It’s always great to have a successful quarter, or to break sales records. But there’s another way to shore up the bottom line of your small business: reduce your operating costs. In many cases, savings are one of multiple reasons to make changes. For example, by increasing your facility’s energy efficiency, you not only lower utility bills, but also operate in a more environmentally sustainable way.
Reviewing your budget at least annually and making sure that everything on it deserves to be there is a good idea. You may find ways to save money that were unavailable to you last year. Following are 6 ways small businesses can reduce their operating costs.
1. Re-Examine Your Marketing Strategy
You don’t necessarily need to give up traditional advertising media like print, radio, and television, but if you’re not familiar with the performance of a well-designed internet marketing strategy, you owe it to yourself to find out more. A smart paid advertising strategy, perhaps using social media ads, along with an overall online strategy that includes a great website, blog, and social media presence can result in far more bang for your marketing bucks.
2. Use the Cloud
Unless stringent security or other regulations require that you have servers and databases located on your premises, cloud services can be a smart way to save money. Not only is the up-front capital investment lower, you don’t have to worry about maintaining servers, and can scale up or down as necessary. Thoroughly research any cloud app provider you consider, to learn about their track record and the security measures they take to protect your data.
3. Cut Back on Paper and Associated Supplies
Replace paper forms and workflows with electronic equivalents, and you save time and resources while reducing your error rate. This goes for everything from HR forms to building maintenance requests to digital invoicing. Transitioning away from paper-based workflows cuts costs immediately in terms of paper, ink, and supplies, and cuts costs long term due to fewer errors and less time lost to things like tracking down a lost form.
4. Speak With Vendors About Leasing or Buying Used Equipment
You don’t have to buy business equipment new, and in some cases you don’t have to buy it at all, but can lease it. Weigh up all these options when you need a new office copier, print system, or even office furniture. When a local business upgrades its equipment or furniture, they may try to sell it themselves, or work with a used business equipment provider to sell it for them. Vendors may not heavily advertise used equipment, but it’s definitely worth asking about.
5. Embrace Mobility
If you have workers in the field, at job sites, or who travel frequently, make sure they can make the most of their mobile devices, whether they use their own or your company provides them. When your employees can log service calls, fill out forms, and submit claims from their tablets or phones, everyone saves time, and records will be more accurate since there’s less lag time between, say, a service call and filling out the virtual paperwork.
6. Optimize Your Tax Situation
If you find that you are paying a higher tax rate than the business next door (information you can get from city hall), you may be able to negotiate a better rate for yourself. Many municipal governments are willing to help small businesses by offering tax breaks, so it can’t hurt to ask. If your business is expanding, talking over your tax situation with your local government can work in your favor. They’d generally rather help you stay than move your business elsewhere.
When you use PerfectForms, an intuitive, cloud-based solution for creating online forms and workflows, you address several of these cost-saving measures. You can significantly cut down on paper and ink usage by creating electronic forms, you don’t have to have the servers on your premises, and you can make your forms and workflows mobile, so your workers in the field are always in sync with those in the office. If you’d like to learn more about how PerfectForms can help you cut operating expenses, we invite you to contact us at any time. We would be more than happy to speak with you and answer your questions.
Workflows happen whether they’re defined and managed or not. Workflow must take place to get your product or service to the customer, and when workflows develop on their own they often turn out inefficient. Worse still, they may be allowed to remain that way as attitudes become entrenched that, “That’s how we’ve always done it.”
Organizations of every size and industry have discovered that defining and creating electronic workflows that are automated wherever possible can boost productivity considerably, while driving down costs and improving employee morale. It used to be that developing custom electronic workflows required hiring a programmer – something that’s not in the budget for many small businesses. Today, however, you don’t need a programmer to create sleek, electronic workflows and reap the business benefits.
The Right User Interface Can Eliminate Dependence on Programmers
PerfectForms is software for creating electronic forms and workflows, and it has a user interface that makes this possible without writing any programming code. Rather than writing code, the user can drag and drop form or workflow elements into place on a virtual canvas. When you do this, the code is automatically created in the background. With the PerfectForms interface, you can define workflows, include behaviors and alert triggers, and even integrate with other systems. Plus you can include notifications and escalation procedures so that the right people are apprised of workflow status at every step.
