In today’s rapidly digitalising world, transforming traditional paper-based processes into digital formats is crucial for businesses. Among these processes, application forms stand out due to their widespread use across various industries. Leveraging low-code platforms can greatly simplify this transition.
The line between the physical and the digital world is increasingly blurring. As businesses and organisations strive to cater to a more technologically adept clientele, they find themselves confronted with a pressing need: the digitisation of traditionally paper-based processes. Within this broad transformation, one aspect stands out due to its ubiquity and importance – application forms.
Why focus on application forms? The answer lies in their wide-ranging application across sectors. From educational institutions enrolling students to businesses processing job applications, from government agencies handling licenses to medical establishments gathering patient data, forms are omnipresent. However, their paper-based nature often means inefficiencies, delays, and increased chances of human errors. Every missed field or illegible entry can lead to setbacks in processing times, which can impact everything from customer satisfaction to operational efficiency.
Enter the solution: digitisation. But while most agree on the merits of digital forms, the journey from paper to pixels can seem daunting. Many organisations grapple with questions of where to begin, which technology to adopt, and how to ensure a smooth transition without disrupting ongoing operations.
Fortunately, the technology landscape offers an answer that’s both robust and user-friendly: low-code platforms. These platforms present a unique blend of flexibility, power, and simplicity, enabling even those without deep coding experience to craft digital solutions. As we delve deeper into the realm of digitising application forms, the potential of low-code platforms shines brightly, promising a smoother, faster, and more efficient route to the future.
Let’s explore the intricacies of this transformation, elucidating the steps, benefits, and best practices. By the end, the task of digitising will not only seem achievable but will be viewed as a necessary step towards a more streamlined and efficient operational future.
Understanding the Need for Digitising
The digitisation of application forms and other paper-based processes is not just a fleeting trend, but a genuine shift in how modern businesses operate. Before delving into the ‘how’, it’s essential to understand the ‘why’ behind this change. Why is the digitisation of application forms an imperative rather than just another option?
The Evolution of User Expectations
The current generation of users, accustomed to digital experiences, expects instant results. In a world where online shopping, digital communication, and instant information access are norms, waiting for a paper-based form to be processed seems antiquated. Digitised forms align with modern expectations, providing real-time experiences that today’s audience seeks.
Benefits of Digitising:
- Efficiency: Transitioning to digital forms can dramatically increase the speed of data processing. Eliminating the need for manual data entry not only reduces the time taken to process each form but also minimises the possibility of human errors which can lead to incorrect data capture or even the loss of information.
- Accessibility: Digital forms can be accessed from anywhere, at any time. This 24/7 availability makes it convenient for users, leading to increased engagement and participation. Moreover, for businesses and organisations, it ensures that data can be accessed and analysed irrespective of geographical and time constraints.
- Cost-Effective: While the initial setup might involve some expenses, in the long run, digital forms prove to be more economical. The costs associated with printing, distributing, storing, and managing paper forms are perpetual. Digitising eliminates these recurring expenses.
- Real-time Analysis: One of the unsung benefits of digital forms is the capability for real-time data analysis. As soon as a user submits a form, the data can be integrated into analytics tools, providing immediate insights. This can be invaluable for decision-makers, offering timely insights and helping shape strategies based on actual user data.
- Environmental Impact: Reducing our reliance on paper is a step towards more sustainable business practices. Digitisation can play a significant role in reducing the environmental footprint of organisations, aligning operations with the increasing global emphasis on sustainability.
In essence, digitisation is not merely about converting paper into pixels. It represents a shift in operational strategy, a move towards more efficient, user-friendly, and data-driven processes that can redefine the way organisations interact with their users.
Implementing Digitalisation using Low-Code Platforms
Low-code platforms offer a way to create application forms with minimal hand-coding, using visual development environments. They empower individuals, even those with limited technical expertise, to develop robust digital solutions quickly.
Instead of writing extensive lines of code, users can utilise visual interfaces, drag-and-drop components, and pre-built functionalities to assemble applications. The beauty of these platforms lies in their ability to democratise software development, making it accessible even to those without deep technical expertise.
- Visual Development: At the heart of low-code platforms is the visual interface. Instead of scripting, users design applications by manipulating visual elements, which the platform then translates into functional code.
- Reusability: Many low-code platforms come with libraries of pre-built components or modules. These can be reused across different projects, saving time and ensuring consistency.
