The first step when implementing any digital workflow is to understand your current workflow, including its strengths and weaknesses. An effective PDF forms workflow should seek to mirror the existing one while maximizing the use of your school’s technology and software resources. Don’t forget to speak with your fellow staff members about how they use forms. Your community of users will be much more receptive to this migration if you include them in the process analysis. They can provide you with valuable feedback.
The PDF team selection process:
It is a good idea to bring together a select group of team members. The team should consist of key document creators, users, administrators, IT, and clerical staff. Be sure to include those who will create, process, approve, review, or route the forms. They are the ones who will help make your PDF forms project a successful one.
Find a few forms that are “high value.” These forms are the ones everyone uses, and needs, like requests for leave or days off, announcements, class forms, timesheets, petty cash, and evaluation forms. Any form you use often is a good choice.
Start with one or two forms. Once you get the process down, you can quickly bring other forms into your PDF form collection.
Look at other forms. Try a Google search containing the word “form” of type “*.pdf” in the search field. You will be surprised how many are out there. You may find some that you can use as a model.
Look at the Adobe Designer templates available in the Windows version of Acrobat 7.0 Professional. These are easy to customize and can save a lot of time.
Define the information you need to collect and choose your form field types carefully.
Make sure that the PDF form has the right look and “feel.” Spend time adjusting its appearance and layout so that it has the right amount of space for supplying information.
The implementation process:
Make sure that your school computers have the necessary Acrobat software installed and configured.
Train key staff in the proper creation and processing of the form data. Take that high-value form and put it through its paces with your key workgroup members. Note any feedback as to how the form is downloaded, filled, and distributed. Be sure to adjust as needed.
Place these forms in a central location on your network if possible. It is important that all forms are accessed from the same source. One of the keys to an efficient digital workflow is that there is only one version of a particular form. If a form’s structure is updated, the old form should be removed in the form repository so that there are no old versions that can be mistakenly used.
Access, submit, and collect the form data. Acrobat 7.0 Professional’s “Create Spreadsheet from Data Files” feature is a new way to easily compile many submitted forms into a simple spreadsheet so that you can organize your data. Inspect it to see if it is reporting the proper information.
Invite others to work with your test forms, expanding your test workgroup. Note and make any changes necessary to assure that your PDF form process is a natural one.
As your forms become refined, start to reduce the number of paper copies of your new PDF forms around the school. Point users and community members to a location where they can find these forms. They may be located internally on your network or on your school website for easier access.
Most importantly, listen to your users! Remember the time and effort you spend in the beginning of your planning process will more than pay off as you pursue a digital PDF forms workflow.
As your staff and educational community begin to realize the quick delivery, accuracy, and efficiency of using PDF forms, you are on the way to quantifiable savings in time, money, and resources. You are making the use of technology in your district more ubiquitous. Your community will realize a significant return on its technology investment. The stakeholders in your school community will see an improvement in communications and will appreciate your efforts toward a more digitally enabled educational environment.
Note: This article is furnished for informational use only, is subject to change without notice, and should not be construed as a commitment by Adobe Systems Incorporated. Adobe Systems Incorporated assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or inaccuracies that may appear in this material.