How You Can Eliminate Paper in Data Collection Under a Tight Budget

By Dheeraj Rawal (Guest Post)

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Photo by Christa Dodoo on Unsplash
Photo by Christa Dodoo on Unsplash

Knowingly or unknowingly companies suffer due to paper-based processes. But when things go south for these companies, they start looking for alternatives. But are there alternatives to paper, and even if they are, are they worth pursuing?

Read this interesting blog to find out how businesses can uproot paper to become productive, efficient, profitable and even competitive!

 

This blog won’t really help your business if:

  • You don’t mind errors in your paper-based processes.
  • You are happy doing something manually by spending extra hours every single day.
  • Staying productive, efficient & competitive is not an immediate priority.
  • Time & money isn’t an issue for your business.

If the above conditions don’t apply to you, this blog will offer inputs, and help you certainly change the way your business processes operate.

 

Introduction

Do you know what’s the classic problem with businesses? Most of them think that paper is so deep-rooted in their business processes that it’s impossible to eliminate it, especially when it comes to processes that involve data collection.

But what if I told that you are wrong?

Here’s an interesting story to substantiate it!

A few years back one of the major banks did something that seemed almost impossible for businesses – especially in the banking sector.

This major bank brought down the usage of paper in its processes – to save a whopping 25% that was earlier spent on paper. Can you guess which bank this is?

It’s Bank of America!

But what baffled other businesses is the thought:

How can a bank cut down usage of paper drastically when in reality, the expenses are growing each year? After all, banks have so much paperwork and documentation in almost each of their business processes.’

If such is the scenario, how did Bank of America do it?

What they did was – they introduced digital forms and pieces fell together for them. We will get into the nitty-gritties in the later part of this blog.

Papers are expensive (largest expense after salary and rent), they invite errors, you can’t collect rich data, storage & security is a problem, and you can’t deploy analytics that easily.

No point in explaining the obvious problems.

Your business has already experienced this and suffered at the hands of paper and you cannot agree more with these problems – trust me, I can relate.

Most people think there are no alternatives, but wait, what if there were alternatives to the paper which could not just cut down the costs, but also make your processes fast, and introduce automation in your business?

Honestly, I don’t see any reason for a business to stick up to paper-based processes –  not because papers are passe, but also because they are eating up your revenues, making your processes slower and less efficient.

So, let’s get to the solution without further beating around the bush!

 

Mobile Forms – a brilliant alternative to Paper Forms.

Just imagine that instead of using paper forms, your teams are using mobile forms to collect data. They go to the field, collect data, hit submit. The data reaches office almost instantaneously.

If this sounds routine to you, then you should read this:

The data reaches you the moment your field executive submits the form, okay, but did you know that tasks could be auto-assigned based on the data submitted?

Let’s say you are a facility service management company, your site inspector during his regular visit figured out there is an issue in plumbing at the inspection site – based on his input in the mobile form – the task is already assigned to the plumbing department, without you having to intervene and making a decision.

You would be surprised to know that there are other powerful features these mobile form apps offer, which can change the dynamics of your business operations.

But first things first – let’s see how exactly mobile form app works, and how can something as simple as a mobile app make processes fast, teams productive, reduce overheads, and automate operations.

All you have to do is get your paper form designed into a digital one, which can be accessed through a mobile device or a desktop. Is that it?

Well, yes! Your teams can then fill the form through mobile devices and submit those forms – which can be accessed by processing teams or managers for further review in no time.

But, wait where are these forms stored? Most mobile form apps offer cloud services which don’t just take care of your data storage, but also make sure the data is protected.

Okay, this digital transformation sounds interesting – so far, so good. But you are still wondering where do you get such an app from?

There are two alternatives for you to explore here:

 

  1. Get a software developed from a service provider

You can choose a mobile app development company and ask them to develop an app for you.

Let me explain the process in a nutshell. They will study the processes that you want to digitize, and build digital forms, which will replace your paper forms.

That’s it! But don’t congratulate yourself as yet. There’s more to this. It is not as easy as it seems. Wonder why?

It’s a known fact that getting a tailor-made app can be expensive – it can cost you anywhere between $50,000 – $100,000.

Let me also tell you that the figure is quite modest – it can hurt your budget further and cross $100,000, depending upon the complexity of the app that you require.

Furthermore, your requirement keeps piling only to push the release date of the app even ahead. It could take 6-8 months and even more get a full-fledged functional app.

But don’t just press the panic button as yet. There’s another alternative that might just be the right fit for you.

 

  1. Use existing mobile app products

There are mobile apps that exist in the market – which can act as data collection app for your business.  They can serve you as a ready-made app – all they need is little customization as per your need, and they are functional.