Built-In Integration Components
Electronic and automated workflows usually have to integrate with other applications you use, like spreadsheets, web forms, or directory services. PerfectForms lets you include those applications in your workflows without a major IT project. It allows you to pull in data from directory services, push data into spreadsheets or databases, or send and receive data from the web or third party systems, all without writing code. PerfectForms comes with built-in integration tools for Salesforce, SAP, and Google Spreadsheets, allowing you to import and export data, and even add conveniences like custom drop-down lists and table objects.
Keeping Database Information Updated
If you need to connect with the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), which is a directory service protocol that’s used to connect to, search, and modify internet directories, PerfectForms lets you do this as well. The interface lets you set up a connection using LDAP (such as Active Directory) so that the data used to populate tables and drop-down lists remains up to date. When the synchronizing process detects differences between the LDAP and PerfectForms, it automatically prompts the user to decide which changes should and should not be made. Again, all this is done without programming.
Creating Your Own Custom Interface Without Programming
Suppose you want to integrate PerfectForms with another third-party application, but there’s no built-in interface in PerfectForms. That’s OK, because you can create a custom interface without programming with the Connection Agent tool. The Connection Agent is installed where the third-party data resides. It allows strict control over access and lets you decide what type of access to the third-party data is allowed, such as “read only.” Though you may need your database administrator to install the Connection Agent or grant access so you can install it, no programming is required to create the custom interface.
Small Investment, Large Technological Leap
Automated forms and workflows are no longer just for big enterprises with deep pockets. PerfectForms puts the power of creating forms and workflows into the hands of those who know the business processes inside and out, and who can design workflows that make sense to the end-users. A small company may start out by creating electronic versions of commonly used forms, and then add functionality that connects the forms into workflows, complete with automated alerts, trigger actions, and reporting. It can help small businesses compete better without requiring a big capital investment up front.
Power to Create Custom Workflow Applications Is in Your Hands
PerfectForms has helped organizations in a range of industries, like healthcare, education, and insurance, to automate processes, create custom workflows, and enjoy tremendous savings of time and money. Additionally, PerfectForms is mobile-friendly, so if your team members need to complete electronic forms in the field using their electronic devices, they can do so, speeding up workflows even more. Best of all, you can try PerfectForms for free and see for yourself the world of possibilities that opens up when you have the power to create custom workflows.
Form builder software is popular across industries and in businesses of every size. That’s because electronic forms and workflows are quicker, more accurate, and eliminate some of the risks that go along with using paper forms (like lost or damaged forms).
You have many choices, from making do with templates that came with your word processing software (cheap, but not very effective) to hiring a programmer to make custom electronic forms for you (expensive, and may or may not meet your needs). Here are 5 choices you’ll be faced with when you choose form builder software. Take all of them into consideration, and you’re far likelier to end up with a solution that accomplishes your goals.
There’s no sense in pretending that cost doesn’t matter because for the overwhelming majority of organizations, it does. Smaller businesses have found that cloud-based solutions can be terrific for business functions, because there’s no hardware to buy or maintain, and the cost is directly related to how many people use the software. But if your company has specific security needs, an on-site solution may be necessary. Does your form builder software company offer both?
2. Ease of Use
People are used to unpacking devices and downloading apps so that they can take care of tasks very quickly, without a steep learning curve. Most software makers are aware of this, but some form builder software packages are harder to learn to use than others. When evaluating your choices, take a close look at the user interface. Is it friendly and intuitive? Are menus and instructions written in plain language that non-technical people understand?
3. Ability to Customize
Your organization is unique, and therefore your forms are going to be unique. When form builder software locks you into certain designs and templates, you may or may not be able to create electronic forms exactly how you want them. You need the ability to create from scratch electronic forms exactly how you visualize them. You may want them to look identical to your paper forms, and if so, you should be able to do this without difficulty.
4. Integration With Other Software and Systems
Perhaps you want data from forms to be automatically transferred into a database. Or maybe you want data from a database to populate a form. How well your form builder software works with other software and with web pages should be an important consideration, even if you aren’t using these functionalities presently. Integrating your form builder software with other software should always be an option for you.
5. Technical and Customer Support
Read case studies and testimonials, and you may even call a form builder software provider’s customer service line to get a first-hand experience of what their customer service is like. Check their website: are there tutorials, instructional videos, and easy access to help when you need it? Can you reach customer or technical support by phone or live chat? Can you access discussion forums to see how others have coped with similar issues? Your form builder software provider shouldn’t abandon you once they’ve made the sale.
