Here’s a question to consider when evaluating IBM i electronic forms design software:
“Would you let your Marketing department create program code?”
The answer is obvious. Marketing people aren’t programmers. They know nothing about analysis, database design, coding, or deployment. Letting them program is a silly idea.
And programmers aren’t marketers, especially when it comes to electronic forms design. Many companies allow programmers rather than professional designers to design and create IBM i forms such as invoices, purchase orders, or accounts payable checks. That is a mistake.
Forms = Marketing
IMHO, IBM i electronic forms are marketing pieces. They represent your organization to your customers. Every time a customer looks at one of your forms, that form reinforces your company image and reputation. Forms are part of your daily relationship with your customers.
Electronic forms should be professionally designed and created to the same standards as other media pieces, such as ads or brochures. Even though most forms support back office rather than sales and marketing functions, your forms frequently pass through key decision maker’s hands during the sales process.
As an example, many companies have capital approval limits where a purchase order above $5,000 must be approved by a vice president before the item can be ordered. While a vice president may not personally process that $5,000 PO, she will need to review and approve your PO before it can be processed. The PO is part of the sales process. A similar process exists for invoices.
Because key forms are passed around customer organizations, your electronic forms should be as crisp and professional looking as your brochures or ads, and they must carry the same branding message.
Who designs your electronic forms?
Many companies have IT design their electronic forms. While this usually results in good functional documents that replace continuous forms, they may not meet company standards that apply to customer-facing material, including logo and image quality, branding, or legal standards.
It’s time to get your programmers out of the forms design business.
Besides the quality issues, programming talent is scarce and expensive. There’s too much valuable programming work to be done to have an expensive programmer worrying about whether the logo looks right or whether you’re using the most up-to-date addresses or terms.
My advice is: Let your programmers worry about improving the code. Let your marketing, artists, and legal people worry about electronic forms design.
How do I do that?
Here’s my template for getting programmers out of the forms design business.
First, if you’re using a do-it-yourself (DIY) solution for form generation, replace it with a professionally developed solution like DRVTech’s FormFlex software. You can’t get your programmers out of the forms design business if they are your forms design software vendor. Check out my post on the benefits of professionally developed software versus DIY software to see what buying a commercial solution can do for you.
Most professional form design packages come with a forms editor included in the software. Forms can be created or modified inside the editor or they can be importeccd into the software, which gives you flexibility when deciding who should create and modify your forms.
On an organizational level, decide who is responsible for form creation and modification. Some candidates for this responsibility are:
- Outsourcing to an IBM i forms design vendor with turnkey services – Many document management vendors offer turnkey services, using professional designers for converting and modifying existing documents into electronic forms
- Outsourcing to outside vendors – If you’re already contracted with a professional design firm for marketing materials, use the same people to design and create your electronic forms for an overall consistent brand and message
- In-house graphics departments or form creation experts – Forms can be created by your graphics, marketing, or another internal department who may already be coordinating visual branding and messaging. All forms will go electronic eventually and centralizing this function will keep a consistent message across all media.
- Your IT Department – If all else fails, your IT department may still have to take responsibility for forms design, creation, and modification. This will require an IT resource with some level of graphic design skill and a dotted line relationship with whomever handles visual branding and messaging.
For designing and modifying electronic forms, there isn’t any reason that IT can’t get out of the forms design business. An IT resource may still need to be involved in mapping IBM i data to blank electronic forms for forms generation, but the work of creating and maintaining form templates should be done by professional designers in harmony with your visual branding standards.
For more information on what Form Flex can do for you and how it’s applications are being utilized in the market today, click below to try a demo of FormFlex, or any of our other software solutions. Also, don’t forget to take a look at some of the helpful articles below.