But do these mobile app products cost you a bomb? Not at all, they are affordable and can be deployed within weeks. Trust me, none of what you read is a fictional story

Cool, so, can you just buy a mobile app and throw paper forms away already? Wait, you probably need little more information to make that kind of decision. Let’s get to that first.

 

ROI

Every decision should make business sense, you know that far too well. So we can’t skip talking about ROI.

Mobile app development companies (service providers) will charge you a lot, that goes without being said.

If the budget is one of your important criteria, then choose mobile app products (ready-made ones) without blinking.

The solid reason is that you will see ROI way too early (around a year or less), and it is worth experimenting, isn’t it?

What’s more worth a shot? Something that costs $100,000 or something that costs $10,000? Doesn’t take rocket science to figure this out.

Time-frame

8 months for getting an app developed Vs 4 weeks to deploy an existing mobile app available in the market.

Again, mobile app product wins by a mile here. Well, some apps for your teams can be made functional within days.

Technology

Most companies have this notion that they have to be really into technology to go digital – well, you will be surprised to know that all you need is a mobile.

Mobile app tools available for data collection don’t require heavy software or anything as such. (Just Android & iOS devices run great).

In fact, you will be surprised to find out that there are tools out there that can allow you to build forms just by drag and drop.

Some tools like Axonator help businesses design forms just by drag and drop – so building forms don’t require any kind of technical expertise.

It’s a cakewalk!

Ease of Use

Has it happened to you that you wanted to implement something in your enterprise, and you thought your teams won’t use it or accept it?

Sometimes, it so happens that you think teams would find it difficult to use. You certainly don’t want to spend on something that your teams don’t want to use.

Worst-case scenario –  just because you have already spent 1000s of dollars and months on getting a software, you will force it upon your teams to use.

Umm, that can turn nasty! In the end, you want to make things easy and fast not otherwise, right?

Productivity and efficiency are the reasons why you took this initiative in the first place.

Well, to tackle that, there are mobile tools available which are as simple as filling a paper form. Teams don’t require endless hours of training to use simple mobile apps.

These apps are easy to use and offer great user experience.

Agility & Scalability

Imagine this:

You have got an app developed from a development company. This app will help your teams to collect data on the field, they don’t have to use paper forms anymore, phew!

You have spent huge money and time on that mobile app. 6 months later, the external factors are compelling you to have changes in this app.

What? Can you really afford to reinvent the wheel again? Forget that, would you spend more money and time on that?

No way.

To tackle this problem, you can choose a mobile app product that is flexible enough to be changed at a later point in time.

There’s more to it!

Even better, there are apps that are highly agile regardless of how your processes, forms, documents, or even teams using the mobile app change or grow.

You don’t have to bother about change management at all.

 

Is it just about data collection?

Well, that totally depends on what mobile tool you pick and how well you utilize it.

There are mobile apps that will help you automate your processes. When a form is filled and submitted through a mobile device, further tasks will be assigned.

But let me take you even further – when a form is filled or a task is completed, a report is generated automatically, and not just that it can be shared with customers, managers, team leaders, etc.

That’s automation achieved just with a single mobile app. If you think this is it, you are wrong.

Few mobile apps go even further to offer you integration capabilities. If you are using systems like CRM, Google Drive, PeopleSoft, Salesforce, Zapier, etc., then these systems can be integrated.

This allows the flow of data from your mobile app to other chosen system automatically, and vice versa.

Now, I will uncover a fact that might stun you a little.

Did you know that there are businesses out there who are using mobile apps with analytics capability – meaning these apps provide insights that can help a business make intelligent decisions? 

 

What’s in it for You?

All of these combined is definitely just more than replacing paper with digital forms, it’s a brilliant mobile strategy – in less time and under a tight budget!

If you are still wondering what’s in it for you? Let me just state that:

  1. Your teams will be able to fill these forms faster than ever – meaning more tasks in less time.
  2. Not using papers will definitely save you costs on paper, printing, storage, logistics, etc.
  3. Errors due to manual processes will start disappearing.
  4. Your efficiency & productivity will boost like never before.
  5. Managers will access data in real-time, and make decisions faster.
  6. Automation will save a lot of time and cut down monotony.
  7. Analytics will help you make strategic decisions – and let you explore better revenue opportunities.

 

The Final Verdict

Shortlist few mobile apps, use free trials, design form and test the app to check if it works for you, and yeah, throw the paper forms away ASAP!

 


About The Author

Dhiraj Rawal is a mobile digital transformationist and takes a keen interest in understanding how enterprises are embracing technologies to change the way they operate. A marketing post-graduate by qualification, Dheeraj keeps a close watch on how mobile devices are emerging to be disruptive technologies. He believes that the full potential of these devices yet to be realized and the Pandora box has just been opened! In his spare time, he spends time watching movies, playing video games, reading books, and playing football (one thing at a time)!

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