Forms information management guideline

Information capturing using forms (e.g., Google Forms, Microsoft Forms) and initial information storage in spreadsheet software (i.e., Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel) is simple and fast, but requires a more advanced information processing chain using other software solutions in the long term.

Starting point

  • Supplier management with forms is a simple and quick-to-implement method for managing and controlling technology suppliers.
  • Collecting information using forms is easy to explain, so many stakeholders can contribute without having to learn software tools or user instructions.
  • The collected information is available in a spreadsheet (Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel) from where it can be further processed.
  • Most organizations today have adopted either Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 as their basic collaboration solution; this paper does not consider other spreadsheet software tools.
  • Organizations can connect Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 to a variety of software solutions and share data between them with little effort.
  • Google and Microsoft themselves also offer a variety of complementary software solutions that organizations can use to process supplier management information collected through forms.

Requirements

  • The information collected via forms is available in a spreadsheet (Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel).
  • The form results list in the spreadsheet contains the information of all submitted form inputs, which should also not be changed for traceability.
  • The supplier management team wants to process the form information entered in a way that provides as much benefit as possible, with as little effort as possible.
  • The supplier management team wants to create different reports for different stakeholders, with as few different software solutions as possible.
  • The supplier management team wants to perform initial and advanced configuration in a way that does not require in-depth knowledge of spreadsheet formulas, as this isn’t necessarily a focus of the team's activities.
  • Further processing should be done using software solutions included in Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 instead of third-party software solutions, if possible.
  • Further processing should be carried out in such a way that regular reports are automated as far as possible with just a few mouse clicks, while infrequent reports do not require a great deal of configuration work.

Basic technology route with Google Workspace and Microsoft 365

  • Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 offer options for further processing of the collected form information.
  • When using Google Forms or Microsoft Forms, the submitted forms end up in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
  • The user can manually copy new rows to a sister spreadsheet to archive the submitted form data without changes.
  • Users should not modify the information in the sister spreadsheet, but only delete entire rows or comment on them using supplementary columns.
  • The supplier management team creates and maintains complete records of the various entities (e.g., services/components) in a third sister spreadsheet.
  • The supplier management team copies supplementary information into the initially created table row so that the corresponding record always contains all current information.
  • Automated graphical analysis of regular reports can be performed using formulas and visualization features natively included in the spreadsheet in a fourth sister spreadsheet.
  • With automated graphical reporting, the supplier management team doesn’t make regular changes but only views the automatically updated reports.

Advanced technology routes with Google Workspace

  • Google AppSheet is a low-code software solution with which the supplier management team can easily perform further processing.
  • AppSheet licensing can be affordable if the supplier management team only uses the software solution for their own internal graphical reporting but leaves the user input to Microsoft Forms.
  • Various low-code/no-code software solutions offer tight integration with Google Sheets, though the deploying organization must always license these software solutions separately.

Advanced technology routes with Microsoft 365

  • Microsoft Power Automate is a powerful software tool for automating otherwise manual activities within Microsoft 365 or with partner software tools.
  • The supplier management team can use Microsoft Power Automate to automate copy activities between different spreadsheets.
  • The supplier management team can also use Microsoft Lists (but not Microsoft SharePoint lists) in addition to Microsoft Excel.
  • Microsoft Power Automate automatically writes all entered information into a list in Microsoft Lists, in addition to Microsoft Excel.
  • The supplier management team then uses Microsoft Lists as a backend for further information processing, for example in Microsoft Power Apps and/or Microsoft Power BI.
  • Microsoft Power BI, as part of Microsoft 365, is a data analysis solution for form information collected in Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Lists.
  • With Microsoft Power BI, the supplier management team develops dashboards for various stakeholder groups.
  • Microsoft Power BI's licensing allows for cost-effective deployment by providing only the supplier management team or dashboard developers with appropriate license upgrades for Microsoft 365.
  • Microsoft Power BI has a learning curve, but a variety of consulting firms can augment staff to assist with onboarding and dashboard development.
  • Microsoft Power Apps is a solution for developing low-code/no-code software applications based on form information collected in Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Lists.
  • With Microsoft Power Apps, the supplier management team develops a low-code application to display dashboards for various stakeholder groups.
  • Microsoft Power Apps is a licensed component of Microsoft 365, with additional costs incurred if a certain number of accesses are made (which would rarely occur in this use case scenario).
  • The billing for the additional costs is done through the existing Microsoft license agreement and doesn’t require a separate contract.
  • Microsoft Power Apps has a bit of a learning curve, making it particularly worthwhile to use if the organization wants to develop additional applications/dashboards outside of the supplier management function.
  • Microsoft Power Apps is a technology that can be applied to a wide variety of organizational functions and processes, making it a good software tool for a process management team to take the lead in building the supplier management dashboard.

Approach

  • In the vast majority of cases, an organization will have adopted either Google Workspace or Microsoft 365.
  • The foundational collaboration software suited introduced determines the technology path taken.
  • Reporting using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel only is recommended as an initial approach, as no additional expertise is required and implementation can often be done within the supplier management team.
  • Reporting using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel can also include sophisticated and visually appealing dashboards.
  • The supplier management team should at least begin to exhaust the capabilities of Google Sheets or Microsoft 365 before thinking about turning to additional software tools.
  • The use of complementary software tools in addition to Google Workspace / Microsoft 365 depends on the technology strategy of the organization.