The forms management profession is making a comeback. The signs seem clear now. After about two decades of slow and steady decline, when many companies downsized, outsourced, re-structured and/or eliminated the forms management department, executives are beginning to realize that forms development is a complex process that requires skills, training and practice to get it right. As we know, all companies use forms, and forms don’t just materialize. Well-designed forms make business processes work better, more efficiently and at a much lower cost than poorly designed forms. The development cost for forms is but a very small percentage of the total cost of using the forms and the very high cost of correcting and dealing with data errors that result from badly designed forms.


Many forms departments are still badly understaffed to perform all the functions required for effective design and management of a large population of forms. As a result, critical functions, such as workflow mapping, process analysis, design analysis and forms analysis, are scaled back or not performed at all. The resulting inefficiencies associated with forms use and the data correction time requirements far exceed the cost of forms development.



To understand staffing requirements, it is first necessary to examine the forms development process and the skills required. It is not uncommon to find organizations that combine these skills into the same job description, but that can also have a lot of risk. Essociates Group defines the following jobs: Manager, Forms Management; Business Analyst, Forms Analyst, Forms Designer, Forms Technicians and Form System Administrator.

MORE: Where Should Forms Management Report?


Proper staffing levels are generally determined by proper metrics tracking. A key measure is the time spent on each project by each task. All time in the department is either associated with a specific project or it is overhead. Tracking projects over time yields the metrics needed to determine staffing levels.



There are many factors that influence staffing levels in a best practices department. These factors include the following fourteen points:

 


  • Size and structure of the organization

  • Number of forms in the population and their incidence across the entire organization

  • Existence of formal, published forms strategy,

  • Standard processes and procedures (forms control/program manual/style guide)

  • Existence of forms coordinators in the user community and what their assigned duties are

  • Perceived number of rogue forms currently in use within the organization

  • Incidence of formal analysis procedures

  • Whether forms design (layout) is done by forms staff or by outside resources

  • Ratio of pForms to eForms, iForms and vForms and how much of staff is assigned to which format

  • Relationship with IT department

  • Concentration within forms population of items that require special approval cycle(s) (for policy and/or legal compliance

  • Variations of form versions

  • Requirements for special handling (design, disposition, training) for Section 508 Accessible forms

  • Administrative workload and non-forms-related duties also managed and executed by the forms management staff and the percentage of time required to complete those additional duties




As a result, it is difficult to establish general “rules” that point to proper staffing levels. However, we have conducted surveys on this issue and can provide very general guidelines for best practices:





1. Does not include legal staff.


2. As staffs get larger, more specialization and automation can occur, resulting in a higher number of forms per forms department employee. As forms populations increase, more forms analysts are required. However, forms can generally be grouped and automation applied, so one person can handle more forms.


3. High-intensive industries require more process analysis. High-intensive industries include insurance, financial, medical and others where there are a large number of white collar (knowledge) workers as a percent of total employees. Low-intensive industries include mining, construction, farming and others where there are typically a smaller number of white collar workers as a percent of total employees.


We consider staffing decisions to be the fourth most important component of a best practices program, after policy, strategy and structure have been worked out.


Ray Killam is the president of Essociates Group, a firm that provides forms training and consulting services. Contact him at rkillam@essociatesgroup.com.

 

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