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Gathering Scads of Info with InfoPath

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Running around the office with a notepad and pen, taking down the information you need by interviewing people? Highly inefficient. Better idea? A quick-and-easy form you create with InfoPath and post on SharePoint Server.
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You miss one measly planning meeting, and the next thing you know, someone—probably your archenemy, Eliphaz—suggests that you're the right person to find out what 300 people want to eat at the company luncheon. Or perhaps he has suggested you can oversee the annual ergonomic survey in which every employee reviews his own workspace. It doesn't matter—whatever the information-gathering chore, InfoPath can streamline it.

Slimming Down the Process

Let's take that luncheon scenario. You could send out email listing the meal options, collect the responses, and enter the data manually. Not only would this strategy consume more of your time than your coworkers would consume of Beef Wellington, but all that typing gives you an opportunity to introduce error. Meanwhile, those who choose chicken with their first email will decide four hours later that the pasta would be better, and those who elected to skip dessert will suppose on the next day that a bite or two of flan would round out the meal nicely. Meanwhile, 300 email messages fill up your inbox.

InfoPath streamlines everything:

  1. Use InfoPath to create a form.

  2. Publish the form to SharePoint.

  3. Send a message to your distribution list telling everyone where to find the form.

  4. The recipients fill out and save their forms.

  5. You return to SharePoint and spend five minutes exporting the data to your spreadsheet.

In this scenario, you spend much less time, do a better job, and return to next week's meeting looking like the crazy star you know you are.

In short, for any simple task where you need to gather information from your colleagues, tabulate that information, and generate a report, InfoPath can make your life easier.

Skeptical? Let's run through just such an example. This exercise presumes that your office is using SharePoint Server and that you would like to see the data in an Excel spreadsheet.

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