably results in change of process for business, legal, and compliance stakeholders, and a perceived relinquishing of control.
  9. Ineffective content maintenance and governance process (risk). Without templates, modularization and automation, significant time is wasted making changes to form content and tracking those changes for governance and compliance purposes.

Benefits of Forms Modernization

A digital-first experience is what customers expect now. They’ve seen what first-class, user friendly experiences look like and know that these experiences help them obtain products and services faster and with greater ease. Likewise, business and operations teams typically understand what forms modernization could mean to them, with benefits such as error reduction, time savings, and streamlined processing workflows. In the following examples we highlight issues from a sub-optimal form experience and strengths from an industry leading form experience.




Customer Experience Benefits

  • Faster cycle time for customers to complete a transaction and access their funds or services
  • Clients choose when and how they want to do business
  • Reduced customer time spent on correcting errors

Business and Operations Benefits

  • Reduction in NIGO (Not In Good Order) items
  • Decreased time spent on non-revenue generating activity like forms creation and maintenance
  • Reduced cost of regulatory compliance
  • Reduced costs related to managing paper processes such as OCR, printing, mailroom, workflow, rekeying and data quality
  • Reduced call center volume
  • Reduced staff time spent on correcting errors

Still Transforming - and Where to Go Next

Most large organizations continue to have a mix of PDF and web forms – with digitization occurring slowly and sporadically. The longer you wait to complete modernization of forms and forms management processes, the longer you’ll have to wait to reap the benefits. In an upcoming post, we’ll discuss some of the approaches that firms can take to get their form modernization efforts into gear.

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Rich Medina
Doculabs consultants offer in-depth expertise in information management and information security across a number of industries, including financial services, insurance, energy, manufacturing, and life sciences. Our recommendations are based on our experience and empirical data from hundreds of consulting engagements over more than 25 years. As trusted advisors, we provide our clients recommendations that are completely objective.