University of Virginia Process Simplification
Process Simplification Teams and Reports: Completed Teams

Web-Based Forms Team Report

Acknowledgment & Appreciation
Special acknowledgment goes to Bill Randolph, School of Medicine and Virginia Bergland, Information Technology and Communication. Bill and Virginia’s initiative and foresight provided support and guidance throughout the project.

We appreciate the support of the Administrative Services Process Owners Group and the opportunity to be part of the Process Simplification effort.

Special thanks to the following individuals who contributed to this project:
Lara Ashmore, Information Technology and Communication
Bob Burnett, Department of Chemistry
Colette Capone, Office of the Vice President for Management and Budget
Kay Campbell, Office of the Vice President for Management and Budget
Tatia Daniels, Office of the Vice President for Management and Budget
Barbara Deily, Audit Department
Tom Gausvik, Human Resources
Tim Gillet, Financial Administration
Marilyn Lockhart, Office of the Vice President for Management and Budget
Christina Morell, Office of the Vice President for Management and Budget
Dolly Prenzel, Purchasing
Tim Sigmon, Information Technology and Communication
Aron Teel, Budget Office

We appreciate the support and time commitment provided by the Focus Group

Web-Based Forms Team Members
Lynda Birckhead, Office of the President
Ed Grogan, Accounting Operations
Barbara Henry, Human Resources
Mike Jewell, Information Technology and Communication
Sarah Jordan, Financial Administration
Debbie Mills, Information Technology and Communication
Nancy Nicoletto, Office of the Vice President for Management and Budget
Ellie Withers, Purchasing

Introduction
In the fall of 1997, a University of Virginia (UVa) Process Simplification team was established to create a plan for putting all current non-automated paper forms on the World Wide Web. The goal is for the operating units and schools to go to one location, identify the form they need, complete the form on the screen, and print it for manual distribution. This work is an interim step to the E-forms system for some forms and will take the University another step toward an automated/paperless workplace.

The impetus for this work originated in a Deans’ meeting last February when the interim dean of the Commerce School discussed the inefficiency of using paper forms. The dean stated that staff members have personal computers but typewriters are basically nonexistent in the school. Bill Randolph, Chair of the Administrative Services Process Owners Group (ADMINPOG), and Virginia Bergland, a member of the ADMINPOG, responded to the concern and created a mission statement and a set of goals for the Web-Based Forms Team. The charge was subsequently approved by the ADMINPOG and the team was established to begin work.

The team approached the work by reviewing the two major components of the project; forms and technology separately but simultaneously. This strategy was efficient due to the diverse expertise needed to effectively study the two components. This process also insured that priorities were considered independently with regard to the forms and the technology. Priorities were then integrated to create the best possible plan. This report is presented in a format simulating the team’s approach to the work.

Methodology
The team was asked to inventory forms for a Web site focusing specifically on the administrative areas of financial administration, human resources and purchasing. The team was given latitude to include forms from other departments and units that may be significant to the project’s mission.

The initial step in approaching the forms inventory was to become educated regarding the responsibilities of James E. Grogan (Ed), team member and Internal Control Manager in Accounting Operations. Mr. Grogan is also the Financial Administration Forms Manager. This designation requires Mr. Grogan to maintain the Financial and Administrative Policies and Procedures Manuals. Along with the manuals, which are maintained both electronically on the Internet as well as in paper form, is Mr. Grogan’s responsibility to distribute the Forms Packet, the companion volume to the Procedures Manual.
Mr. Grogan maintains nearly 120 University forms manually. Mr. Grogan estimates that he commits about 50 hours and $200 annually toward the communication of form changes to approximately 300 fiscal administrators and departmental representatives. Although a relatively insignificant commitment of resources, this current paper process has become outdated and therefore adds little value for the form owners. Many owners have turned to their own Web sites for enhancing accessibility to their customers. It is challenging for Mr. Grogan to motivate owners to keep him apprised of revisions to their forms when they view this activity as having little or no impact on their goal to serve their customers efficiently.
The second step was to establish the criteria for the inclusion of forms. It was determined that each of the owners is best qualified to generate their individual unit proposals. The team however did agree to establish criteria to achieve desired standardization, in addition to providing guidance to the owners. The team chose to include forms meeting the following three criteria: 1) forms that are unlikely to need revision in the next year regardless of foreseen system changes down the road, 2) forms that are highly used, and 3) forms that either are ready now or will be revised by February 1998. Each of the three owners from financial administration, human resources and purchasing applied their own methodologies to meet these criteria. They also solicited approval from ADMINPOG owner representatives. It should be noted that the Financial Administration list includes Bursar forms because these forms are used by both offices. The Purchasing forms include a few Risk Management forms for this same reason.

