Digital alternatives to paper forms are gaining popularity as Internet access increases and the population goes digital. While someone collecting data using paper may not find the initial data collection hectic, the aftermath where they're processing large stacks of paper is what's truly daunting. What digital collection does is transform the time-consuming "collect, stack, and enter" paper forms workflow into the much simpler "capture, store, and process" paperless approach.
Kickstart your digital journey
Businesses obviously need quality data to make informed decisions. The journey towards this data isn't explicit though—instead, it differs based on audience, geography, available resources, and more. Before anyone embraces digital data collection for their business, it's essential to understand the basics, planning methods, and data security involved.
Planning your data collection
1. Decide what type of data you want to collect
Before you even create a form, ask yourself the following: What do you want to collect with your form? Images from your construction site, resumes from your job candidates, assurance signatures from your employees, or something else? Answering this will give you an outline of the form and its fields. As you brainstorm further, methods to store the data, extract it, and share it will also become clear.
2. Plan how you'll analyze responses
One of the main benefits of collecting information digitally is that you can quickly view and organize data in one cohesive space as reports, which can later be shared and exported to the team for collaborative work. In addition, using smart integration options that automate transferring responses, you can conveniently analyze these responses in your favorite applications—CRM, Sheets, and more. Marketers can also analyze the reach of a campaign, and thereby its success, by tracking leads and measuring goals right from within digital forms software.
3. Figure out how much data you require
How wide and far are your forms going to travel? Think about the number of audiences and the different, multiple ways forms are shared. Based on available resources, your team can decide on which platforms to showcase and host forms and choose a subscription plan accordingly. You also have the power to limit both the number of submissions you receive for a form based on a specific date and the submission of multiple entries from a single IP address.
Choosing a data collection method
Not all data that's collected is valuable and useful for your team's growth. Be wise in choosing which specific information you are looking to find. That being said, here are a few ways to build your data collection.
Questionnaires are a quick way to obtain information using a series of questions that focus on gathering specific answers. They can be used to discover preferences, opinions, intentions, and more. Their versatility means you can ask your audience to enter a few lines, choose from a list of options, accept a policy, and more by using multiple field types. And if your forms go longer than intended, you can label those pages appropriately while creating multiple pages.
As a part of your marketing or online campaign efforts, you will want to gather information from the existing customers to build a relationship with them. You can do this by collecting their feedback, getting their email address for a newsletter subscription, learning the topics they are interested in, and more. For this type of data collection, you can host digital forms on web pages or social media, or send them as emails to land in their inboxes.
Online interview forms are a great tool to help evaluate candidates. Their flexibility means you can define subsequent questions that are tailor-made for respondents to clarify details. Standardizing your company's interview process this way leads to quicker follow up and easy documentation, which reduces bias as the data is kept transparent across the entire process.
Experiments and observations
Digital checklists are a huge time saver as you perform assessments, inspections, observations, and more in groups small or large. They remove the risk of theft or damage that comes with printed paper while saving your business time and money, as well as improving the accuracy of details captured. In addition, most checklists are conveniently accessible from your mobile device—even offline—enhancing productivity for your workforce.
Responsible data handling
When it comes to using digital forms, one important thing to remember is that you, the one who collects and holds the data, are responsible for ensuring that the forms are compliant with whichever privacy laws are necessary. Securing sensitive information, protecting the privacy of EU customers, maintaining audits of form changes, and spam control are just a few security implementations you must consider. For an example of how to approach form data security measures, check out this overview of Zoho Forms data security.
Here are some recommendations for data handlers:
>> Issue the credible certifications stressing ethical data handling
>> Ensure best privacy activities and data protection laws
>> Avoid using personal and sensitive data out of context without consent
>> Present clear and transparent policies in your forms
Now that you have read about different data collection methods and how they help you handle data, hopefully you'll feel better informed as you decide which data collection type suits your business best. Time to start creating digital forms!
To learn more about collecting data using mobile applications, check out this article. While you're at it, let us know your take on data collection practices in the comments below. We'd love to discuss it with you!