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Study Guide - Forms Management
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Study Guide — Forms Management

Participate in the collaboration! If you can suggest a recommended reading on any of the topics below, please complete the reference template for consideration of this source. Be sure to include the CFSP outline reference (example: IV. Forms Management – A. Work Skills – 2. Cost Benefit Analysis) for each recommendation.

Keep the recommended readings up-to-date! Please notify us at if a reading is no longer relevant to the outline topic, or if a resource is no longer available.

Note: The recommended readings were compiled by individual members and BFMA study groups. These readings have not been approved by the Form Systems Certification Board and therefore, completion of some or all readings does not guarantee a passing score on the actual CFSP exam.

IV. Forms Management

Definition -
the systematic process of
  • increasing productivity and minimizing errors in information capture, transmission, and recovery through the use of workflow analysis and graphic design techniques;
  • providing administrative control
  • reducing procurement, storage, distribution, and use costs through standardization; and
  • ensuring the adequacy, business as well as legal, of all historical records.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 2 Forms Management from Introduction to Forms Design and Control by Marc Durbin
Book: Chapter 3 Getting Forms Under Control from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett
Articles: Creating a Successful Forms Management Program: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 by John Downs
Article: What is Forms Management? by Margaret Tasin, CFSP, CDC
Article: Understanding Forms: A Complete Guide for Design and Management Management by Ray Killam CFSP, CFC
Article: Running a Forms Management Program, The Proposed Canadian Standard by Carol Cousineau and Ron Moorhead
Article: Conducting a Corporate-Wide Forms Review: A Case Study by Robert Barnett

A. Work Skills
The work skills required by a truly effective Forms Management Program (FMP) are many, varied and quite broad in scope. While what has been called "Forms Control" (consisting essentially of inventory procurement and management) may be a significant component of the program, other skills, talents and techniques are equally critical.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Career Skills for the Forms Analyst by Robert Barnett
Book: Chapter 5 The Forms Management Department from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett

1. Cost Benefit Analysis
One of the more obvious requirements of a good FMP is the fiduciary responsibility to contain and reduce costs. Understanding the mechanics and application of the cost benefit analysis is essential to that end.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 10 Estimating and Costing from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett
Article: Hard-Dollar vs. Soft-Dollar Savings by Dorothy Piner-Smith, CFC
Article: Proposing a Best Practice Forms Management Program by Lisa Lee CEBS, FLMI

2. Consultation
Assumptions are dangerous. It is incumbent on the Forms Management staff, therefore, to offer advice and council to those who need forms developed or revised to ensure that a useful tool is developed. Such consultation helps to guarantee that the form meets the real need of the business system it serves.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Hiring Consultants? An Insider’s View of How to Get the Most out of their Time (and the biggest bang for your buck) by Fred Heilbronner

3. Work Group Development
When the functionality of a form crosses departmental or operational lines within the business environment, it is essential for all stake-holders to participate and buy-in to the final form. This work group should not attempt to execute the design layout, itself, but they do need to participate actively in the workflow discussion to ensure the form's effectiveness.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Branding Your Forms Program by Justiss Boyer

4. Customer Service Techniques
The role of the Forms Management Program is one of service to the organization. Customer service techniques include responsiveness, accuracy, timeliness, sound advice, and respect for the needs and desires of the user community and the organization.

5. Scheduling and Prioritizing
Scheduling (setting a specific time to accomplish a series of tasks) and prioritizing (performing tasks in the appropriate sequence) are indicators of strong organizational skills. Procrastination and "doing the easy job first" can quickly lead to lost focus and momentum.

6. Ethics
Consistently doing what is appropriate and fair reflects a strong sense of ethics within the program and enhances the level of respect it earns from Forms Management Program users.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Purchasing & Materials Management: Text & Cases (5th Ed.), Chapter 30 by Dobler, Burt and Lee; publishers McGraw-Hill

7. Interviewing
Genuine interest displayed while interviewing current and future forms users engenders not only respect from those users, but also keeps the forms manager from working in a vacuum. No one knows better how the form should perform and what it must accomplish than those who use it.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Fact Gathering and Interviewing Skills by Dr. Ben Graham Jr. CFSP

8. Training
Assuming that a form has been created based upon a sound understanding of the workflow surrounding it, the users must clearly understand its purpose and may require training in its proper use.

9. Negotiating
Negotiating takes on many faces. Besides the interfaces between forms management and their vendors (regarding specifications and costs), there may also be occasion to navigate compromise among users and, in some cases, with the organization's legal authorities.