In addition Barbara Henry, team member from Human Resources, worked with the Director of the Equal Opportunity Programs Office (EOP) and the Office of the Provost to include Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Provost forms in the scope of the project. The team determined that these forms should be included due to the coordination between Human Resources, EOP and the Office of the Provost, with regard to search processes. The EEO forms are undergoing revisions and will be in final format by February.

It became evident early in the project that some forms from other administrative units were easily identifiable due to Mr. Grogan’s responsibilities. Mr. Grogan surveyed the "other" owners to determine a priority ranking for their respective forms as it relates to this project. As a result, Mr. Grogan is able to prioritize the Non-Financial Forms.

Forms - Customer Feedback
The team determined that conducting a focus group would provide key stakeholders the opportunity to shape the project in the early design stages. The session provided feedback that helped mold the final design proposal but more important for the team was the opportunity to promote the project concept and begin to build support for implementation.

Appendix E (Not Included on Web Page) includes an agenda for the focus group session, a list of participants, the handouts used during the session, and a list of key recommendations from the customers and the team’s responses. A business manager or key financial contact from each of the schools and larger administrative departments was invited to a technical demonstration and presentation of the proposed forms. Detailed invitations were e-mailed to these contacts to insure inclusion of individuals best suited to represent their schools and departments with regard to processing forms. Thirteen of the fifteen participants receiving invitations attended the session. The technical demonstration included the team’s proposal for central administration of the Web site in addition to how the interface with the customer would actually function.

Just a few minutes into the discussion, participants were sharing ideas on how they might enhance or customize the project to fit their own unique needs. It is apparent that the team’s greatest challenge is delivering the product on a timely basis, which is now for the customers! The following bullet points outline the key recommendations from the customers for more detail about the recommendations and the team’s responses; note that technical recommendations are included under the next section entitled Technology – Customer Feedback).*Redesign the Separation Notice form and delete the Performance Evaluation form;
  • Add Bursar forms to the Financial Administration forms list;
  • List the office that owns the form somewhere on the form itself or through a link;
  • Multi-page forms are not a concern. A brief update was provided for the deans two weeks after the focus group session. The deans are anxious to experience the benefits of the further development of the E-forms system and eventually the integrated systems project. The deans support the Web-Based Forms project for taking a step in the right direction.
Technology
The team was challenged with selecting technology that achieves the best available interface capability for the customer within the desired scope and timeline.

Hyper-Text Markup Language (HTML) is available, but the creation of HTML forms requires a large amount of time and the print quality is poor. Forms can be stored in a word processor format, but again the creation would be time consuming and all users would need a licensed copy of the chosen program.

The E-forms system, developed by Information Technology and Communication (ITC), is an appropriate choice for many forms, but the development time for such a large number of forms would delay implementation. The E-forms system does allow customers to complete the form on the screen and send it electronically for approval. The electronic copy replaces the need for the paper trail.

Portable Document Format (PDF) provides for easy creation of forms and high quality printed output. PDF is already being used for forms on some departmental Web sites at UVa, as well as at many state and federal government sites. Penn State University is using PDF for institutional forms and is very pleased with the results. PDF is an interim step to E-forms enabling forms to be printed and distributed manually as opposed to electronically.

Technology Customer Feedback
(see previous section Forms – Customer Feedback for background on focus group session)

  • Put careful thought into the development of the Web Page forms directory. Consideration of multiple access options is important. The policies and procedures (available electronically) should be linked to the forms and this link should be provided both ways;
  • Provide the download of Adobe Reader with "directions for dummies". This process must be as simple as possible for all customers, regardless of technical expertise;
  • Develop "idiot proof" form fields so that filling the forms out is painless and convenient;
  • Add a footnote to the general instructions referencing the importance of following all existing policies and procedures as dictated by schools and departments.
Recommendations
Forms Recommendation #1: The team recommends that all of the forms in Appendices F, G, H, and I be included in the Web-Based project. Appendices F, G, and H include forms owned by Financial Administration, Human Resources and the Chief Contracting Officer (Purchasing). Appendix I represents the Non-Financial forms proposed for the Web-Based project.
Forms owned by Human Resources (Appendix G) are prioritized into two groups with the highest priority assigned to the first 11 forms. These forms are distinguished because they are used to a much greater extent than the forms in the second grouping. All of the forms however are essential to Human Resources. Human Resources also considered variables such as upcoming changes to the payroll system, the implementation of the New Employee Orientation program and another current project to build a home page promoting University benefits. The latter project is a coordinated effort with the University’s Benefits Committee.

