The simplest way to find out more about your digital users is to directly ask for their input. But choosing the right platform for collecting their responses is far from easy. Relying on point solutions for data collection adversely affects a company’s ability to scale, secure, and leverage user data. For example, traditional HTML web forms are simple to initially implement, but often lack integration with core systems, making it impossible to evolve them over time.
Form management efficiency is also critical because it greatly enhances the user experience. We all know how frustrating it is to be asked to fill in the same information across many different forms for the same enterprise. The solution to both efficiency and a more seamless user experience is comprehensive form strategy with an enterprise platform. While there are many commercially available options, I have found that Adobe’s deep experience in form management makes their solutions an excellent choice. The current version of Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) Forms empowers business users to connect adaptive forms with CRM, Campaign, and other data for validation and routing. In addition, AEM Forms is integrated into the Adobe Experience Cloud and offers enterprise-class access control and data protection.
The evolution of forms
For almost two decades, Adobe has been a key leader in providing products and services that include forms management. Early releases of Adobe’s portable document format (PDF) included the ability to capture user inputs to final PDF documents, essentially creating a distributable digital form. Completed forms could then be exchanged and routed to process contracts, requests, or any other user data. Soon after, Adobe’s Document Servers, and later LiveCycle products, were introduced to assist businesses with managing and routing the completed forms to their final destinations. As digital experiences have continued to expand, the velocity and variety of data collection has grown beyond digital contract routing. Today, enterprises need a platform to manage form content, validations, routing, workflow, aggregation, and integration. Adobe’s current product set combines file management in the Document Cloud and form creation in the Experience Cloud. The results are a powerful set of capabilities that can be leveraged without the need for complex websites or software development.
The need for consolidation
For many of my consulting clients, forms are embedded in every business area, but there is no consolidated strategy for management and maintenance, nor is there a consistent approach to managing data. For example, a single business might have:
- A public-facing website with a “Contact Us” form that has an email action to a customer support center
- A newsletter sign-up that is an email opt-in from a campaign system
- A set of interactive forms from the CRM system that are sent to customers by the sales team
- Physical paper forms to initiate contracts that are then scanned, emailed, and uploaded to a legacy contract management system
Making matters even more complex, each business area is likely to have their own approach to data collection and routing, and their own separate systems that may or may not provide a consolidated view of the interactions that customers, partners, and employees are having with the enterprise. Since most business areas are focused on their specific mission, they may not even realize that all of these use cases indicate the need for comprehensive form management.
Features of comprehensive form management
Forms should be business-owned and internally-operated to allow the quickest response time as user needs evolve. But forcing business users through a software development process is not reasonable, nor is it necessary with modern digital technology. To properly empower your business, there are many factors to consider when choosing a form platform. Key features to look for include:
- An intuitive interface to control layout and data inputs
- Simple input validations (e.g. phone number masks, zip code validation, and country/state/city pickers)
- Custom input validations driven by data from enterprise systems (e.g. product pickers, service location pickers, and user data)
- Transactional features like digital signature and legal retention
The form platform should also be connected to the enterprise CRM for input validation purposes. This ensures that the data collected is well formed. Once collected, the form actions for handling the inputs must be secured and seamlessly integrated to core business systems. A comprehensive form management platform eliminates the need to email data that must then be entered into a system. Instead, your business becomes enabled to make efficient changes to input, workflow, and routing.
Unified customer experience
Productivity and efficiency are great reasons to consolidate forms, but a much more compelling case can be made for improving a customer’s experience across touch points. Using a platform like AEM Forms democratizes the entire form creation process and empowers all business users to connect with the same information repositories. In this way, customers receive a consistent experience across business units and channels. For example, an email form that connects with online or CRM form data provides the sales team with access to information collected by marketing progressive profiling. Customer inputs are consolidated instead of siloed into separate marketing, sales, and customer service data sets. Duplicate data and disjointed interactions are reduced, and customer insight is enhanced.
Accelerating digital transformation
When developing a digital transformation strategy, there are so many big decisions to be made, that it can be tempting to skip over some of the simpler aspects of the journey. But planning a stop to optimize your enterprise’s forms management process is worth the time and effort. Investing in a strategic solution ensures that customers, partners, and employees view your business as an integrated whole – one that prioritizes an enhanced user experience.