10. Presentations
When the analysis is completed and the next step is forms design, it is often appropriate to present the results of the analysis and the proposed layout for the form to the work group that collaborated on the content and function of the form. Such presentations should be short and to the point.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Effective Management Presentations by Dr. Ben S. Graham, Jr., CFSP

11. Project Management
Good project management assures that all the appropriate steps in the process, from the initial investigation phase through deployment or manufacturing of the final forms design, are successfully completed by the responsible individuals in a logical sequence and in a timely fashion.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Project Management for Forms Managers by Kelly Halseth

12. Environmental and Safety Awareness
Environmental and safety awareness includes limiting toxic waste by-products from forms, such as carbon papers, whenever possible, and assuring that the proper risk reducing materials are used for tag and label items.

B. Administration
Effective and efficient control of the forms management program requires thorough knowledge and technical dexterity to support the administration of the numerous inherent operational functions.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Making a Forms Management Program Work by Robert Barnett
Article: Building a Forms Management Department from Scratch by John Fanning
Article: Conducting a Systemic Review of Forms by Carol Cousineau

1. Version Control
Regular maintenance of forms keeps business systems operating at optimum efficiency. Version control assures that only the most current edition of each form is available for use.

2. Identification Systems
The basic form numbering scheme serves as the proper identification tool for each item in the system. Form groupings (kits) and other specific categorization indicators (e.g., product types, business functions, etc.) are also common and must be carefully maintained to assure their accuracy and usefulness.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 6 Forms Identification from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett

3. Filing Systems
Filing systems serve various purposes, including the general forms file (specifications, samples, notes, etc.); purchase order history files (requisitions, receiving reports, etc.); warehouse and distribution reports; related forms files (e.g., an invoice and its accompanying envelope); procedures and other miscellaneous file types.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 7 Indexing and Filing from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett

4. Software Distribution and Management
The selection of distribution and forms management software is not to be taken lightly. There are many critical components involved in the decision-making. Some considerations include (but are not limited to): leveraging current technology (hardware); evaluating and prioritizing desired functionality (software); software licensing; software upgrades; identifying and understanding the availability of resources (IT)/support and their associated costs; product and end-user testing; and department and end-user training.

5. Warehousing and Distribution
Warehousing and distribution of paper forms must be carefully monitored to assure availability of a steady supply of forms and easy access to those forms by users. Whether there is a desk-top delivery system in place, a mail-based requisitioning system or a will-call window for personal form pick up, records must be kept of the number and frequency of forms distributed. This will facilitate timely re-ordering and stocking activities.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 8 Supplying the Forms to Users from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett
Article: Best Practices Optimize Collateral to Improve ROI by David Lowndes

6. Management Reports
On-going support for a forms management program often depends largely upon upper management's comfort level that the program is worthwhile and that the return on investment is adequate. One way to maintain firm trust in the program is to provide management reports on a regular basis. Various performance metrics, such as number of forms in the system, new forms vs. revisions, number of requisition per period, costs expended vs. costs saved, etc., are typical reporting areas.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 21 Measuring and Reporting Savings from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett
Article: What to Tell Your Management by Margaret Tassin CFSP, CDC

7. Standards
Standards: the consistent, logical and accepted way of performing specific tasks; of executing general form layouts; of placing text and graphics on a form; of preparing documentation and specifications; of managing production, stocking and distribution of supplies; of deploying electronic forms; of presenting management reports; and of controlling costs. These are representative of the various tasks and techniques that, when done according to defined practice guidelines, help to foster and operate a strong forms management program.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 11 Form Design Standards from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett

8. Tracking
Traffic management is an important function of the FMP manager. That includes tracking the progress of various analysis projects, of vendor manufacturing orders, of warehouse inventories, of the forms portal database, of the various FMP databases, of strategic management reporting metrics and many other on-going processes.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Forms Management Database 101 by Susie Cook CFSP
Article: Forms Management Database 201 by Susie Cook CFSP
Article: Database Showcase Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 by Glen Dixon, Jana Faust, Carol Casper, Susie Cook CFSP, and Lisa Lee CEBS, FLMI
Article: Creating and Communicating Requirements for a Forms Management Database by Laurie Weaver and David Schroeder

9. Operational Procedures
"S.O.P." should mean "Standard Operating Procedures," not "Seat Of Pants," when referring to how the program runs. There is much less room for variation (and error) when operational procedures are formalized and documented in writing to simplify reference by anyone with a need to know.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Procedure Manual Systems Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 by Robert Barnett
Article: Importance of Forms Management to ISO Quality Standards by Stephen Page, CFC, CRM, PMP, CSQE
Article: Integrated Support for Processes, Procedures, Forms and Records in the ISO 9001 Environment by Curtiss Wooley
Article: The Power of Alliances and Corporate Forms Management Policies by Tamra Bevan CFSP, CFC

