Eform for Small Enterprise
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Eform for Small Enterprise

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High-end forms automation systems can be a six or seven figure investment for companies. These systems can be justified by companies whose core business is directly dependent on forms automation, such ...

High-end forms automation systems can be a six or seven figure investment for companies. These systems can be justified by companies whose core business is directly dependent on forms automation, such as financial services companies, insurance companies, and many public sector entities. However, small enterprises that do not require high-end forms automation as a core business function nonetheless have an opportunity to improve execution of many internal processes through the use of electronic forms. Benefits from automating forms-based processes include: reduced process cycle time, error reduction, increased use of self-service, and improved retrieval/discovery through increased use of electronic documents.

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Eform for Small Enterprise Eform for Small Enterprise Document Transcript

  • Point of View: What should SME do to create e-forms with limited budget? CONFIDENTIAL & FOR LIMITED CIRCULATION ONLY
  • Background High-end forms automation systems can be large investments for companies. Small enterprises usually do not consider high-end forms automation systems as strategic. However, small enterprises have an opportunity to improve execution of many internal processes through the use of electronic forms. This research note provides an overview of the small enterprise electronic forms vendor landscape, and addresses the following key areas:    Vendor and product strengths and scalability. Core product functionality. Entry-level product affordability and value. Learn which small enterprise electronic forms solutions to choose when Microsoft Excel and Word forms are not sufficient. Selection Point High-end forms automation systems can be a six or seven figure investment for companies. These systems can be justified by companies whose core business is directly dependent on forms automation, such as financial services companies, insurance companies, and many public sector entities. However, small enterprises that do not require high-end forms automation as a core business function nonetheless have an opportunity to improve execution of many internal processes through the use of electronic forms. Benefits from automating forms-based processes include: reduced process cycle time, error reduction, increased use of self-service, and improved retrieval/discovery through increased use of electronic documents. The electronic forms solutions evaluated in this research note all satisfy minimum selection criteria, such as:    Have entry-level prices below $10,000. Can depict forms as business documents, not just web forms or database entry screens. Can use corporate e-mail as a workflow transport mechanism. This research note does not evaluate large enterprise-class forms automation systems, such as those available from IBM, Adobe (Livecycle), eMC, and Microsoft (Forms Server). CONFIDENTIAL & FOR LIMITED CIRCULATION ONLY
  • Small Enterprise Electronic Forms Key Selection Criteria Criterion Description Price Entry-level products available for less than $10,000, excluding server hardware. Definition of Form Can depict forms as business documents, not just web forms or database entry screens. Workflow Transport Can use corporate e-mail as a workflow transport mechanism and track form status. Form Creation Ability to import existing forms, such as Word documents, excel spreadsheets and raster images of forms (e. g. TIFF, BMP). Form Design Forms can be constructed by business users, without dependency on IT staff and developers. Form Fill Vendor pricing model enables form completion by a wide user audience. Sample Forms Vendor provides sample forms that are useful to the average small enterprise for support of common internal processes. The leading small enterprise electronic forms vendors and vendors and positions each as a market leader, competitor, or follower based on the key selection criteria outlined above. Vendor/Product Adobe (Acrobat v8, Professional edition) Formdocs LLC (FormDocs for Windows) Working Solutions International (Returnable Forms) Microsoft (InfoPath 2007) CONFIDENTIAL & FOR LIMITED CIRCULATION ONLY Follower Competitor Leader
  • LEADERS Adobe Acrobat v8, Professional edition Adobe offers a high-end (and costly) enterprise-class forms automation solution in its Livecycle product line, which enables form-based workflows for electronic and paper forms. However, to enable basic electronic forms workflows, small enterprise form/process owners only need Acrobat v8 Professional and users only need the free Adobe Reader to complete (fill) forms. Vendor Overview The professional version of Acrobat contains a little known feature that allows a form or process owner to enable the Adobe Reader to fill out forms and return the completed form to the originator. Acrobat Professional simply adds certain tokens to the target PDF file, which in turn enable latent form-fill and collaboration features included in the Adobe Reader. This "calling party pays" pricing model and the ubiquity of the Adobe Reader makes Adobe Acrobat Professional an Info-Tech top pick for small enterprise electronic forms. Entry-level price $449 for a perpetual license of the Acrobat Professional client. Each form designer/owner will need their own copy of the software.  With Version 8, Adobe included the Adobe Designer with Acrobat Professional. Designer is a high-end form design tool targeted at both creative designers and application developers. Forms can be created completely within Acrobat however, without using Designer, if desired.  Form-fill requires the users have the free Adobe Reader installed on their PC. The Reader form features are supported in the Windows and MacOS versions. A Version 8 Reader has not yet been released for Linux/Unix.  Product Overview Existing Microsoft Office documents and document images can be imported as a starting point for a new form.  A form-field recognizer is included, which attempts to intelligently identify components on a document that may be form fields and field labels, saving design time.   Variety of common enterprise form templates are included. Completed forms can be converted to PDF/A using Acrobat professional. PDF/A is an ISO standard for records archival in PDF.   Upgrade path exists to Adobe Livecycle server products. CONFIDENTIAL & FOR LIMITED CIRCULATION ONLY