Note that Appendices F, G and I (Purchasing reported only nominal costs for printing copies internally) include current costs of printing the forms. These were included to illustrate the savings that owners will achieve due to the implementation of this project. The total projected annual savings is $12,942. The projected impact on Printing Services turned out to be nominal ($8,445) but the team determined early in the project that this information was important due to the possible impact of this project on an internal University service.

Recommendation #2: The team would like to see all University forms or links to appropriate department home pages eventually included in the scope of this project. Technology

Recommendation #3: The team believes that the best technology solution is the Adobe product suite which uses Portable Document Format (PDF). The Adobe Capture program can be used to scan form images and text. Adobe Acrobat can design forms, convert various formats into PDF and create fillable form fields. For the customer, Adobe Reader can display and print PDF forms, it runs on PCs, Macs, and Unix (form fields cannot be filled in with UNIX) and it is free! The Reader is relatively easy to install and it works as a Netscape or Internet Explorer plug-in, making PDF forms easily available over the Web.

Recommendation #4: The team recommends the following considerations with regard to the implementation of forms.*Basic functionality should be the top priority; the forms should be user friendly and simple to fill out;
  • It is also recommended that the owner/department is listed on each form for customers seeking guidance regarding procedures. This is particularly important until the forms are linked to the policies and procedures which the team recommends for consideration by the owner after implementation;
  • Multi-part forms will be available as e-forms when feasible, otherwise the customer will generate the additional copies;
  • The forms should be developed sequentially, one owner’s list at a time; technical staff would be able to work with each owner for a concentrated period of time and then move to the next owner’s forms. This would save time and all parties could plan for the commitment needed;
  • A part-time employee (see Budget @ $11/hour), possibly a student with some supervision, could load forms into the form distribution system. Forms that exist in some electronic format can be converted to PDF. Other forms will be scanned;
  • After the initial mass loading of forms, a central area serving all departments should handle additions and revisions to the repository. The owners of the forms should be responsible for notifying the owner of the Web-Based Forms project regarding additions and revisions to the repository;
  • Once the Web site is established, the Forms Packet will cease to exist. The procedures will need to be reviewed to determine if they are still valid. The procedures will need to reference the forms on the Web site (Appendices B, C).
  • The team recommends the following considerations with regard to the implementation of the Web site.
  • The Web Page that provides the user interface should be designed by someone with the appropriate skills and knowledge of UVa’s Web design standards. This person will need to coordinate with the NetBus Committee, chaired by Louise Dudley, and charged with managing the University Web site;
  • The table of contents should include the form name, description, department/source and the date of last update;
  • The forms should be listed alphabetically and under the departments that own the form. Indexing will allow keyword searches for locating a form. A footnote should be added in the general instructions that refers to the importance of customers continuing to follow their existing departmental/school procedures;
  • The central Web site should point to existing departmental Web forms and departmental Web pages should link to a central repository. When a form is selected, a PDF document will be presented or the E-forms system will be invoked if the form resides there;
  • ITC will supply the server machine and the technical support for that machine.
  • The team recommends the following considerations with regard to the implementation of software.
  • ITC has the Acrobat Reader available for download from a local Web server. It is recommended that the customer is able to access this directly from the Web-Based Forms Page. The Reader can also be installed from a public PC server on the UVa network. ITC will include the Acrobat Reader on the software distribution CD for new faculty, staff and students.
General

Recommendation #5: Ongoing management of the Web-Based Forms project should belong to one owner who is responsible for oversight of the forms, technology and the appropriate standards associated with each of these components. The team recommends that this ownership belong to . Either the project owner and/or form owner will maintain the electronic master of each form. The implementation team will need to study maintenance more closely to determine the most efficient and effective procedure to make changes or additions to forms.

Recommendation #6: The team recommends that the implementation team be chaired by a project owner representative (this may be an individual currently recommended below for team membership). In addition it is recommended that the following members of the current team continue to serve on the implementation team:
Barbara Henry, Human Resources
Mike Jewell, ITC
Sarah Jordan, Financial Administration

The team also recommends that the following individuals be added to the team:
Lara Ashmore, ITC
Dolores Hildebrand, Purchasing

It is essential that the implementation team maintain contact with Ms. Birckhead and the focus group participants as the team proceeds through implementation. The focus group provides an excellent avenue to promote the project. Nancy Nicoletto will serve as a consultant from the Process Simplification staff perspective.