10. Records and Data Retention
Forms Management has long been closely associated with Records Management and, in some organizations, is an associated function within the same department. Recognition and adherence to records retention schedules applies to the form files and to the maintenance of data records such as management reporting metrics.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Partnering of Forms Management and Records Management by Sue Heironimus, CRM
Article: What's in a name? Customization and Personalization by Lisa Lee CEBS, FLMI

11. Obsolescence
A reasonable rule of thumb states that when a form has seen no usage nor requests for modification within a defined period of time, it may be declared "obsolete." The obsolescence criteria is defined individually within each Forms Management Program. Even though a form becomes obsolete, its form number should never be reused and it history records should not be destroyed, since it is always possible the form may be reactivated at some future date.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 15 Supplying the Forms to Users from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett
Article: Is It Obsolete? Are you Sure? by Margaret Tassin CFSP, CDC

12. General Record Keeping
General record keeping procedures should be defined in the FMP documentation and checked periodically to assure compliance.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 9 Day to Day Work from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett

13. Forms Libraries
Form libraries may be as simple as a single copy of each form in the system in a centralized file and as complex as discrete files containing specific groups of forms, e.g., all paper forms or all electronic forms, or all forms for a certain business process. They may be physical files and/or electronic files, or a combination of both. They may contain samples, specifications, historical records, inventory records and other documents and be generally accessible or they may be restricted to forms department personnel only. Departmental procedures govern these files.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Forms Central: A Forms Library by Lisa Lee CEBS, FLMI
Article: The Enterprise Boeing Forms Library and Administration System System by Pamm Colbert CFSP

14. Business Continuity
Business continuity is the overall process of developing an approved set of arrangements and procedures to insure your business can respond to a disaster and resume its critical business functions within a required time frame objective. It is an ongoing process to plan, develop, and implement disaster recovery procedures to ensure the optimum availability of the critical business functions. The primary objective is to reduce the level of risk and cost to you and the impact on your staff, customers and suppliers.

15. Implementation
Implementation involves establishing the tools and processes and procedures to support policies required to ensure the success of a forms management program. Implementing steps and strategies may involve team activities, flow-charting, fact-finding, etc. Choosing the right resources during the implementation process will result in good workflow and desired results.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Aligning Forms Management with Corporate Polocies and Compliance Partners by Tamra Gutscher CFSP, CFC
Article: Strategically Aligning Forms Management with Corporate Objectives by Ray Killam CFSP, CFC
Article: eForms Conversion Lessons Learned by Albert P. Weisner

16. Other
Other functions may be considered integral parts of the administration of a forms program. These other activities may include personnel management (hiring, training, performance reviews, firing); participation on various management teams (workflow improvement projects, implementation teams for new systems, etc.); or any other miscellaneous assignments from higher management levels.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Business Case for E-forms: Calculating ROI by Joseph Whitmore

C. Procurement
Procurement is the process of obtaining materials and services needed by the organization. An awareness of the broad spectrum of functions and activities required to guarantee success is essential.

1. Supplier Relationships
Suppliers are those who are outside the department but furnish products and/or services needed by the organization. Maintaining cordial supplier relationships helps to assure that the information available from each supplier is complete and accurate and that the best interests of your organization are served.

Recommended Readings:
Article: Choosing the Right, Single-Source Print Vendor for You: How to Assemble a Request for Proposal by Gary L. Stephens
Article: Using a Good RFP Process by Allan Howick

2. Product Evaluation
When a new requirement is identified that may be able to take advantage of a product that is also new, or is currently unused by the organization, it is prudent to conduct a product evaluation to confirm the appropriateness of the product, whether physical or electronic, as a solution for the environment where it is proposed.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 30 Getting Quality Printing from Forms for People by Robert Barnett
Article: Five Factors for Choosing Software by Caroline Jarrett

3. Quotations and Proposals
Prior to placing a manufacturing contract or purchasing software or services, it is wise to request a quotation or proposal from the potential vendor. Even when the vendor is known and has provided products and/or services in the past, each new requirement should be handled the same way. Formalizing the quotation and/or proposal process ensures that nothing is assumed or left to chance and that all legal bases are covered adequately.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 6, Section 3 Accounts Payable Cycle from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA

