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Education insights gained from filing my taxes with the ultimate e-form

Laurel Stiller

Laurel Stiller
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With the April 15th tax filing deadline behind us, we can review the latest filing statistics from 2019, and celebrate what we have accomplished. Take a look at how many people opted to e-file this year, clearly the vast majority! Not much of a surprise really, because e-filing is just so easy to do. However, when you consider that some may find a software approach challenging or that secure access to a device and the internet is required, it becomes really inspiring to see how many people are taking advantage of this technology.

Each year, my husband and I usually wait until the last weekend before Tax Day to review and submit our returns. I admit it! However, by this time, he has already done most of the heavy lifting where taxes are concerned. He updates our TurboTax license, collects all the paperwork that comes through the mail or online and pours through all the forms, filling things out and checking everything twice. Then we finally sit down together and talk through it all.

E-forms and ECM

While we were reviewing our return this year, something struck me that hasn’t before. TurboTax is essentially a giant e-form. Depending on how you answer one question, this powerful e-form presents you with the correct set of follow-up questions to fill out. It’s always tallying and calculating in the background, having been thoroughly tested with what I believe must be a relentless QA process. After all, imagine the ramifications if even a single bug were found in the code. The form easily handles every situation, from the simplest to the very complex. It’s an advanced marvel that transforms a tedious process into a much, much simpler one.

As we discussed all things taxes, I came to another realization. Because my husband had already spent considerable efforts gathering, entering and checking data, we could go beyond the numbers and engage in a deeper discussion about the past year.

Are we saving as much as we should be? Are we donating as much as we would like to? What turned out unlike our expectations? If we are going to make changes for the year ahead, what should we do differently? We didn’t just review our return for accuracy. We ended up reviewing our progress towards our overall life goals. And that chance to review things holistically, as it turns out, ties back to my role at Softdocs and my beloved field of education.

ECM and K-12

While much of my professional background has been in and around higher education, I’m quickly learning the K-12 space and getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the valuable, foundational education my children are receiving. In spite of tremendous funding challenges, K-12 is making significant progress in moving forms online and digitizing content. Through utilizing e-forms and embracing Enterprise Content Management (ECM) in a more holistic way, K-12 is delivering progressive change across districts. The goal, of course, is to make life easier for teachers, students and parents. In that regard, ECM supports the remarkable progress being made in K-12 by allowing employees to spend less time entering data and devote more time to decision making, advising and student service.

ECM and Higher Ed

Higher education has made a similar journey over the past 10 years. Many colleges and universities are already making strategic changes that move their employees away from entering data manually and towards analyzing and advising. Institutions are meeting students where their focus is (online and on their mobile devices) and simplifying every strategic process that can affect progress towards their degree. Higher education institutions are measuring engagement and success much differently than even just 5 years ago.

Many institutions already utilize an electronic repository for document management, but are now seeking to grow their use of e-forms and electronic workflows. These ECM solutions provide higher education institutions with the agility and flexibility necessary to adapt to new challenges in information management and changing expectations from employees, students and their parents.

Earlier this year, at our user conference, Pepperdine University demonstrated the power of e-forms and received our 2019 Innovation Award. In just one year, Pepperdine rolled out 20 e-forms and one in particular stood out – an Admissions Assessment form. This ingenious form, currently in use by Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School, uses robust integrations to compile student data and present it for review in an easily digestible format.

Speaking of forms, have you heard about the Forms Library we’ve created for Etrieve Forms users in higher education? It’s full of prebuilt and customizable forms which make it easier to get started using e-forms!

At Softdocs, we are wholly committed to helping educational institutions continue to reimagine and improve their processes, and by extension, the service you provide your students. We’ve developed integrations that connect key campus systems and our fully-scalable ECM solutions are able to be deployed on premises or in the cloud. During Q4 of 2018 and Q1 of 2019, every new Softdocs customer opted for the significant convenience and security benefits of a cloud-based deployment.

As we all continue our journey forward through 2019, I’d like to encourage you to check out our upcoming webinars. Many of our wonderful clients are volunteering to take the podium with us and share how we are helping them reach their goals. You’ll learn about many new solutions and services from us there as well. I’ve begun hosting some of these webinars and I would love to see many of you, with whom I’ve already shared many webinar rooms, in Softdocs’ webinar room with me.