Form builder software has evolved from something clunky and unfriendly toward non-technical people and become far more user-friendly and efficient. Cloud-hosted solutions exist, which is great for organizations that don’t have the budget or inclination for taking care of hardware. In short, there’s simply no excuse for settling for form builder software that doesn’t deliver in terms of price, user-friendliness, customization, and integration with other business and web systems.
PerfectForms is form builder software that lets you intuitively build electronic forms exactly as you want them, with a drag-and-drop interface that allows you to see your forms as you create them. In addition to easy customization, PerfectForms is a cloud-hosted solution that integrates with your other systems, including Salesforce, SAP and Google Spreadsheets. It also can pull data from directory services or send and receive data from third party systems through API or web services, and it does all this without coding. Best of all, you can try PerfectForms for free and discover for yourself what great form builder software is like.
One of the best sources of information on how effective your teachers are is right in front of them: their students. Feedback forms for instructors and professors have long been used in college and university settings, particularly with graduate student instructors who are monitored by professors.
Sure, it can be a little scary to ask students for feedback, but the benefits of feedback forms can be appreciable. Perhaps the main thing feedback forms for teachers accomplish is to increase student engagement. Knowing what works and what doesn’t helps teachers design lessons that resonate. Here are 6 tips on creating feedback forms so they benefit teachers, students, and administration.
1. Create Forms for Different Phases of the Semester
Newer teachers in particular may want to distribute feedback forms early in the semester, at approximately mid-semester, and at the end of the semester. Early feedback can bring to light practical issues (like acoustics or outside noise) so they can be addressed before they affect learning. Mid-semester feedback lets students and teachers evaluate whether they’re on track with class goals, and if not, take corrective steps. End-of-semester feedback gives teachers a long look at how successful the class was overall and can assist in planning for next semester.
2. Create Forms Specific to the Type of Class
Not all teachers perform the same types of functions, so it’s best if you create specific feedback forms to the type of class. For example, you could have different feedback forms for lectures, discussions, and labs. These allow teachers to gather information specific to their teaching environment without wasting time on feedback that may be irrelevant. Something that works wonderfully in a lab setting may not work well in a lecture, and vice versa.
3. Solicit Feedback on Teachers in Training from Mentor Teachers
If your educational institution pairs new teachers or teachers in training with established, “mentor” teachers, soliciting feedback from mentor teachers as well as from students can be helpful. This way, your new teachers can get more of a “360 degree” view of their work and can more easily identify their strengths and weaknesses. After a semester under the wing of a mentor teacher, new instructors can then focus more closely on feedback from students.
4. Recognize the Limitations of Paper Feedback Forms Completed in Class
Paper feedback forms handed out in class produce a high participation rate, especially if you allow time in class for their completion. But there are disadvantages too. Students may worry that you will recognize their handwriting and not be as forthcoming. Plus it can be hard to organize these responses. Online forms can be completed either on the student’s own time or during class if students bring laptops or other devices or otherwise have access to your network.
5. Encourage Use of Online Feedback Forms with Incentives
Electronic feedback forms completed on students’ own time are great because you can automatically download and collate results however you want. But it’s all too easy for students to forget to complete feedback forms once they’re out of the classroom. If you can’t distribute online feedback forms and collect them during class, you can offer incentives for those who print out and submit a confirmation page for you – a bit of extra credit, for example.
6. Make Sure All Important Topics Are Covered By Your Forms
You’ll probably want different feedback from students in a physics class than you would from students in a biology class. In general, however, your feedback forms should cover a handful of important topics:
• Are you able to reach your teacher easily when you have questions or concerns?
• Do you believe class time is used well?
• Do you find the tests, quizzes, and assignments to be fair?
• Do you find the work too easy or too hard for you?
• What is your most favorite thing about this class?
• What is your least favorite thing about this class?
• Is there other information you think your teacher should know?
Whether you ask open-ended questions, multiple choice questions, or ask for responses on a numerical scale, electronic feedback forms have numerous advantages over paper forms. There are always enough “copies” of electronic forms, they’re more anonymous (so students are more likely to be honest), and gathering, collating, and evaluating them is faster. PerfectForms offers a powerful, flexible toolkit for creating every type of electronic form and workflow, including teacher feedback forms. With its drag and drop interface you can create custom forms and route them automatically to the correct recipient. Have a look at our demo and you’re sure to think of many ways PerfectForms can make your organization more efficient, accurate, and responsive.
Even if you don’t know what “business process management” (BPM) is, the concept makes sense on its face. Managing business processes indicates that you have control and can change things when they need it. Businesses in today’s marketplace simply can’t remain static and hope to stay competitive.
