Electronic forms a first for ministry – Ontario’s Ministry of Education and Training automates

Electronic forms a first for ministry – Ontario’s Ministry of Education and Training automates – groupware

Wendy Lavallee

Ontario’s Ministry of Education and Training has spearheaded a project with forms automation software to improve workflow, reduce paper usage by 70 per cent and ultimately save an estimated $50,000 annually.

Under the pilot project, 15 ministry employees with networked Windows-based PCs have scrapped hard-copy forms for automated ones – from travel expense and attendance forms to forms for supply and requisition and staff development requests.

The electronic forms validate data using built-in-logic, automatically access information from databases to fill in specific fields and calculate totals down and across to eliminate errors. They are routed automatically via Microsoft Mail 3.0 on a LAN to the appropriate people for approval.

The forms automation, accomplished using software from JetForm Corp. of Waltham, Mass., is already having a positive effect at the ministry. It has simplified forms design and redesign, streamlined workflow, accelerated the delivery of completed forms and eliminated the need to store forms in expensive city building space.

“Because we are accustomed to looking at our e-mail several times a day, things are being processed much faster,” says Karen Owen, the ministry’s manager of purchasing. “We’re going to realize some real savings, partly in cost of printing and inventory storage space.”

While the benefits of forms automation are evident now, they are expected to be even greater when electronic forms are implemented in the ministry’s other offices in Toronto and throughout Ontario.

“We expect a 70 per cent reduction in paper usage,” she says. “The dollar savings in paper, inventory and printing costs is estimated at about $50,000 annually.”

Plans for the pilot project began last year as part of a larger program, the Green Workplace, undertaken by the government of Ontario to study environmentally-friendly processes, including the development of “paperless offices” in ministries throughout the province.

In May 1992, a group headed by Michael Viveiros, the ministry’s end-user support and training co-ordinator, started to look at electronic forms software to move toward this type of environment.

“Previously our forms design was done on a Mac using PageMaker, so we were somewhat familiar with some of the benefits of forms design on-line,” says Viveiros. “But we wanted to move to a package that could automatically pull information directly from databases and route forms through our network.”

Employees participating in the project, which rolled out in April, work in the ministry’s human resources, finance and administration and information technology divisions.

Within two years, Owen predicts, about 80 per cent of forms used internally at the ministry will be automated.

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