From calculating your return on investment (ROI) to understanding how mobile forms fit into a fully paperless business, this post is your guide.
Ready to throw your printers in the trash and enjoy cash savings? Ready to increase business efficiency by embracing mobile forms?
Then let’s get into it. 💪
What Are Mobile Forms?
Think of the paper forms used daily – inspection forms, safety checklists, attendance registers, risk assessments, quotes, etc. You could replace all of these with a single mobile phone.
In a nutshell, mobile forms allow you to say goodbye to dirty paper and its tendency to go missing – and embrace cost savings and increased business efficiency.
Why Is A Mobile Form Builder Useful?
A good mobile form builder will allow you to create custom forms for any paper documentation you currently use. So you can shorten the time it takes for forms to pass through the right hands.
The best builders will let you create entire workflows, merging sets of forms into one succinct digital document. Starting with your initial inspection & quote, you can have a mobile form run through your entire process – all the way to invoicing your clients.
For more information on digitizing entire workflows, check out our article on field service management software.
How Much Money Can A Good Mobile Form Builder Save You?
Using mobile forms can help you save money – but how much, exactly? We’re focusing on cost-saving alone here. For more benefits, we have a post showcasing real-world benefits of digital data collection.
Just FYI, we’ll link to all these resources at the end of the post, so no need to check them out right now.
Back to the topic at hand. Do you know how much your paper forms are costing you? It shouldn’t be too hard to work out – but let’s take this white paper, published by AIIM, as a reference.
According to this paper, a paper form’s average cost before scanning or final processing (data capture) is $4.56. Let’s include scan and process costs ($2.84 per form), and work on $7.40 to complete a paper form. (This can be as high as $75 for highly specialized services!)
Keep in mind this paper was published in 2012, and the cost is likely higher now – but let’s take what we’ve got and look at a hypothetical example.
You have 3 maintenance employees and 2 safety employees, each filling out just 2 basic forms per day.
Let’s calculate costs in a 5-day work-week.
|Per Day||Per Week||Per Month||Per Year|
That’s not too bad, right? After all, a failure or hold-up in your production line could lose you thousands of dollars per hour. Similarly, a safety contravention could cost thousands in fines – or worse, human life.
Now, to calculate cost-savings, let’s use Appenate’s annual premium user licence fee, at $14.90 each for 5 users per month.
|Cost Per Month||Cost Per Year|
Why not take a moment to calculate your own potential savings with this nifty mobile forms ROI calculator?
There’s a more advanced sheet that considers things like fuel and time cost too – for a more detailed and individual figure. You can have it for free on Excel by clicking here.
You can also grab the Google sheet here (open it, click on file > save a copy, and it’s all yours).
How Does A Mobile Form Builder Work?
Honestly, they’re all different. Some are easy to pick up, but lack functionality. Others can do anything you can imagine, but they’re harder to learn.
The basic process is as follows: Grab your dirty old paper form, find the right ‘fields’ within your builder and you add them to your shiny new mobile form. Your employees then download the app, open the form and the cost-savings begin!
As simple as this sounds, you’ll need to learn how to use your form builder first. Check out this video to see more or less how it’s done on Appenate:
Find Your Perfect Mobile Form Creator In 5 Steps
Finding your perfect solution is about more than selecting whoever has the best website. You’ll need to try different ones, look for different things – and if the concept is new to you, where do you even start?
We’ve got you covered.
Below are a series of 5 steps you can use to find and adopt the tool that’s right for you. All so you can maximize your cost-saving and efficiency.
Step 1: Establish Your Requirements
All builders are not created equal. Some are light and fast, others detailed and technical. So your first step is to determine your needs.
Do you have a single process you’d like to purge paper? Or do you need a beastly solution that can deploy company-wide, laying the foundation for a truly paperless company? Do you need something worker-facing or public-facing?
We’ve narrowed it all down to 3 types – let’s take a look.
1: Light And Easy
These are great little tools for simplistic processes. You can use them for customer surveys or inspections – but that’s pretty much the limit of their capability.
