Business Forms and AI
Alan Pelz-Sharpe

By: Alan Pelz-Sharpe on March 12th, 2024

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Business Forms and AI

Data Management  |  Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Nobody gives much thought to business forms; they just ‘are.’ As for the management of business forms, almost nobody knows that Forms Management is a ‘thing’; many likely wonder why business forms even need managing. Frankly, it’s as if business forms are unimportant, yet that could not be further from reality. They are critically important, and their centrality and importance in the world of information management and enterprise automation will likely grow exponentially over the coming years.  

As it happens, recently, the BFMA (Business Forms Management Association) officially became a part of AIIM (Association of Intelligent Information Management). Under this new roof, the BFMA, or at least what it teaches and represents, will have a chance to thrive, and I, for one, hope it does. 

Forms are the primary means of data and information collection. We encounter a myriad of different forms both in our professional and personal lives. Be it registering for an event, borrowing money from a bank, interacting with the healthcare system, or filing an insurance claim (the list goes on). However, the ubiquitous nature of business forms masks their underlying complexity and their key role in data collection and processing.  

First-generation electronic forms were little more than static web pages that provided fields for a user to fill in. But modern business forms are much more than that; they are now business applications without which most organizations could not operate. Or, to put it another way, many modern business forms don’t just collect data; they process the data, too. They are mission-critical links in complex transactions and cross-departmental business processes.  

When you start to consider that the other side of data collection is data presentation, you don’t just gather information with forms; you also present information with forms. Think about an invoice from the telephone company, a credit card statement, or even a bill of lading. This is not gathering information; it is presenting information. This has to be done so that people can act on it. Whether that means they need to make a payment (locate the amount to be paid, find the return address or website for payment, etc.) or put a driver’s license or a passport in their pocket, people often need to take action.  

Indeed, collecting and presenting information are two ends of the same spectrum. For example, take a driver’s license: the application is the data collection, and receiving the license is the presentation end. Another example would be a purchase; the order form is the data collection, and receiving the packing list with the goods is the presentation end. And for as much as the buzz is all about the data collection, you can’t finish the loop until the data presentation occurs. And yet, Business Forms get no love. 

Last year, at the Papyrus customer event in Vienna, I attended a session by a large European insurance company that detailed a complex development project they had undertaken on the Papyrus platform. In truth, 15 minutes into this tech deep dive, it finally dawned on me that the company was developing a series of customer forms. I was confused because each involved months of detailed business analysis before work could start. But as the session continued, I was dumbstruck when I heard that this insurance company utilized and managed thousands of such forms. 

In the AI era, the effective capture, pre-processing, and cleaning of accurate data is more critical than ever. Business forms play a primary role in this work, and if, like me, you conflated modern forms with their paper-based predecessors, then it’s time for a rethink.  


 (This blog post was originally published on Deep Analysis) 


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About Alan Pelz-Sharpe

Extensive experience in information & process management working with businesses and IT executives to analyse and define needs and priorities. Also advising technology vendors large and small to understand specific buyer patterns and goto market requirements. Over the years my clients have included FedEx, The Mayo Clinic, AstraZeneca, Shell & BP and public organisations including the Federal Reserve Board, Global Intelligence Agencies, State and National Governments.