Nobody gives much thought to business forms; they just ‘are.’ As for the management of business forms, almost nobody knows that Forms Management is a ‘thing’; many likely wonder why business forms even need managing. Frankly, it’s as if business forms are unimportant, yet that could not be further from reality. They are critically important, and their centrality and importance in information management and enterprise automation will likely grow exponentially over the coming years.
As it happens, this past week, the BFMA (Business Forms Management Association) officially became a part of AIIM (Association of Intelligent Information Management). Under this new roof, the BFMA, or at least what it teaches and represents, will have a chance to thrive, and I hope it does.
Forms are the primary means of data and information collection. We encounter a myriad of different forms both in our professional and personal lives. Be it registering for an event, borrowing money from a bank, interacting with the healthcare system, or filing an insurance claim (the list goes on). However, the ubiquitous nature of business forms masks their underlying complexity and key role in data collection and processing.
First-generation electronic forms were little more than static web pages that provided fields for a user to fill in. But modern business forms are much more than that; they are now business applications without which most organizations could not operate. Or, to put it another way, many modern business forms don’t just collect data; they process the data, too. They are mission-critical links in complex transactions and cross-departmental business processes. And yet, they get no love.
Last year, at the Papyrus customer event in Vienna, I attended a session by a large European insurance company that detailed a complex development project they had undertaken on the Papyrus platform. In truth, 15 minutes into this tech deep dive, it finally dawned on me that the company was developing a series of customer forms. I was confused because each involved months of detailed business analysis before work could start. But as the session continued, I was dumbstruck when I heard that this insurance company utilized and managed thousands of such forms.
In the AI era, the effective capture, pre-processing, and cleaning of accurate data is more critical than ever. Business forms play a primary role in this work, and if, like me, you conflated modern forms with their paper-based predecessors, then it’s time for a rethink.