One example in this category is Google Forms – the only public-facing solution in this list. Providing the quality you’d expect from a company like Google, this is a great little tool for collecting information online. It’s super easy to use and has nice reporting capabilities. The downside is that it’s not suited to information capture in the field – not without plenty of work from your side.
It’s best suited to customer or employee surveys.
Site Audit Pro is another fantastic little tool in this category. They’re great at handling your audits or inspections, but don’t cater to a wider workflow.
It’s best suited to auditing or preventative maintenance-focused companies. So if that’s all you’re looking for, this could be your answer.
2: Middle Of The Road
This is a difficult segment to define. There are many tools that fall within this category, and the difference between them can be huge. Tools in this category will likely have a main focus which they’re very good at, but they’ll be mediocre in other aspects and possibly even bad in a few.
For example, they may have a great and easy-to-use form builder, but lack some core functionality (GPS location or offline capabilities, for example). In the end, it all depends on what you’re looking for.
We’re covering some of our competition here and in the next section. We’d love it if you chose us in the end 😁, but it’s more important to us that you find the perfect fit for your needs.
First, we have Fulcrumapp. Like everything on this list, it’s a great tool. It’s well-suited to basic field data capture and even has some basic workflow and job dispatch. However, it does fall short of being considered a full “Mobile Enterprise Solution.” It’s worth a look if you’re after something light.
Our second example here is DoForms. They have even better options when it comes to workflow management, and their field data capture functionality is great.
Both of these solutions do lack front-to-back white-label capabilities, but they’re capable platforms and are worth considering.
3: Heavy Duty
Offline capabilities, GPS coordinates & maps, full workflows with various branching paths – this all comes standard with these heavyweights.
Having said that, you’d expect those in this class to be expensive – but some aren’t. A glance at our pricing will reveal that we beat most type 2’s on that front – so price shouldn’t be a problem if you’re looking for something powerful.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the two best options in this category – in our opinion.
Appenate, of course. We’re biased 🙂
Honestly, though, Appenate is packed with functionality and is undoubtedly one of the best mobile forms builders around. The downside is there’s a learning curve to using our platform, which is the main reason we offer complimentary training with our free trial.
Biased as we are, we can’t say definitively that we’re the best tool out there. One thing’s for sure though, we haven’t found anyone who beats our white-label offerings.
Device Magic is a direct competitor of ours – and for good reason. They have a fine platform and we’re actually quite impressed with them. Like us, they have a great workflow management solution that can turn your entire process paperless.
One of the few downsides to Device Magic, however, is that they don’t offer on-device printing or private azure-managed servers (which we do, if you’re interested).
In the end, though, it’s all about personal preference. That’s why the next step is crucial.
Step 2: Choose And Test
Now it’s time to start trials and get testing. Here are some pointers for this phase:
- Test thoroughly – try different things and if anything breaks, ask about it. You have 30 days (depending on the provider) to learn the platform – use it well.
- The first time you get stuck, contact support and make a note of response time. Does the support team make you feel valuable, or like you’re just another number? Poor customer support is one of the main reasons businesses switch to us from other platforms.
- Do they offer one-on-one training (even after the trial)? Or do they expect you to teach yourself?
- Is there plenty of untouched functionality that could prove useful later? Or are you already pushing the limits of the platform?
- Are there any special offers you can take advantage of to test the platform for longer?
- What’s pricing like, and how much are you actually saving in terms of costs? (use the detailed calculator sheet to be sure – it’s also down in the ‘resources’ section)
- Do they really care, or are they just trying to drive a bottom line to appease investors? (We’re fully self-funded, but the way 😉)
Keep these points in mind as you test, and you’ll be well on your way to finding your ideal tool.
Step 3: Keep Track Of And Analyze Results
Cost savings is one of the most significant benefits of switching to a good mobile forms solution. Bearing that in mind, here are a few questions to ask during the trial period…
- How much money have you saved?
- How many working hours did you save?
- How have job turnaround times been influenced?
- How has data visibility changed?
