Intelligent Forms Accelerate HR Processes

Feature Article | September 26, 2008 by Harald Esch, Sales Director Central Europe, Adobe Systems

Intelligent Forms Foto: Adobe Systems

Cost pressure and the need for greater process efficiency are two of the key challenges faced by human resources departments today. Significantly, perceptions of the role that the HR department plays have also changed: HR is now seen as a service partner for the entire company and as a central contributor to the corporate strategy – responsible, for example, for preparing key figures to improve transparency and serve as a basis for decision-making. There is also a growing emphasis in HR on conformance, regulatory compliance, and talent management.

Standardizing the basic processes in HCM and seamlessly integrating them into the corporate ERP landscape enables more effective management of personnel procedures, avoids media breaks, reduces lead times, and involves all the participants – employees, managers, HR personnel, and the works council – according to their roles.

Experience from numerous projects has shown that this approach frees up as much as 22 percent of capacity in the HR department. This is because HR processes are generally document-heavy and affect most, if not all, employees in a company simultaneously, placing them squarely in the high-volume category.

Application framework for HR processes

As part of the SAP ERP Human Capital Management solution, and powered by SAP NetWeaver, the “HCM Processes & Forms” component offers an application framework that enables efficient authorization management while retaining a high level of security.

This component makes it possible to enter information in interactive forms, to work on and save the data in SAP ERP HCM, and to systematically store the forms in an electronic personnel file.

A vital factor in increasing efficiency is the availability of a growing number of role-based HCM processes in the form of employee and manager self-services in SAP NetWeaver Portal. Because, ideally, personnel work should be processed at the level on which it occurs: in a dialog between employees and managers. HCM Processes and Forms makes this possible for the first time.

With this approach, employees, managers, and HR personnel all have the appropriate access to complex personnel processes, such as “New Hire,” “Transfer”, or “Reducing Hours.”

Thanks to the SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe solution extension, which includes Adobe LiveCycle Designer and Adobe Document Services, interactive forms can be created, distributed, and filled out directly from the SAP environment.

Adobe Reader Familiar to Many

Foto: Adobe Systems


The cross-platform Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) is the basis for these intelligent documents. PDF was developed more than 15 years ago, and is now the global standard for exchanging electronic information. Adobe Reader is installed on almost every workplace computer, and many users are very familiar with it.

Data embedding, form functions, managed access control, and, above all, multiple security functions are additional features of the PDF format that are less commonly used but that enable the automation and standardization of processes that were previously paper-bound.

Particularly in HR, where fully electronic processes also have to meet the requirements for security, traceability, auditing, and suitability for archiving, PDF documents optimally fulfill all the conditions. What’s more, they combine the positive characteristics of paper documents – general acceptance, legibility, and ease of use – with all the benefits of an electronic workflow.

In contrast to a Web-based form, a PDF document retains the same appearance at every step of the process. Furthermore, each document can be archived in its original form, which is particularly important for regulatory compliance.

Reduced workload, but no loss of control

Typically, interactive PDF forms are pre-filled with data extracted from the SAP system and are made available online to each person involved in the process via a workflow. The person or persons involved can then add information or attach files to the form as necessary. Once the process is complete, the changes are submitted to the HCM system and the data updated accordingly.

These steps all take place in a single environment, thus relieving the HR department of routine tasks such as forwarding documents and keying in data. Nevertheless, the responsible HR administrator retains control over each step in the process. His or her “Universal Worklist” shows the individual processes and roles involved, making it possible to track the process through to completion and to intervene if necessary.

The HCM Processes and Forms framework has other advantages: Each form and its accompanying documents can be stored directly in a digital personnel file, and, for the first time, it is possible to use performance indicators to carry out detailed evaluations of HR processes. Evaluations of this kind not only increase transparency; they also empower HR departments to identify and leverage potential improvements to individual processes – a vital benefit in view of the burgeoning challenges that the HR environment now faces.

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