“What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork.” ~ Pearl Bailey
Welcome to 2015 – I know it’s going to be a great year! And while the weather is cold, what a good time it is to review office procedures and forms to make sure the business is humming along as efficiently as possible. I guess you could call it a kind of pre-spring cleaning. I know, it’s not as good as sledding, but work with me, here.
If you’ve taken any of my courses, you know how much I like to automate. The fewer steps it takes to get something done, the better I like it. Creating a good system of business forms is a big part of automation, especially if I can get forms to share information with each other, or feed data into a spreadsheet. So part of my pre-spring cleaning is to review my forms every now and then to make sure they still make sense.
And let’s face it: There’s nothing more annoying than trying to work with a badly designed form. If you doubt that, get online right now and try applying for a job at some big company. It can be a real nightmare!
Forms, of course, have always been a pain in the neck. The military is famous for them. Heck, the Romans probably had rotten forms, too. Until just a few years ago, there was no relief from bad forms. You were stuck with whatever form somebody handed you.
Now, though, you can design your own. Okay, there’s not much you can do about online job applications, and I’m pretty sure the Army doesn’t give points for creativity in this regard. But you can design forms for your own use, and adapt existing forms to your liking. Better yet, you can set them up to create a database and even talk to each other.
Say hello to FormConnect, one of my favorite iPad applications. If I had to go live on a desert island somewhere and I could only take one app with me, it might just be this one. And it only costs ten bucks.
FormConnect will let you design some pretty nifty forms, with drop-down menus and pictures and places for signatures and hand-written notes. But it’s a lot more than that.
Let’s say you’ve set up a form for your bird dogs to use. They spot a house you might like, so they fill out the form that you designed for them. They give you the address, the type of property, and whatever else you specify; they add pictures and notes; and upload it to the Cloud.
Now, if your bird dogs are good, you’re going to end up with lots of these records. Put them all together and you’ve created a database of potential properties to buy. You can then import the data into an Excel spreadsheet and create all sorts of useful reports. This can be a real time-saver.
You can also set up the forms to “talk” to each other, so you don’t have to fill out the same information over and over again. Need somebody’s name on a bunch of different forms? FormConnect will let you enter it on one form, and it will automatically fill it in on the others you specify.
Here’s another trick I like: Let’s say you’ve got a paper form that you wish you could use on your iPad. Don’t type it all in. Just scan in the form as a PDF file, and then use FormConnect to insert blanks where they belong. Voila! A computer form!
For the moment at least, FormConnect is only available for iPad. If you’re an Android or Windows user, though, you can find apps that do much the same thing. Googling “form design software” and “android” (or “windows”) will get you started.
If you’ll excuse me, then, I’m going to get back to updating my forms. The faster I can get the paperwork done, the sooner I can get to my son’s hockey game. Or maybe – just maybe – there will still be time for sledding.
Happy New Year, everyone!