Manual filling of Document templates is a pain
Every organization whether big or small creates, consumes and distributes documents. Creation of documents by the manual filling of data into document templates is slow, expensive, and error prone. The way to overcome this problem is to have a fillable form containing template’s dynamic fields. Users input form fields and generate documents from the form entries. In a recent study, it is observed that filling word documents through forms reduces errors by 70% and speed by 80%. You will find plenty of use cases for fillable forms. Below are few examples.
- Mortgage applicants filling their application form by filling details and uploading their photo
- Sales guys filling proposal templates with quote tables and product images etc.
- Field operation guys filling service report for detailing project progress
Here is the solution… No not really
Microsoft word allows users to create fillable forms in the word document itself. If you search in Google, you will find a lot of blogs that explain how to create fillable forms in word. Most of them are well written with elaborate descriptions, screenshots. Problem solved? No way! Now scroll down to these blog’s comments. You will see readers screaming & complaining about how hard and frustrating to create fillable forms in MS Word. The people who commented are geek aka technical guys. You can imagine how hard it is for a business guy. The complexity of form creation multiplies if you have to dynamically populate table values, images etc. into the document.
Apart from complexity, this approach is completely ineffective for some scenarios. Let me give you a couple of examples. 1. This approach is suited only for generating individual documents through manual form fill and it’s not possible to generate documents through population of Excel/XML/JSON data. 2. In an event where you want your respondents to fill the form remotely, you can’t be sure about form’s behavior. Based on user’s device and Microsoft office version, your form might display/work differently from what you anticipated.
Collecting generated documents and systematically arranging them is another challenge by itself. The respondents would be sending generated documents by mail and placing those email attachments in your local machine/cloud storage. If all these documents get generated automatically at a particular location, collection and maintenance become easy.
Hence we can safely conclude that creating forms with Microsoft developer ribbon addresses only fraction of the use cases..
The real solution- Document Generation Software
The actual solution lies in Document Generation tools. They are template-based systems where the user answers software-driven interview questions or data entry screen. These systems auto-generate fillable form from template’s dynamic fields. They are built for business users to simplify the process of document generation for business.
It address the shortcomings mentioned above by simplifying form generation, generate multiple documents at once and place all generated documents systematically at a single location.
- Simplify form generation: Using document generation tools, you can convert your existing document into template in few clicks. The system auto-generates fillable form from template
- Multiple documents in one go: Generate documents in bulk by auto filling XML, JSON and Excel data into fillable form. Most of the ERPs allow you to export data in any one of the formats. This removes the pain of cut-and-paste. Also with the APIs you can integrate document automation software with in-house systems.
- Systematic assembly of documents: All the documents get generated at a single place. User can sync them to Google drive/mail at once.
As you can see, these are DIY systems and a business user should be generating her first document in less than 5 minutes without any IT support. You can extend the solution for other documents in the organization including HR, Sales & Marketing, procurement, legal documents.
These tools are built for business users with an objective to remove pain in creating fillable forms in MS Word. They support both Mac and Windows machines and you can use it to create a fillable form in all latest versions of word including Word 2007, Word 2010, Word 2013, and Word 2016.
Extending the Solution
If your forms are complex with lot of fields or your form requires branding and professional look then you can use form builder solutions to create form and integrate the form output with document automation tools. Another advantage is that these forms are mobile friendly and support off-line filling thus allowing users to fill them from their devices. Once you map your form fields to the document fields, forms data entered by users gets populated into document.