Focus on simple

When software developers and application admins start building forms for use by their field crews, they tend to build elaborate forms with a lot of fields and options.

Their thinking is “we need to have the field teams capture everything they can while they are out in the field, because if they forget something, then it will be expensive to send them back out there again.”

But that’s the wrong way to look at things.  If the field forms take too much effort and time to fill out, they won’t get filled out. As an application admin (or software developer), you have to put yourself in the field tech’s shoes:

Would I fill out that form if I was doing that field job, in a time crunch, in the cold rain?

Probably not.  And that’s the whole point.  Think like them when building these forms.

Automate what can be automated

Wherever possible, automate and standardize to reduce form completion time, with a goal of 20 seconds or less for a form to be filled out in the field. Use pre-populated fields, listboxes, auto-calculated fields, valid value ranges, and a standardized layout across all your form templates.  For example, take a look at the form below, which uses a standardized header section that is the same across all of their form templates, collapsible section headers, separate photo capture controls, and auto-calculated fields in a table grid which calculate elapsed time.

Aggregate using listbox values

Listboxes are great.  Using listboxes avoids typos and variations of the same thing (e.g., Acme, Acme Inc, and Acme, Inc.).  They can also be used for aggregating like-valued form submittals.  Take a look at the screenshot below, which aggregates forms submitted over a 7-day timeframe by the type of unnaceptable items found in non-hazardous trash.


Capture form geolocation

When possible, capturing form geolocation can help with ensuring that the field techs were actually on site.  Take a look at the gif below, which is a map indicating where these forms were initiated in the past 7 days.

Distribute form submissions quickly

Quick distribution of forms and their datasets means faster problem identification. For example, a discrepancy between what the field tech recorded and what the customer said occurred.  It also means faster report completion, which can lead to faster invoicing and collection of money from your customer.   Here are a few ways to speed up submitted form distribution.

  • Auto-generate PDFs
  • Auto-email PDFs to specific people
  • Download form data in batches
  • Automate further by integrating directly into your own internal software tools (like OneDrive, Teams, etc)

 Auto-generate PDFs

Most form system nowadays have this feature, so it goes without saying that a PDF version of a submitted form should be something that will automatically be generated once a form is submitted by a field tech.  And the PDF format/layout should be able to be edited and customized, so that it can display exactly what you want it to display: logo in a particular spot, table grids with specific header blocks, and so forth.

Auto-email PDFs to specific people

If you set up an automated notification to fire each time a form is submitted, then you don’t have to depend on someone checking the system, downloading the PDF, and sending it out to others.  It’s done automatically.  In XForms, you can do that from Admin > Account > Notifications.  Here’s a screenshot of that area in the system.

Download form data in batches

If you need the form data that was collected in a digital format, you should be able to download it into a CSV fiel or Excel with a few clicks.  Here’s how to do that in XForms.  Navigate to the form screen, filter to view the specific forms you want, and then click on the green “Export to Excel” button.


Automate further by integrating into your own software tools

Most modern software nowadays can communicate with each other using RESTful APIs, which is standard practice.  By connecting your forms software to other internal tools, you can do lots of cool things, like the following examples:

  • Push submitted forms directly into your OneDrive/Dropbox/Box/Google Drive account
  • Extract and push photos directly into your OneDrive/Dropbox/Box/Google Drive account
  • Populate an Office 365 Excel sheet or Google Sheet with submitted form data
  • Populate other data systems like Tableau, Smartsheet or Airtable with submitted form data
  • Create invoices in Quickbooks Online with form submittal data

Endless possibilities 🙂


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