In our personal lives, we all know the agony of filling out paper forms—from the doctor’s office to the DMV, job applications to work contracts. When you are a business professional on the other side of that paper form, you face a process that can be painfully slow and riddled with data errors. And we can’t forget capturing the elusive wet signature.

For education and government organizations, the struggle is real. Forms abound in areas like human resources, payroll, finance, and student services. Though leaders and staff alike, loathe the dependency on paper forms, change can be scary and perceived as difficult.

When Central Carolina Community College decided to kick off its process automation efforts in the back office, Payroll, Purchasing, Accounts Payable, and Human Resources led the way in the campus-wide adoption of Softdocs electronic forms and signatures solution.

“We were really nervous, because nobody likes change, and this was a pretty major culture shift, moving from paper to electronic,” said MontE Christman, Executive Director of Information Technology at Central Carolina. “We were bracing for harsh impact, just because of the size of the change. But it was almost all positive. People were very pleased, which is why we continue to have so many requests for more forms. I was pleasantly surprised.”

Fulfilling those eager requests is now even easier with Softdocs EdCloud™ library, which provides users with access to pre-built forms and professionally designed templates they can grab and use or make personalized modifications to fit their institution’s specific need.

A change for the better

Electronic forms are nothing new. They allow you to collect the required information in an online format easily accessible from web pages, mobile devices, portals, and software applications. Over the past decade, eForms have been increasingly used by recruiters, credit card companies, subscription-based services and more. But their adoption in education and government entities has lagged, until now.

More organizations are realizing the relative ease and long-term benefits of transitioning from paper forms to eForms, making everyday business and student activities significantly more straightforward, faster, and more accurate. At Central Carolina, the Financial Aid department has fully embraced eForms.

“We have around 120 forms for Financial Aid. That’s our biggest group by far,” said Christman. “Most of them are student forms. A handful are parent forms where the parent will sign in with either a Google or Microsoft account and fill it out. They can search for and send the form on to their child or dependent with minimal information. The form goes to the student to complete and finally, to the Financial Aid office for processing. It’s a good way to get parental forms signed without the headache of having to deal with mailing paper forms and requiring wet signatures.”

By integrating Softdocs with your ERP or SIS applications, you can improve forms completion and accuracy by allowing the two systems to automatically populate common form fields. Eliminating the opportunity for human error means a smoother experience for students and constituents, and much less rework for your staff.

No more chasing down signatures

There are several forms-driven processes that require multiple signatures from applicants, approvers, guardians or stakeholders. One of the most significant delays in completing actions such as financial aid applications, grade changes, transfer requests, and vendor contracts is the time wasted chasing down necessary signatures.

With electronic signatures, you have an efficient and legal way to get electronic forms and documents authorized quickly. eSignatures have been legally binding since the United States Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) was passed in 2000. ESIGN ensures that eSignatures are legally valid in every state where federal law applies. This means the technology used to capture signatures must encompass three requirements: intent to sign, consent to do business electronically and record retention.

With its single sign-on (SSO) functionality, the Softdocs Platform allows user login credentials to provide secure access to the forms and documents they need to submit, review or approve forms and documents. Meanwhile, user-assigned privileges and a detailed form history ensure that collected eSignatures are valid and compliant with the ESIGN Act and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA.)

Softdocs SSO provides automatic authorization and eSignature compliance, creating tremendous time savings for everyone involved. “Having single sign-on through our student portal has helped us change our electronic signature policy,” said Cheryl Evans, Technology Specialist at Rockingham Community College. “On the bottom of every form, there’s a box you must check. By checking the box, you acknowledge that it is your electronic signature.”

With this extra layer of security, staff can be confident in the validity of who is submitting forms or documents and have peace of mind in knowing there is an automated record and audit trail of all actions.

Empowering next-level productivity

Once electronic forms are in the system, the true process automation begins. Rockingham Community College uses Softdocs-enabled dashboards to help Student Services staff process forms and applications more efficiently. “With dashboards, the Admissions, Records, and Financial Aid staff work from a shared view when forms come in,” said Evans. “Forms aren’t routed to a particular person; instead someone can simply work the next form from the updated list, so two people don’t start working on the same form. If I pick up a form, I put my initials beside it, so the next person sees that and picks up the next form.”

Automated routing makes for huge time-savings compared to walking paper documents from here to there and back again. Not to mention the impact on follow-up communications. Eforms allow for automatic status updates and email responses to save staff time and keep everyone who needs to know, in the know.

Is your campus, district or government agency ready to turn the page on paper forms and wet signatures? Schedule a demo with our Softdocs team or learn more here.