- Integration Capabilities: One of the challenges of digitisation is ensuring new digital tools integrate seamlessly with existing systems. Low-code platforms often come equipped with connectors and integration tools that allow them to easily communicate with other systems.
- Scalability & Flexibility: While they simplify the development process, many low-code platforms are robust enough to create scalable solutions. As business needs evolve, applications developed on these platforms can be easily modified and expanded.
Why Low-Code Platforms are Gaining Popularity:
- Speed to Market: Given the visual nature and pre-built components, applications can be developed and deployed in a fraction of the time compared to traditional methods.
- Cost-Effectiveness: Reducing the amount of manual coding not only speeds up development but also often results in cost savings, as less specialised labour is required.
- Empowerment: Low-code platforms empower non-developers, such as business analysts or domain experts, to contribute to application development, ensuring that the resulting software aligns closely with business needs.
- Innovation: With the barriers to application development lowered, organisations can experiment and innovate more freely, testing new digital solutions without significant investments of time or resources.
Steps to Digitise Application Forms Using Low-Code Platforms
The journey from paper-based forms to digital applications can appear convoluted. However, with a structured approach and leveraging the power of low-code platforms, this transition can be both efficient and effective. Here’s a detailed walkthrough:
A) Choose the Right Low-Code Platform:
Selection Criteria: Before diving into the development, it’s crucial to pick a platform that aligns with your organisation’s needs.
- User Interface (UI): An intuitive UI ensures that even those with minimal technical expertise can navigate and utilise the platform effectively.
- Integration Capabilities: Ensure the platform can seamlessly integrate with existing systems like CRMs, ERPs, or databases.
- Scalability: As your needs evolve, the platform should be capable of handling increased loads and complexities.
- Security: Given that application forms can sometimes handle sensitive data, robust security measures are non-negotiable.
B) Design the Form:
- Layout Planning: Use the platform’s drag-and-drop form builders to create an intuitive layout. The design should be user-centric, ensuring that the digital experience is smooth and familiar to those accustomed to the paper version.
- Field Integration: Incorporate necessary fields, from simple text boxes to more complex elements like date pickers, drop-downs, or radio buttons.
- Validation Mechanisms: Incorporate real-time validations. These ensure data entered matches expected formats, enhancing data accuracy and user experience. For instance, an email field can validate entries to match the standard email format.
- Instructions & Help: Given that some users might be new to the digital format, it’s beneficial to include tooltips or help sections explaining how to fill out the form.
C) Integrate with Backend Systems:
- Data Storage: Link the form to your chosen database or storage system, ensuring data submitted is correctly and securely saved.
- Real-Time Integrations: If your form data needs to be instantly available in other systems (like CRM or ERP), set up real-time data transfer mechanisms.
- Automated Workflows: Utilise the platform’s automation capabilities. For instance, once a form is submitted, an automated email can be sent to the user confirming receipt.
D) Test the Form:
- User Experience Testing: Before full-scale deployment, gather a group of users to test the form. Their feedback can offer insights into potential pain points or areas of improvement.
- Data Accuracy: Ensure that data submitted through the form is correctly captured in backend systems.
- Load Testing: If you expect a large number of submissions, test the form’s ability to handle high traffic loads to ensure it doesn’t crash during peak times.
E) Deploy, Monitor, and Iterate:
- Deployment: Once satisfied with the form’s functionality, deploy it for wider access.
- Monitoring Tools: Use the low-code platform’s monitoring tools to track form performance, user interactions, and potential errors.
- Iterative Improvements: Based on collected data and feedback, regularly revisit the form design and functionality, making iterative improvements to enhance user experience and efficiency.
Benefits of Using Low-Code Platforms for Digitisation
A) Simplified Development Process:
- User-Friendly Interfaces: Low-code platforms feature intuitive interfaces that simplify the entire development process. By dragging and dropping components, non-technical users can effectively participate in the development process, bridging the gap between IT and business teams.
- Less Coding, More Configuration: With a majority of the functionality achieved through configuration rather than manual coding, development cycles are drastically shortened. This ensures faster rollouts of digital applications.
- Reduced Development Costs: By accelerating the development process and minimising the need for specialised coding skills, organisations can often achieve significant cost savings in the application development lifecycle.
- Maintenance and Upgrades: The inherent modular nature of low-code platforms means that maintenance and subsequent upgrades can be done more efficiently, without the need to overhaul the entire application.
