Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's Simply Bad Form

Being a "systems" person, there are a number of things in life that often bug me. Last week  I covered poorly implemented IVR systems. This week my anger is directed to the endless array of forms which require you to enter the same information over and over again.

I can understand some paper based systems like the ones you encounter each time you visit a doctor or dentist. On each form, you have to sit down with a pen and fill out basic information. You write the date, your name, address, phone number and other personal data on each and every page in the stack. This is usually followed by a series of check boxes or other questions. They are a collection of standalone documents and individually serve a unique purpose. Therefore, each one must have your information on them.

However, I'm not sure why these are not designed as multi-part forms. They could be the kind where you press hard and your pen strokes are replicated on the pages below. Line up the fields and treat only the top half of the page in this way and the process could be made so much easier for the patients.

Better still, how about we use our smart phones and display a bar code, QR code or use NFC technology to electronically hand over these data to the office staff. They could then print personalized forms which would be easier for the patient to complete and the office to file. Use an OCR font and the completed forms could be scanned and stored! Changes from last time could be highlighted by the computer.

But this is a much harder process in the electronic world. Anyone who has been searching for a job will attest to the fact that you have to enter an enormous about of information from scratch every time you apply for a job. While some companies allow you to complete a profile and then use it repeatedly for job applications within the company, there is no cross company solution.

A number of companies allow you to scan your resume. It is parsed and their forms automatically populated with data gleaned from the document. However, it has been my experience that this is less than 100% accurate and requires meticulous edit and corrections which some systems facilitate better than others.

Everything you need to know is in my LinkedIn profile. When are we going to see the automated transfer of these data to job applications. Better still, why not include the data needed by reference instead of having to repeat it and store it locally.

Job applicants should only be asked to complete information or answer questions that are specific and unique to the company and the position being filled. Systems designed to support the HR hiring process should agree on a single, standard representation of the basic personal data and offer applicants simple and reliable import features from popular social networks where all these data reside.

Captain Joe

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