All About E-forms
A hands-on guide for selling this hot new niche product
By Barbara A. Bucci
Maybe you thought you knew what they were. And maybe you always did know. But since many people confuse electronic forms with software-compatible forms, let's first end any confusion that might exist and differentiate one from the other, before talking about market opportunities.
According to Ted Nowlen, vice president of marketing and information technology at Bridgeville, Pa.-based Interform Solutions, an electronic form is a mail-enabled form that allows users to complete it electronically. Users can then capture and route the form throughout an organization's computer network.
On the other hand, he noted that a software-compatible form is nothing more than a conventional hard copy form designed for use by a specific applications program.
Nowlen should know. His firm provides DocuLINK, a document management program that captures all the information about a form and stores that data in a central repository. DocuLINK ties into an unlimited number of PC-based e-forms packages
Bob Lachner, president and co-owner of RxLASER, Brea, Calif., offered a more general definition of an electronic form.
"A true electronic form is a computer-generated document that is created to convey information from one party to another," he explained. "Within this definition, faxes, EDI and e-mails are included along with the traditional printed document."
However, Lachner noted that the business forms industry typically defines a form as one that is stored in either hardware or software to provide an overlay upon which to print the computer's data.
"An e-form utilizes a laser printer and prints on plain white rather than the preprinted paper required by older impact or dot-matrix printers," he said.
Additionally, Lachner stated that there are two types of e-forms. A software-based e-form is stored as a template in the computer's programming. This template is combined with variable data and sent to a printer.