Business process management, implemented by BPM software, is a concept that can benefit your business whether you make toys, solar panels, or industry-influencing reports. Every business has processes, some of them simple and straightforward, and others complex and multi-layered. BPM software is the toolkit that lets you improve processes and help them evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the business world. But it’s important to go about BPM in the right way.
Automating Inefficient Processes Is Short-Sighted at Best
If your business has a process that’s inefficient, you could probably automate several parts of it and speed it up. But that doesn’t address the root problem of it being an inefficient process. Business process management starts with understanding which processes you follow because “we’ve always done it that way,” and which you follow because they make sense and make your business better. Many inefficiencies can be overcome by technology, and designing out the inefficiencies wherever possible is the smart first step before implementing BPM software to automate and streamline processes.
What Are Your Competitive Differentiators?
Understanding what your organization’s competitive differentiators are is crucial. What makes you stand out from the competition, and what are the ways you can make those competitive differentiators even better? This involves identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) and benchmarking them.
From there, you can analyze processes and determine ways they can be improved, automated, or streamlined. With BPM software, you can design these processes and create online workflows that make following these improved processes simple. Once you do this, you can re-check KPIs and fine-tune to extract the maximum improvement from your modified processes. Then you monitor KPIs so if one or more shows problems, you can act swiftly to correct them.
What Needs Fine-Tuning and What Needs Re-Engineering?
You may find that optimizing some processes only requires some fine-tuning, but optimizing other processes requires more radical change. With a good BPM software solution, you can handle either of these tasks with confidence. The right BPM software will allow you to diagram processes easily, so you can gain a top-level overview as well as delving into the details. It will also allow you to sketch out possible solutions, whether you’re making minor changes or major ones. None of this should require that you pull someone off your IT team or hire a programmer, because today you can get BPM software that’s made for non-programmers to be able to do the work without ever writing a line of code.
Good BPM Software Is Like a GPS for Your Business
Using GPS software on your phone or tablet helps you get to where you’re going. Likewise, BPM software helps your business get to where it’s going in the most efficient manner. Perhaps you need to optimize one process for speed, but optimize another process for cost control. Your BPM software should have the flexibility and power to allow you to do that.
PerfectForms, the same software that allows you to create online forms and workflows, can be put to work as outstanding BPM software, so you can create simple or complex BPM solutions without needing a programmer. PerfectForms has a drag and drop editor that allows you to create BPM solutions on an intuitive “canvas” interface, and you can easily add powerful reporting to your workflows.
It used to be that BPM software was a major capital expense and investment of time. However, BPM software has improved to where it can be used easily by the actual people who understand and know how to design workflows. PerfectForms, which lets you create electronic versions of your paper forms, also allows you to design custom workflows that can fine-tune, modify, or completely re-engineer your business processes.
If you would like to know more about how to put PerfectForms to work as your BPM software solution, we invite you to contact us at any time. We would be thrilled to hear from you and happy to answer all your questions.
Financial management is made up of different specific components depending on your organization. But overall, it includes the planning, organizing, directing, and controlling of financial activities of an enterprise and applying management principles to make the most of financial resources.
Management of finances involves everything from decisions about investments in new fixed assets to investments in current assets, as well as the raising of capital from various resources. How you manage your working capital is part of financial management so you can be confident of a regular and adequate supply of funds. Most organizations use workflow software to manage finances. These workflows may be designed to address many different objectives, such as:
• Ensuring adequate shareholder returns
• Optimizing utilization of funds
• Satisfying investment objectives
• Creating a strong capital structure
Your financial management workflow software should include the following 5 “must-have” features.
1. Workflow Flexibility
Your workflow software should not make you feel locked into a workflow once you’ve defined it. In other words, workflow software should make it easy to make modifications and fine-tune workflows so you can adopt an attitude of continual improvement. When creating workflows is difficult, you may end up feeling locked into existing workflows even if they could stand improvement. Today’s workflow software should make things easy for you, not difficult.
2. Easy, Powerful Reporting
Managing finances effectively requires that you be able to generate understandable, relevant reports, and do so quickly so you’re working with the latest financial information. Workflow software is incomplete if it doesn’t allow you to create the exact types of reports you want when you want them. Whether you’re generating reports for your own edification or to answer an audit, your workflow software should facilitate, and not hinder this process.