4. Contract Negotiating
Long term relationships with vendors (beyond a single order) are common in the forms industry. Negotiating contracts should spell out price levels, manufacturing locations and delivery times, manufacturing specifications for products, vendor warehousing and storage costs, on-site services (such as periodic inventory counts), other services available, associated legal agreements, and any other routine interface that may be involved. These components encourage a strong and equitable vendor relationship.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 6, Section 8 Business Forms Pricing from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA
Book: Purchasing & Materials Management: Text & Cases (5th Ed.), Chapter 15 by Dobler, Burt and Lee; publishers McGraw-Hill
Book: Purchasing & Materials Management: Text & Cases (5th Ed.), by Dobler, Burt and Lee; publishers McGraw-Hill

5. Trade Customs
Trade Customs codify the standard terms and conditions under which the relationship between the customer and the printing vendor operate. Many topics are included. Exceptions, if any, must be individually negotiated between the parties.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 11, Section 1 Recommended Business Practices of the Business Forms Industry from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA

D. Inventory Management
By and large, inventory management systems relate specifically to paper forms, since there is no physical inventory of electronic forms. Techniques for maintaining inventory varies from stock on warehouse shelves to some variety of stockless inventory.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Supplying the Forms to Users from Managing Business Forms by Robert Barnett
Book: Chapter 6, Section 3 Accounts Payable Cycle from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA
Book: Chapter 9, Section 2 Forms Management Services from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA
Article: Forms Management Parterning with Print/Fulfillment Vendors by Bonnie Harper

1. Automated Systems
Using a computer-based system for tracking inventory is useful for any form of inventory control. Automated systems provide quick accessible and timely information regarding inventory status. Statuses includes on order, en route, vendor stocked, on-site stock, off-site stock, shipped, back ordered, and obsolete.

a. Barcoding
One handy way to track inventory on hand is through the use of bar codes. Depending upon the content of the bar code , such information as form number, edition date, production date, vendor identification, form effective date, do-not-use-after date, package quantities, limited manufacturing specifications and other data elements can be included.

b. Just In Time (JIT)
Just-in-Time (JIT) is an economical method of controlling inventory costs. Forms are not stocked in a warehouse in the traditional way, but are produced as needed in the quantities needed at or near the locations where they will be used.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 10, Section 1 Technology and Its Impact on the Forms Market from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA

c. Freight Optimization
One technique for reducing shipping costs is the application of freight optimization principles. This entails knowledge and coordination of the production of multiple forms inventory items in the same manufacturing plant; then combining them into a single shipment. This process can as easily be applied, as well, to shipping items from a warehouse to one or more using locations in similar combinations. Not only does the freight arrive together, but also the warehouse handling of that freight is streamlined - both of which save costs.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 6, Section 5 Forms Systems Analysis from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA

d. Other
One other technique for tracking inventory bears mentioning. RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) labeling provides an electronic signal identifying each package, its contents and whatever other information may be included in its coding.

2. Forms Fulfillment
In addition to the traditional method of supplying forms to users in response to their own inventory requisitions, it may be appropriate - especially when one or more forms are new and immediate wide deployment is necessary - to distribute a base supply of each item to each the expected users (or departments) without their first submitting a requisition. Forms fulfillment methods should be flexible enough to satisfy both routine and special situations.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 9, Section 2 Forms Management Services from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA

3. Print-on-Demand
Print-on-Demand (POD) is similar to just-in-time production, except that usually the user produces the production is done locally by the user who needs the form.

4. Receiving
Management of inventory begins upon receipt of the forms stock. Receiving activities require accepting shipments, accounting for and matching quantities listed on shipping documents from the shipper, decisions regarding where stock is to be located, stock rotation activities where appropriate, and filling of existing back orders.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 6, Section 3 Accounts Payable Cycle from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA

5. Inventory Control
Avoiding stock-out situations is a key component of a good inventory control system. Maintenance of accurate records reflecting all receipts, stock locations, distributions, destructions and reorders is critical.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 3 Inventory Control from Introduction to Forms Design and Control by Marc Durbin

6. Shipping
Shipping activities are usually categorized into three basic scenarios: 1) shipments to users to fill requisitions, 2) shipments between warehouse locations to balance stock levels and 3) return-to-vendor shipment when an error is discovered or for some other reason stock must be returned. Needless to say, accurate records must be kept of each transaction and inventory levels adjusted accordingly.

Recommended Readings:
Book: Chapter 9, Section 2 Forms Management Services from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA
Book: Chapter 11, Section 2 Packing, Labeling, and Shipping Business Forms from The Business Forms Handbook by DMIA

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