C) Enhanced Agility:
- Rapid Prototyping: Organisations can swiftly move from conceptualisation to prototype, allowing stakeholders to visualise and refine the end product early in the development phase.
- Adaptability: In a constantly evolving business landscape, being able to quickly adapt to new requirements or market changes is invaluable. Low-code platforms grant this flexibility, allowing for swift modifications and updates to applications as needs evolve.
D) Democratisation of Development:
- Collaborative Approach: These platforms bring together individuals from various departments, allowing for a more holistic development process. This collaboration ensures that the end product is well-aligned with both technical standards and business objectives.
- Empowerment of Citizen Developers: By offering tools that are accessible to non-developers, low-code platforms empower a broader range of individuals, termed “citizen developers”, to contribute to the digital transformation journey. This helps in alleviating the pressure on IT teams and fosters a culture of innovation throughout the organisation.
E) Scalability and Robustness:
- Built for Growth: While they simplify development, most reputable low-code platforms don’t compromise on the robustness of the applications built. They ensure that as your organisation grows, your applications can scale seamlessly to accommodate this growth.
- Integrated Security: Recognising the critical importance of data security, these platforms typically incorporate robust security features, ensuring that applications built are resistant to threats and vulnerabilities.
F) Seamless Integrations:
- Connectivity: The ability to integrate with other systems, be it CRMs, ERPs, or third-party applications, ensures that the digital solutions developed can function harmoniously within the existing tech ecosystem of an organisation.
- API-Driven: Many low-code platforms support API integrations, opening up a world of possibilities for extending the functionality of the developed applications.
The adoption of low-code platforms for digitisation isn’t just about convenience; it’s about harnessing a powerful toolset that aligns with modern business needs. The agility, cost-efficiency, collaboration, and robustness offered by these platforms make them a linchpin in the digital transformation strategies of forward-thinking organisations.
Best Practices When Employing Low-Code Platforms for Digitisation
A) Start with a Clear Vision:
- Define Objectives: Before diving into development, clearly outline what you hope to achieve with the digital application. This will guide your design and functionality choices, ensuring alignment with business goals.
- User-Centric Design: Keep the end-users in mind. After all, they will be the primary interactors with the digital form or application. Consider their needs, preferences, and potential challenges when designing.
B) Foster Collaboration:
- Engage Stakeholders: Involve relevant stakeholders from various departments early on. Their input can provide invaluable insights, ensuring a well-rounded application.
- Feedback Loops: Establish mechanisms for continuous feedback, both during the development phase and post-deployment. This iterative approach ensures that the application remains relevant and user-friendly.
C) Prioritise Security:
- Regular Updates: Ensure that the platform and any integrated tools or plugins are regularly updated. These updates often contain security patches to address vulnerabilities.
- Data Protection: Be cognizant of the type of data your application will handle. If sensitive information is involved, employ encryption and other security measures to protect it.
- Access Control: Implement user roles and permissions, ensuring that only authorised individuals can access and modify certain data or sections of the application.
D) Plan for Scalability:
- Future-Proofing: While the immediate needs are crucial, try to envision how your application might need to evolve in the future. Designing with scalability in mind ensures that the application remains relevant as business needs grow or change.
- Opt for Modular Design: Building your application in a modular manner allows for easier expansions or modifications in the future.
E) Embrace Continuous Learning:
- Training: While low-code platforms are user-friendly, investing in training sessions can further enhance the team’s proficiency, ensuring you get the most out of the platform.
- Stay Updated: The tech world evolves rapidly. Regularly update your knowledge about the platform and any new features or tools it introduces.
F) Monitor and Optimise:
- Analytics Integration: Incorporate analytics to monitor user interactions, application performance, and other relevant metrics. These insights can guide future improvements.
- Routine Maintenance: Just like any other software solution, applications built on low-code platforms need regular maintenance. This ensures they run smoothly and remain bug-free.
G) Ensure Seamless Integrations:
- API Management: If integrating with other systems or third-party tools, manage and monitor the APIs effectively to ensure data flows smoothly and without errors.
- Consistent Data Structures: When integrating with other systems, ensure that data structures remain consistent to avoid discrepancies or errors.
Digitising application forms is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Low-code platforms provide a unique, cost-effective, and efficient method to transition from paper to digital, making it accessible to organisations of all sizes.
Are you ready to revolutionise your application process? Dive into the world of low-code platforms today and elevate your operational efficiency to new heights.
Contact Velocity IT today and let us help you digitise your application forms using low-code.
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