Recommendation #7: Training and promotion for this project are essential. The following measures are the most important avenues to effectively combine training and promotion.
  • ITC’s Local Support Partners (LSP) network
  • fiscal administrator meetings
  • focus group participants (including Ms. Birckhead); project updates through e-mail and meeting for a second demonstration (prior to the completion of the Web Page)
  • Other avenues suggested for promotion are listed below.
  • Inside UVa
  • Employee Communication Councils
  • form owners’ Web pages and well-trained staffs
  • e-mail to specific customer groups
  • Cavalier Daily (or an effective measure to promote to students, possibly through departments that will benefit from student use of the Web Page; employers that need I-9 forms filled out as an example) The training and promotion avenues represent a time commitment by the project owner and his/her staff and the implementation team. No additional costs are projected.
Recommendation #8: The team recommends that the University support a complete transition from the current manual system to the proposed Web Page within one year of implementation. The form owners would maintain a dual system of hard copies and the Web Page option for one year to allow customers time to adapt.

Research by the team showed that the Adobe Reader can be downloaded on all of the known existing computer models at the University. The form owners will get copies to any customer that does not have access to a computer and public terminals are available across grounds. The team believes that if a deadline is not established some of the University community will continue to use the manual system regardless of whether or not they have access. A dual system is cumbersome to maintain and will reduce potential efficiency.

Recommendation #9: It is strongly recommended to provide the project owner with the budget and resources suggested for implementation and ongoing project management. If recommendation #5 is followed, the need should be reviewed. It should be recognized that the budget and resource needs may grow after implementation and evaluation of additional requests for enhancements.

Budget
The Web-Based Forms project cost estimates follow this overview. The first table provides form development costs which include the time commitment by the form owners both in defining fields and testing the forms. Each owner reviewed their proposed forms to determine time estimates for each page. These estimates varied based on the amount and type of information on each page. Note that the total time needed by the owners is projected to be 219 hours but the associated costs for these hours are not included in the total dollar figure. The costs are figured as a commitment by the owner representatives currently on the team. In order to maximize time, the owners are using the month of January to begin the development of their forms. The team has also started developing the Web site with assistance from Ms. Bergland and the ITC staff. The team has saved three weeks of implementation time thanks to preliminary approval by Colette Capone and Mr. Randolph to begin work on the Web Page. These steps had to be first in the project sequence and will allow technical development of the forms to begin immediately after formal approval.

The second table outlines the time and cost estimates for the technical development of the forms. The Web site development costs are also included. The team figured these estimates based on technical expertise required and associated rates for ITC staff.

Additional costs include software, hardware, disk space (ITC will provide the machine) and a scanner. Although this equipment and software is available in different offices on grounds, the team believes that the owner needs the resources immediately available to establish effective operations.

The total cost for implementation is estimated to be just over $15,000 which includes a 20% contingency. This estimate is based upon the existing scope of the project as provided in the ADMINPOG’s charge to the team . Additional features and embellishments are not included in this estimate.

The team also estimated the project owner’s annual time commitment following implementation. The team determined that the current project would require approximately 30 hours annually to maintain. This is based on the assumption that 30% of the original 194 form pages will need revision or will be replaced. If it is confirmed that the level of support needed during implementation ($53/hour) is also what the owner needs for ongoing support, an annual budget of $1,600 is required. It should be noted that it may be possible for some of the owner/maintenance effort to be done at a lower rate, under qualified supervision. Ongoing support by the form owners is estimated at 60 hours annually (total for all owners).

The team recommends that the ADMINPOG is cautious when considering project ownership based on the projected 30 hour annual commitment. The scope of this project will increase as other departments request that their forms be placed on the Web Page and customers request enhancements such as linking the forms to the procedures and policies.

WEB-BASED FORMS COST ESTIMATES
January 1998

Assumptions:
  • The total costs are for the basic Web Forms site and form development as directed in the charge, no significant embellishments. There have been additional features suggested, however, they are not estimated at this time.
  • The technology estimates assume form owners have a working level of knowledge.
  • The form development costs are based on the table on the next page: (Owner Time)
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Last Modified: 10-Nov-2010 07:58:02 EDT