Want to Build your own Web Forms to Capture Transaction Data? Know what you're Getting Into.

A key requirement of initiating document-intensive business transactions is a some sort of process that allows groups throughout an organization to capture and communicate transaction data to the groups that create documents.

Many organizations look to implement online forms using their own internal IT resources to accomplish the job. Since Document Agility has spent a significant amount of time working through the many considerations in building our system’s interview engine, we decided to share the various challenges that that an IT organization is taking on if it decides to build and maintain its own sets of web forms to capture transaction data.

Ease of Creation – Interviews for capturing transaction data by definition will contain questions that would require the expertise of functional business staff, rather than IT staff, to design. That said, the ideal method for creating questions with the required nuances, choices, and logic flow would be to use a tool in which functional users could do most of the work. Web forms require IT and programming staff to create and would require precise collaboration with functional experts.

Complex Question Flow Logic – To capture the requirements of corporate best practices, regulations, and legal requirements, data capture interviews must be able to use complex logic to control the order and flow of downstream questions based on answers entered. This can be very cumbersome to achieve using web forms.

Continuous Change – By their very nature, data capture interviews are constantly changing to incorporate new questions or new options to address new regulations, products, or ways of doing business. Rarely does an IT department want to take on this kind of continuous change and maintenance.

Viewing Rights and Roles – Beyond the creation and deployment of web forms, to achieve true collaboration, data capture interviews require the ability to control which teams have access to which sets of forms. And ideally this should be able to be set and maintained by functional staff, so that IT does not have to administer the system. This requires creating some sort of administration engine around web forms.

History and Tracking – To support requirements by auditors and to be useful to management tracking the data capture process, the web forms system must be able to keep a history of all changes made to interview answers, when they were made and by whom. This requires further refinement of the administration engine.

Versioning – As an additional tracking item, it is often necessary to know which version of a set of web forms contained which questions and when new questions were added to a forms set. This also requires additional building in the administration engine.

Direct Integration with the Document Creation Process – In order to avoid the possibility for mismatches between data collected and contract language, the web forms should be ideally tied directly to whatever engine will be used to create documentation. That way the data that runs the business can be guaranteed to be in sync with written contracts. If this is not the case, changes to web form interviews may not be reflected in the engine that drives creation of documents.

Workflow Enabled Collaboration – Finally, in order to be most useful as a collaboration engine, web forms should be workflow enabled, such that the various groups involved can collect data in the right sequence, when it is their turn to capture data. Ideally this should be controlled by a workflow engine instead of being manually invoked by users themselves. This obviously adds a large amount of development to the web forms administration engine.

When an organization considers the requirements for effective, collaborative data collection through interviews, it is easy to see the amount of effort involved in both the building and the ongoing maintenance of such a project. In this light, the value of a pre-made, hosted, collaborative interview solution, such as Document Agility becomes very evident.

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