Your homegrown applications, legacy ERP systems and even your trusted Query/400 tool remain a core part of your business systems. Invoices, purchase orders, labels and checks generated from these solutions become the “face” of your company, and are of the utmost importance not only because they are customer-facing, but because they are directly tied to revenue-generating activities. You want to ensure that these documents are reflective of the company’s brand.
Unfortunately, most IBM i-generated plain-text documents aren’t easy to read or modify. And most organizations running IBM i still need an RPG developer to design the forms and business document overlays.
Many businesses feel stuck with the current processes, and think they are unable to allocate the time and resources to change. Few companies realize how much their status quo is costing them in time, money and customer satisfaction. Relying heavily on older technology nearing the end of its run, such as IBM’s AFP Utilities, is what most of these IBM i shops are currently faced with.
As an RPG developer with over 30 years of coding experience under my belt, I can confirm that finding a simple and time-efficient solution to design, update or create business documents on IBM i can be challenging. But it needs to be done.
In this blog, I’ll be touching on the top five reasons to replace and modernize your IBM i forms solution. If your customer-facing documents do not look professional or “pretty” in this modern time and era, that speaks volumes about your company and may make you come across as lazy, unprofessional or even sloppy.
"Your personal brand is a promise to your clients... A promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability." - Jason Hartman, author of "Become the Brand of Choice"
This is without a doubt the most important factor to consider: you want customer-facing documents to be easy to read by improving font styles, logos and signatures.
Modernizing your forms solution means you can electronically deliver documents that would normally be printed. Why wait for your customers to receive printed invoices that take days or weeks to arrive? In this digital era, your customers should get their invoices delivered as a PDF email attachment within minutes.
How about archiving documents to a PDF file so customer service reps can access missing or lost documents in the future without having to reprint or reproduce via the ERP package? Formtastic can be integrated with a secure web portal known as Nexus that you can also customize for a user-friendly and visually appealing web page that your customers and staff can access at all times.
Adding elements such as barcodes and product graphics also goes a long way toward improving your customer experience.
Changes to forms, labels, etc., almost always fall onto the IT department, but most times, IT already has a large backlog of requests. So, getting a simple change to your form, such as adding a column or modifying the header text, could take weeks or months.
What I find so much more coherent, systematic and productive is that with an electronic form solution, you can make changes to forms without modifying the reports or original applications. You can automate distribution to reduce the burden on the IT guys. You can also set the layout and add graphical elements… yourself, easily.
With a solution such as Formtastic, no need to have an IT request for programming changes, as most or all changes can be made from within the solution: it runs in its own environment (or subsystem if you will). Therefore, there is no need for configuration changes if your ERP or other systems change.
One of your main goals, process-wise, should be to go paperless. Why? Not only for practical (and environmental) reasons, but also to save money on printing, postage and labor.
IBM i shops often use preprinted paper stock with company letterhead which costs anywhere from $0.05 to $0.20 or higher per page. This also applies to preprinted check stock, which is both more expensive and less secure than using blank check stock. Let’s not even talk about design changes – those force you to destroy piles of preprinted material once a single change is made to the layout, logos or content.
Email, fax or a PDF that can easily be archived is the way to go.
You have likely been customizing your core IBM i applications to suit evolving business needs for years or even decades, and I certainly understand how difficult it is when these needs outgrow the capability of your document-generating applications.
So, a safe (probably the safest) and most cost-effective way to adjust is to leverage your existing IBM i applications with a modern, well-supported electronic forms solution.
Leverage what you have! Don’t let the new CIO replace the invoice-generating application running on IBM i because the invoices look outdated and are physically mailed to customers each month. With a document modernization solution, you retain your existing applications while modernizing the document design and extending distribution capabilities. You can improve the look and feel of your forms, automate distribution, and provide web and mobile access – easily.
With IBM’s announcement that they are discontinuing AFP Utilities in version 7.3 and onwards, many customers are concerned about future support for AFP. If you currently rely on AFP or own an electronic forms solution with limited functionality, you might be able to transfer to a modern solution faster than you realize.
This is how a form can look with a quick upgrade from Formtastic:
Improving the look of your documents will make your organization much more professional, and it starts with appearance! I always like to say: You are limited only by the bounds of your own creativity.
The ability to create unique, nice-looking forms that can be printed, emailed, faxed or archived – all or any of the above can be achieved from within Formtastic, and no coding is required.
And once clients and partners recognize your brand, which is key to building trust, they may be willing to pay a higher price for the same product. So, while not easily quantifiable, the value of brand equity is significant… and it starts with the impression you give through your visual documents and branding.
To learn more about how Formtastic can modernize your forms solution, visit the Formtastic page here. You can also read the eBook: Top 5 Reasons to Replace Your IBM i Forms to learn how to reduce printing costs, improve service and increase efficiency.
Remember: you only have one chance to make a first good impression.