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Do you have multiple documents serving the same purpose? How about forms generated by decades-old technology? Or do you have forms and templates spread across multiple customer communication and document management systems?

As the amount of data and documents increase at a dramatic rate, enterprises struggle with organizing and maintaining their forms and documents, leading to increased costs and poor customer experience. This is why large companies should deploy a strong forms rationalization program every few years to ensure optimal forms generation.

While it can be a huge pain, rationalization helps improve the maintenance of your forms, and it can also help boost employee experiences working with a simplified set of documents and templates.

Granted, it may not be necessary—or even possible—for your organization to carry out a full document rationalization. However, applying the below tips can help determine the ways to maximize your efforts.

A Framework for Forms Rationalization

At Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), we break down the forms rationalization process into four main steps that have proven to be successful at many financial services and insurance organizations.

1. Operational Rationalization is the process of bucketing your forms and templates, creating an inventory of obsolete, duplicate forms and “no change” forms. No-change forms are those documents that should remain unchanged in the target (e.g., forms that need to be state filed or ISO forms).

Typically, operational rationalization is the easiest and most recommended type of rationalization, because it enables an organization to cut out templates and forms that are no longer needed—thus, providing a foundation for additional rationalization.

2. Functional Rationalization is accomplished by breaking down your forms inventory by the purpose of each form and how it's used. Typically, organizations should start off broad when bucketing forms by function and then narrow the groupings from there. For example, an insurance organization might group their forms by business unit/line of business, state, and transaction type. From there, forms can then be analyzed to determine if they are batch, on-demand, or interactive.

This process includes additional categorization as well, such as identifying legal and compliance forms that might need additional scrutiny if changed and analyzing the recipient type of each form. At the end, organizations should be left with a detailed categorization of their forms inventory, allowing for efficiencies and patterns to be discovered.

3. Structural Rationalization takes a hard look at how your forms are structured to find patterns with various elements on the page. For example, does the page contain a logo, header, footer, columns, or tables?

This rationalization type is especially important for companies with high merger and acquisition activity, leading to a wide variety of brands within the organization. By breaking down the individual elements of each form, you can identify patterns that help to reduce the number of templates an organization uses.

4. Content Rationalization is a close cousin to structural rationalization. This type analyzes the organization’s forms inventory to determine patterns with written content. A good example of this is when two forms from two different states are pretty much the same except for one paragraph. By breaking down forms into content components and identifying any similarities, you can find opportunities to leverage one template.

We've seen clients reduce their forms inventory from 15,000 forms to less than 4,000 by the end of a project—which is more than a 74% reduction. Yes, any document rationalization effort is going to be a massive undertaking. However, if you break it down into manageable pieces, you will be able to cut down and optimize your enterprise documents.

Kelechi Anyanwu is a Practice Lead at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), where she manages the Design and Customer Communication practice in North America. With over 10 years of tech industry experience, Kelechi has advised many Fortune 1000 companies on how to improve their customer/employee experience using the latest content, design, and marketing technologies and trends. For more information, visit