  • FormDocs for Windows Vendor Overview FormDocs for Windows is a simple and affordable solution for small enterprise electronic forms. However, the form itself is a proprietary format that is not ubiquitous as are Adobe PDF forms. As such, it is more suited for internal processes, however an optional web form server is available, to enable form completion through a browser. Entry-level price for typical small enterprise deployment is $2999.95 for 100 users. A site license is available for $9998.95, enabling all employees at a single company site, which still meets our $10,000 price requirement.   A form designer is included.  Form-fill requires the users have the FormDocs client installed. Existing Microsoft Word, PDF and WordPerfect files can be imported as a starting point for a new form. A scan-to-form feature is included for converting paper forms as a starting point.  Product Overview Variety of common enterprise form templates are available from an online library maintained by the vendor.  A PDF "writer" is included, for converting completed forms to PDF for long term archival. This alleviates the need for the vendors software to be maintained indefinitely in order to retrieve records in the future.  Windows only software, however a web form product is available for an additional charge, for completing forms in a browser.  Upgrade path exists to an enterprise version, for multi-site companies.  CONFIDENTIAL & FOR LIMITED CIRCULATION ONLY
  • Competitors Working Solutions International, Returnable Forms Vendor Overview Originally built for online resumes, Returnable Forms employs a more traditional e-forms architecture usually found in high-end forms automation systems. The architecture includes a Designer, a free Reader for form-fill (Windows only), a Workflow engine for scripting process workflows and a Form Processor for collating form data. The Windowsonly requirement for form-fill may be too constraining for some companies. Entry-level price $1199 for the complete system and one form Designer. Additional Designers cost $599.   Product Overview Form Reader is free (Windows only) Form Processor requires MS Access 2000 or higher (not included with price).  Scan-to-form supported for using paper forms as a starting point for new forms.  E-mail is managed through the Workflow engine, not through peerto-peer e-mailing of forms.  CONFIDENTIAL & FOR LIMITED CIRCULATION ONLY
  • Followers Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 Vendor Overview Microsoft InfoPath 2007 is both an electronic form design and completion application. Designers will appreciate the familiar Microsoft look and feel and developers will appreciate the advanced form controls and XML based file format. For small enterprises however, the costs of licensing the InfoPath client for form-fill quickly becomes prohibitive. A companion Forms Server is available for advanced workflow and form library services, however we did not evaluate this server since including it in a typical small enterprise architecture exceeds our evaluation price limit of $10,000. Entry-level price $199 for a perpetual license of the InfoPath 2007. each form designer and workflow participant (form-fill) will need their own copy of InfoPath. There is no free reader for form-fill.  Comes standard with Microsoft Office 2007 Professional, Ultimate or enteprise editions, but not with Small Business edition.   Product Overview Advanced design features and XML schema support. Existing Microsoft Word and excel documents can be imported as a starting point for a new form.  Some example form templates are included. More are available at Microsoft Office Online.  Completed forms can be converted to flat PDF files for archival, with an additional free download from Microsoft.   Windows only.  Upgrade path exists to Sharepoint Forms Server. CONFIDENTIAL & FOR LIMITED CIRCULATION ONLY
  • Recommendations 1. Don't discount excel and Word for small enterprise electronic forms. Many small enterprises that are already Microsoft Office users may find using excel and Word for eforms, routed by e-mail, to be sufficient for their needs. If you already own these applications and most users are familiar with them, selecting a dedicated e-forms solution may be unnecessary. However, using excel and Word for e-forms is not suited for processes that require routing of forms outside the enterprise and to non-Windows/Office users. 2. Choose Adobe Acrobat Professional when excel and Word won't work. The ability for form designers to enable the free and ubiquitous Adobe Reader to fill out PDF forms, anywhere in the world and across different desktop platforms, makes Adobe Acrobat Professional the price and performance leader for small enterprise electronic forms. The inclusion of the Adobe Designer for free with Acrobat Professional adds even more value to Acrobat Professional. 3. Look up-market for mission-critical electronic form requirements. If your company is a small enterprise whose core business functions rely on forms automation (e. g. financial services), then don't limit your choices to inexpensive solutions targeted at internal small enterprise operations. Consider forms automation as a strategic project and evaluate large enterprise-class solutions such as are available from IBM, Adobe (Livecycle), eMC, Microsoft (Forms Server) and others. Bottom Line Small enterprises that cannot justify investment in high-end electronic forms automation systems often believe their only alternative is to employ word processing or spreadsheet forms. However, many affordable electronic forms solutions are available to automate standard internal form-based processes. CONFIDENTIAL & FOR LIMITED CIRCULATION ONLY
  • CONFIDENTIAL & FOR LIMITED CIRCULATION ONLY