Management

Forms Management and Policies & Procedures – What’s the deal? You can bet!

Forms Management and Policies & Procedures: How Important is This? Yes.

Organizations need to have forms, whether they are electronic or printed. Everybody uses forms every day. These forms include shopping carts, feedback forms and surveys. You can also fill in an email in the contact section of many websites. Paper forms are not extinct. Paper forms can still be used to apply for driver licenses, complete registration of your car, deposit or withdraw money from your savings or checking account. You can find physical forms everywhere.

Business forms are management tools used to help with the transmission, writing and reporting business information. There are two options for viewing a form: either printed or electronic. A printed form is a document that has instructions preprinted in a fixed location to save time and writing. An electronic form is a document that is stored on an electronic memory device, and is available on a computer screen when required. Electronic forms can include fields that can change in size with text input, drop-down menus, active buttons, and can even be tied into a database that holds the information. Electronic forms can still be used in the same way as printed forms, but electronic forms are now possible using the right software.

The Forms of an Organization Can Tell You a Lot About It

The form can reveal a lot to your customers about your business. A company’s appearance can tell you a lot about its history and future plans. It could mean the difference between renewed clients and those who go elsewhere. This is a critical issue in industries such as banking and insurance. Good forms management can make all the difference for your company’s vision, strategy, and mission.

A Visitor’s form was found in the corporate office for a major film company. It was created by a novice on a typewriter. The form reflected poorly on the company. I would be astonished if I was a potential customer of this large company.

The importance of Forms Management to Policies, Procedures is vital

As important as the policy and procedure writer, forms management is also crucial. Many companies have a policies and procedures department that manages the forms management section and/or the policy and procedures writer who is the forms manager. This is crucial because many procedures include references to forms in some way. Forms play an integral part in both the policy and procedure process, according to my experience. Remember that forms can be used in conjunction with policy and procedure processes. The process systems will be integrated if the writer does a great job.

Without first analyzing the forms system, you cannot write policies and procedures.

Since many years I have been designing the forms for a process, before speaking with the users. Sometimes I would even order forms before the policy or procedure analysis is complete. This was a great method because, once the form system was analyzed and streamlined it fell into place.

This is a BIG FAILURE!

Many policies and procedures writers make the most common mistake: they first write the procedure or policy, and then ask for the forms management department’s adaptation to the published policy/procedure document. This is a major mistake that doesn’t promote buy-in to the system. The work of forms managers and policy and procedure writers goes hand in hand. There should be no exception to this.

Incorporating forms into a policy or procedure

As an advocate for the inclusion of a photo of the form and instructions as an appendix, I strongly recommend that it be done. For electronic forms, you can insert a link into the policy/procedure that opens into a new window and displays a sample of the form or the actual form to download.

Many policies and procedures writers don’t know much about forms. They refer to a form only by its number or name, and leave it up to the reader to find the form. This practice is so bad for many reasons. Here are some examples:

  1. It will not be used nor sought after in any way.
  2. The reader will likely ask a friend to fill out the form. They might also receive an old form that has been sitting on their desk for months or even years.
  3. Sometimes, the form may be abbreviated as PR so that the user is unable to identify the source. The abbreviation PR could be used to indicate a purchase obligation or a public relations document.

Arguments against the practice of incorporating a form into a policy or procedure

Although I strongly support embedding form images into policies and procedures, there are some arguments that I disagree with.

  1. READER SAYS, If I embed the image from the form into the procedure or policy, then each time the form is changed, the procedure or policy will have to reissue. This statement might seem true. However, the policies or procedures writer should still want to rewrite their policy or procedure. Form changes also indicate a change in the process that forms the heart of a policy document or procedure.
  2. READER SAYS, Why embed the image of a form when I can refer to it in a forms catalogue? If the form changes, the link would still work and I wouldn’t have to modify the procedure or policy each time. This argument is flawed in two ways: (1) If a form changes, the contents of the policy or procedure should change as well. (2) It is rare for companies to have sufficient resources to maintain a proper forms catalog. If the forms catalogue is kept up to date and the maintainer keeps in close contact with the policies writer, then any form changes can be evaluated and assessed to determine if they affect the existing procedures and policies that are used.

Help Understanding Forms from Other Sources

The Business Forms Management Association (BFMA.org) is the most prominent association in the United States. It offers seminars, workshops, seminars, and books to its members. You should visit their website and give them a call to join. Any policy and procedure writer will benefit from attending one or two conferences. They will discover a whole new world.

Summary:

This article should be used as a guideline for policies and procedures writers. If a department exists, the writer should take over the management of forms. If there is a department that exists and politics are preventing it from being taken over, I recommend the writer build a relationship with the forms department and begin to work together.

If a forms department is not already in place, you can go to training to create one. The policies and procedures author should take control and:

  1. You should think about how to create attractive and effective forms that enhance the image of your organization and complement the policies and procedures that it supports.
  2. You might think about how you could work closely with the Forms department and/or the Form Designers to ensure that the form systems complement the policies, procedures system and vice versa.
  3. Write effective policies and procedures that make use of effective forms. Think about how to best serve your readers.

Biography:

molw.net

We are a team of professionals with each having two decades of experience in start-ups, sales, marketing, finance, HR, large scale project and profit centre management and running mature cross functional operations. At Molw.net we are big believers that knowledge transfer is critical to our industry’s evolution. We love to share our experiences and learnings through our online resources.

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