- How has data integrity changed? (smudged or lost forms still a problem?)
- How has accountability changed?
Remember to use our in-depth, individual calculator sheet (grab a copy at the end of this blog post) to compare and find the solution that’ll give you the best ROI in the shortest amount of time.
Step 4: Consider The Consequences
Data migrations are best avoided. So before you move on to the final step, consider the future. What if you choose the wrong mobile form builder?
Look for your finalist’s feature pages and try to ensure that all the gaps are covered. So that when you move on to more complicated mobile forms, you won’t be left without the proper functionality.
And ensure that your favourite form creator has a healthy dev cycle and releases new, in-demand features regularly. Here’s an example of our platform updates announcements, with more or less one full cycle with loads of client-requested improvements per quarter.
Step 5: Make A Decision
Now that you’ve analyzed everything, you’ll have a solid decision in mind.
Given that you’ve tested their customer support, their willingness to take suggestions on board, and their future plans (not chasing an acquisition that could change the face of their business), then there are only a few, final considerations to make.
Before You “Sign The Dotted Line”
Logically, offline-capable mobile forms are only useful in remote locations. Let’s face it, though, even cities have “dead spots” where cell reception can disappear. Sometimes a cell tower might go down – and this could halt work if your solution is lacking in this area.
That’s why it’s best to have offline capability available, even if it looks like you might not need it.
White Label Options
This is especially useful if you’re interested in reselling your own solutions. We offer industry-topping, front-to-back white label capabilities. So you can resell Appenate as your own product.
Alternatively, you may just want a unique look and feel to your worker-facing apps. Either way, our white label options cannot be beat.
This is one of the points our customers often commend us for. We’re not in this business for profit alone – we actually want to help businesses achieve new levels of efficiency.
Being fully self-funded means we don’t have investors demanding higher profits. This allows us to offer low yet fair prices for the use of our platform. Make sure you’re not overpaying to line already bulging pockets.
There are many great platforms out there, but some can be rigid. You have to do things a certain way – even if it’s inefficient.
The nature of our platform means there are many ways to achieve the same result – and you get to choose whatever works best for you. We’re one of the most customizable platforms on the market, so there’s always an opportunity to refine your individual process for maximum efficiency.
We’ve seen our customers do some pretty crazy stuff on Appenate – and they’re often only limited by their imagination.
Photo Capture Within Mobile Forms
Another feature that’s often mentioned by our clients is the ability to incorporate photos into mobile forms. Whether these are for proof of work done or for visualizing work to be done, they’re useful.
Many form builders do offer this. So if you’d like to make use of it, make sure your chosen option has the capability.
The world has changed. Ideally, we don’t want to exchange devices to capture client signatures anymore.
Which is why we created the Contactless Signature Capture feature on Appenate – it’s a way for clients to provide their signature online. Using their own device, they scan a QR code on your phone and the app does the rest. They sign and the data is fed back into Appenate.
It’s super simple to use and fits perfectly into the crazy world we find ourselves in.
Many More Features To Consider
To prevent this post from becoming a novel, we’ll end the list here.
There are more features to consider though – take a look at our own features page for more info. We also have more detailed information on various major features on our showcase page.
You could also have a look at our feature showcases – these are the favourite features of the Appenate team.
Where To From Here?
If you’re ready to test, you can sign up for an Appenate trial here and get 30 days free – with free training and customer support included.
We’re also passionate about the environment and are planning great incentives in that department. For now, however, feel free to give our going paperless guide a read – especially if you’d like to lower your environmental footprint.
For any questions, please feel free to contact us or drop a comment below.
All in one convenient place:
- AIIM Whitepaper
- How To Ease Your Field Service Management Burden
- Real Benefits Of Digital Data Collection
- Mobile Forms ROI Calculator (Post)
- ROI Calculator Sheet (Excel)
- ROI Calculator Sheet (G Sheets – hit file, save a copy, and it’s yours!)
- Appenate Features Page
- Appenate Team’s Favourite Features
The Appenate Team.