The First Steps: Documents and Forms (Part 1)

Documents and forms are part of the hidden overhead that will be affecting your business and many businesses around the world. To manage these pages efficiently companies, ideally in partnership with print providers or their in-house print shops, should institute some type of Print Management Service Program

So what is that, you ask.

A Print Management Service Program (PMSP) for documents and forms is 'the systematic process of increasing productivity and minimizing errors in information capture, transmission and recovery through the use of workflow analysis and graphic design techniques; providing administration control; reducing procurement, storage, distribution and costs through standardization; and ensuring the adequacy, business as well as legal, of all records and printed material'.

A Print Management Service Program can present a win-win formula for enterprises as well as print providers and their customers.

Confusing Terms

With a definition as long as that, explaining a PMSP for Documents and Forms is never easy. This is especially true because the terms 'Document Management', 'Forms Management' and 'Print Management' are constantly used and abused. In fact, the concept has often been a way for print providers to sell more printing. But, for the true professionals and organizations working with their customers it presents a win-win formula for both parties. Still, actual services can vary significantly.

  • Some vendors provide warehousing, distribution and inventory reports, and call this either Documents, Forms or Print Management. But there is not a provision in this method for Print Management and Documents/Forms analysis, improved design, and many of the Print Documents/Forms functions. This is not Print Documents/Forms Management.
  • Other vendors provide design services and some control functions but no warehousing and distribution. Without a close watch on inventories, it is difficult to plan combination orders or reduce the incidence of rush/emergency orders due to depleted stocks. This is not Print Documents/Forms Management.
  • Still, other vendors provide all these services but they are interested in only high volume materials. If a print provider is not as concerned about the Print Documents/Forms that use 1000 copies a year as he/she is about the high volume jobs, the enormous clerical expense associated with Print Documents/Forms is not addressed. This is not Print Documents/Forms Management.

Document/Form Design

Document/Form design makes use of all information gathered about the document/form to arrange the data fields and construct the document/form for best use. These include:

  • Technical components based on international standards or proven research such as issues as paper sizes, paperweights, color, legibility, type sizes and measurements.
  • Conventions and practices such as data sequence going from top to bottom, and left to right, typeface selection and design consistency among documents/forms.
  • Corporate identity, applying the logotype correctly and using designated type styles.
  • The creation design component, There is not just one way to design a document/form. Just because two document/form designs are different, it does not mean one is better than the other. You need a design that offers optimum function and utility.

Less Paper, More Efficiency

Briefly stated, Print Documents/Forms Management is involved with the elimination of paperwork and an improvement in clerical efficiency, both leading to a reduction in companies expenses. If you think Print Documents/Forms costs are insignificant, think again.

Doug Boxx of the Xerox Corporation notes that "95% of all information is stored on paper, only 1% of information is stored on computer. About 4% is stored on microfilm or optical disk (as digital data)."

95% of all information is stored on paper, only 1% of information is stored on computer. About 4% is stored on microfilm or optical disk (as digital data).

Over the last 12 years optical disk and digital systems have increased in importance. Mr. Boxx also says that "66% of all jobs belong to white collar or' knowledge workers', and this level is predicted to reach 90% by the year 2008. 75% of all salary pounds/euros/dollars etc., go to office workers. These knowledge workers produce no product but deal with information as their output. According to Mr. Boxx, "A focus on the process of creating the document and conveying the productive output (information) of the knowledge worker can substantially increase productivity and lower costs".

How then does one implement Print Documents/Forms Management? What are the components of a Print Documents/Forms Management Service Program? Let's take a look.

Document/Form Analysis and Design

Well executed document/forms design an increase productivity by creating a basic business tool which is self-instructive, encourages co-operation, provides for easy entry of data, reduces the potential for error, facilitates the use of the information, and enhances the organizations image. Document/form analysis is the systematic execution of the steps necessary to ensure:

  • productivity is increased in preparation, use, buying and retrieval
  • the total number of documents/forms within the system is minimized
  • data element relationships are apparent through consistency and adherence to standards
  • the effectiveness of the entire system as well as the individual document/form is enhanced; and the resulting business tool communicates'.

Document/Form Analysis vs Document/Form Design

Document/Form analysis resolves what goes on the document/form --the content-- in the context of what, when, where, why and how the document/form is used. Design resolves how to best arrange and present the information and how the document/form looks and how it is constructed. Solid work in analysis and design can speed a document/form program to its goal of eliminating paperwork and improving clerical efficiency, both leading to a reduction in companies expenses.

Thoroughly analyzed and well designed documents/forms provide many benefits. They look good, and better-looking documents/forms have more appeal. Well-analyzed and designed documents/forms provide for easy entry of data and allow for easier use of the data. They reduce the chance of error when entering or retrieving information. They are self-instructing.

Think it Through

It is a good idea to have a 'document/form initiation request' to force (persuade) the sponsor to give the document/form and its use some thought. The document/form request gives basic information about the document/form, who initiated it, who authorized it, when and how it will be used. The request provides a place to start the analysis and to ask the old journalism questions of who, what, when and where. What is the purpose of the document/form? Question and need of the document/form should always be the first step in document/form analysis. (See Sidebar: Who, What, Where, When, Why & How)

Dr. Ben Graham, an international expert in productivity analysis, tells a story to illustrate this point. In 1973 he was working in Venezuela with a manufacturing company that wanted to streamline its entire operation. After careful analysis of all documents/forms as they related to the workflow, one remained unidentified. Although it had been duly completed, routed and filed for many years, no one really knew why it was being used. It was finally determined that the document/form was for manufactured goods being loaded on a ship that was to join a convoy crossing the Atlantic --during World War II. Moral of the story always determines the purpose first to see if the document/form is even needed.

Remember, document/form analysis and designs are integral parts of a comprehensive Print Management program. Automation such as using electronic version of the document/form requires even more thorough analysis prior to design. In addition to all the considerations addressed in this publication concerning conventional documents/forms, a host of other issues come into play, such as interaction with databases, or structure for intelligent or conditional movement through the document/form.

Once the form is designed, it's essential to have a way of tracking it--for a variety of reasons. And that's part of what we'll discuss tomorrow.