Implementing E-Forms

By Brian Lincoln  |  Posted 2010-09-07 Print this article Print

Implementing e-forms

Now that the starting point has been established-a form, a set of affected users and a place for the form to live-you are ready to move forward with implementation. Begin by modeling the desired e-forms using the software's form designer as a starting point. Or, alternatively, packages exist that can create digital replicas of scanned paper forms that allow a designer to work in customized edits. The final format is often an XML file that acts as a container, displaying the form in an application or Web page and collecting data in fields filled by the user. Once a user has completed and submitted the form, the completed form is often stored in PDF or XML (or both). If the in-house team does not have the skill set to adapt their existing forms to electronic, consider outsourcing the transition.

Keeping information safe

Traditionally, many paper forms are made official with a signature. E-forms often provide the same opportunity using an e-signature option. E-signatures allow users to sign the forms online as they would have done with pen and paper, certifying that the information is agreed upon and factual. There may be special regulatory requirements within certain sectors that must be considered when employing e-signatures.

For example, healthcare is an area that has stringent guidelines and specific regulations that must be adhered to in order for the form to be official. It is best to investigate the parameters within your industry before setting up an e-signature process.

Converting paper forms to e-forms with an ECM system provides the opportunity to automate the forms-based processes using business process management (BPM) or workflow capabilities. The most common workflow for e-forms involves the user filling out the form and clicking submit, resulting in a saved form that is routed for approvals specific to any given system. Some e-forms-such as those that require multiple approvals or are populated by more than one user-are inherently more complex than those requiring one user and one approval. With this in mind, design workflow solutions that are relatable to the form because each form has its own style, information and process associated with it.

Brian Lincoln is a Senior Product Line Manager at Xerox. Brian has over 14 years of experience as a content management professional including previous positions at Documentum and EMC, where he specialized in launching vertical applications into government and related regulated industries. Brian has performed roles spanning the entire product development life cycle, evolving from engineering and consulting leadership positions to senior product management, where he also managed OEM relationships. Brian holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics from California State University, Sacramento. He can be reached at

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