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Author's profile photo Chris Scott

Building a Business Case for SAP e-forms

Companies are choosing to use SAP e-forms for a variety of business processes, helping extend SAP-based processes to more users through more devices.  In many cases the business benefits are obvious, and the e-forms deliver fast return on investment.  In other cases, customers find it more difficult to quantify the business benefit and ask for assistance in building a robust business case.

In this blog update I describe a process for the identification of the business benefits that can be realised through the introduction of SAP e-forms.

Business Drivers

A business case for SAP e-forms should contain a consideration of these business drivers:

  • Process Efficiency

Improved process efficiency can be realised in three ways:

    • Accelerating data entry by pre-populating and deriving data in the form that would otherwise need to be entered manually.
    • Removing manual data validation and data re-keying steps in the business process.
    • Automatically triggering other parts of the process and sending notification e-mails.

The result is cheaper, faster, better integrated processes.

  • Data Quality

Using SAP e-forms enables better data quality by:

    • Validating data at the point of capture.
    • Automatically updating core systems such that the data is current.

The result is fewer business problems resulting from incorrect, missing or duplicate data.

  • Usability

SAP e-forms enable you to provide great user experiences, be they on-line, off-line or using mobile devices.  The result is greater adoption, fewer complaints, greater employee satisfaction and greater process compliance.

  • Compliance

E-forms solutions can enable compliance with process standards and can help you reduce paper in your organisation.  The result is

    • Compliant, audited processes, with a reduced risk of problems leading to possible litigation.
    • Progress in meeting ‘Green IT’ targets such as the reduction of your company’s carbon footprint.
  • Process Mobility

If you are looking at process mobility then a great place to start is with your e-forms, as with SAP e-forms you can render forms on mobile devices such as iPads and Smart phones.  The result is that processes can continue when employees are not in the office, and SAP processes can be extended to more devices.

For each of these drivers, consider:

Business Pain.

What problems do you have in your business that can be addressed through the introduction of e-forms?

For example, do you have problems with duplicate master data or incorrect employee data?  Do you have users unwilling to use or unhappy with the current timesheet?  Do you have manual processes that are not being followed properly?  Do you have process bottlenecks due to re-keying steps?

It is important to recognise the business pain, as this may be the biggest driver for investment.

Is it possible for you to quantify a value to the business – an annual benefit, or eradicating the business pain?

Business Benefits.

What improvements in process automation, system usability, compliance with quality standards or green IT policies, or process mobility are you seeking?

Are you able to quantify the benefits of faster end-to-end processes, auditability of forms processes, increased user satisfaction / system adoption and extending processes to mobile devices?

Do not only consider the cost savings associated with the removal of manual re-keying steps – consider that wider qualitative benefits.

Business Change Analysis

In order to understand the benefits, it is necessary to understand the difference in the business process after e-forms are introduced.

Form Catalogue Analysis

It is not practical to analyse every potential form process in detail, but each form and form process can be considered and ranked in terms of key criteria:

  • Form template size and complexity;
  • Business process (form routing) complexity;
  • SAP update (form posting) complexity;
  • Usage (transactions per year).

When analysing a number of forms, the implementation effort depends on how re-usable the development effort is between form processes.   You need to find the best way to group together forms for delivery, assuming a phased approach.  You should use different grouping strategies based on your desired outcome:

Desired Outcome

Grouping Strategy

Reduce initial implementation cost

Select by grouping similar forms / processes

Reduce future implementation costs

Select forms to cover a wide range of functionality

Deliver fast ROI

Select forms that deliver the biggest cost saving or process impact

My advice normally involves a combination of a ‘quick win’ and another grouping strategy, depending on what in-house skills will remain after the initial project.

Form Process Analysis

In order to understand the potential cost saving the some understanding of the ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ processes may be necessary:

  • ‘AS-IS’ business processes;
  • ‘TO-BE’ business processes after the introduction of FLM & SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe;
  • Process Change proposals.

Proposed automated forms

If you have forms with similar system updates and routing processes then they can be considered for combining into a single e-form which may make implementation and future maintenance cheaper.

One you have combined existing forms into new proposed e-form processes, then this can feed into the analysis of the development effort, and into the business benefit analysis.


Benefit Identification and Quantification

Since the business drivers can be a combination of addressing business pain and gaining new benefits, then each driver can be considered using the following simple model:


Many of the benefits delivered may be difficult to quantiy – but in order to establish the cost/benefit analysis you must either consider qualitative benefits separately or make some assumptions in order to put a value on those business benefits, including the eradication of current business pain.

Cost and Benefit Checklist

It is normal to consider the time-saving of the re-keying activity required for manual forms, but often it is the time associated with resulting errors or missing data etc. that can prove to the larger cost element.  Here is a simple checklist to consider other potential benefits:

Labour Costs

Labour costs are calculated based on time associated with each manual process step

Where no accurate hourly cost is known, then an average or realistic rate has been used.  The costs include:

  • Time to identify the correct paper form (form type and version)
  • Time to find the correct paper form
  • Time to complete the form & discover required data not at hand
  • Time to check and validate the form data
  • Time for data re-entry
  • Time to find missing data
  • Costs associated with ‘bad data’ (incorrect or missing data, wrong form versions etc.)
  • Costs associated with inquiries / follow-up calls for all ‘exceptions’
  • Costs associated with filing
  • Costs associated with monitoring and reporting
  • Costs associated with resubmission
  • Cost associated with Shared Services support to users


Material Costs

Physical cost savings include:

    • Costs associated with post/fax
    • Costs associated with printing (cartridge ink, paper)
    • Cost of filing processes

An overall reduction in paper will impact:

  • filing space/floor space
  • environmental policies
  • printer maintenance
  • possible reduction in hardware
  • possible impact on comfort and morale
  • possible impact on process flexibility – easier to move offices for example

Process & Quality Improvements

Consider the impact of, for exampe:

  • Ability for offline form processing with email submission and batch processing

  • Forms incorporate workflow

  • Extended input time for users

  • Integration to linked process

  • Impact on service level agreements

  • Impact on business and legal risk

Other benefits

Consider other related benefits such as:

  • Usability
  • Reduced training
  • Reduced dependency on SAP knowledge
  • Extended input time for users
  • Tracking reporting
  • Customer service

In order to build a better business case for e-forms you need to consider the full range of business benefits, and in many cases you may need to attempt to quantify those benefits.  Understanding the value that can be delivered through the implementation of SAP e-forms can help you justify project costs, particularly when ROI can be shown to be delivered in less than 12 months.

E-forms Everywhere

SAP e-forms, involving the strategic combination of Forms Lifecycle Manager and SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe, provides an end-to-end solution to develop, deploy and manage e-forms.  Those forms simplify the end-user interaction with SAP business processes in on-line, off-line and mobile scenarios. 

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