3. Interaction With Other Software
Workflow software that exists on its own island and can’t play nicely with other software is of limited use to you. Financial management affects every aspect of your business, from office supplies to hiring to marketing. Insist on workflow software that doesn’t silo itself off, but that interacts with other important software, like Salesforce or Google Spreadsheets, so you can create powerful workflows that accomplish exactly what you want.
4. Audit Trails
Audit trails show who has accessed the workflow software and what actions were performed at a given point in time. They’re essential for maintaining security, recovering lost transactions, and providing information during an audit. Does your workflow software give you an instant overview of what is going on in a particular workflow process? It should. And it should be able to incorporate this information into reports on demand.
Mobility can be an enormous advantage in your financial management workflow software. For example, suppose you allow travel expense reporting to be done from mobile devices. Your employees can take care of these important tasks even before they get back to the office. Any number of other financial management tasks can be made mobile, increasing your organizational efficiency further, saving time and resources.
Financial management workflow software isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies. Whatever your industry, whatever your vertical, whatever your size, financial management workflow software can benefit your organization tremendously. PerfectForms is workflow software that is powerful and flexible enough to handle your financial management workflows, with outstanding reporting features, integration with other software, and the convenience of mobility.
Implementing financial management workflow software does not have to involve disruption, huge capital expense, and the help of custom programmers. PerfectForms allows non-technical personnel to create custom workflows with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that allows users to test out different workflows and modify them to obtain optimal results.
Workflow software for your organizational finances is essential for maintaining a competitive edge. PerfectForms provides you with an affordable, powerful, flexible, easy-to-use system that lets you create the exact financial management workflows your organization requires. We invite you to test drive PerfectForms and discover for yourself how easy it is to create the financial management workflows that will propel your organization toward future success.
An employee’s first few days on the job can be enormously influential on how well his or her entire tenure at your company goes. New employees expect a learning curve, and understand that what their first day is like may have little to do with what their typical workday will be like.
According to a study by the Aberdeen Group, the overwhelming majority of new hires choose whether to stay with their new company or leave within their first six months. Moreover, new hires are 69% more likely to stay longer than three years when the on-boarding process is well-planned and executed.
Following are 5 tools you can use to make the on-boarding process less daunting and more efficient, and to make your new employee feel welcome and valued.
1. Access to Your Company Social Network in Advance
After a job candidate has accepted your offer of employment, several weeks may elapse before he or she actually starts work. In the meantime, you can take steps to help your new employee get to know the workplace and the workforce better. If your company has a social network, granting your new hire access will allow him or her to get a feel for company culture, make introductions, and ask questions. This can make that first day more exciting and less stressful.
2. Online On-Boarding Forms Where Possible
If you can make on-boarding forms available on secure web pages, your new employee can get a jump on submitting all that information that needs to be input to make employment official. You can send out a “welcome aboard” email, along with links to relevant company videos and pages where they can enter employment information and even upload a photo for their employee badge. Many “first day” tasks can be done in advance in this way.
3. Social Tools to Keep New Hires Apprised of On-Boarding Status
If you’re able to allow your new employee onto the company social network before his or her first day in the office, you can use the network as the perfect tool for updates about on-boarding status. For example, if one of the fields in a form has an error, you can let your new hire know to revisit the form and correct it. If he or she is supposed to bring anything specific on the first day, the social network is great for sending reminders.
4. Office and Facilities Management Tools Online
It isn’t just the new employee who can help the on-boarding process proceed efficiently. When your building manager or office manager is able to use electronic forms and workflows to assign a cubicle, set up a phone extension, order a key or swipe card, and request any necessary IT equipment in advance, there’s less delay in your new employee getting to work. When all the disparate on-boarding procedures are made into a logical workflow, no steps will be missed.
5. A Knowledge Base for New Hires
New hires may have questions that established employees don’t even think of. They may wonder where they can park, if there’s a strict dress code, or what time they have lunch. Your company social network can be great for gathering common questions and using them to build a searchable employee knowledge base so as many of their questions as possible can be answered before they start work. It can make the transition from job candidate to employee smoother and friendlier.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that sophisticated tools and online workflows require a large IT team or deep pockets. The fact is, with a flexible, powerful solution like PerfectForms, you can create perfectly tailored online forms and workflows that make the new employee on-boarding process quicker, easier, and less error-prone. With a convenient drag-and-drop interface, PerfectForms helps HR, facilities management, payroll, and other departments involved in the on-boarding process streamline and automate processes. Results include happier new employees, less paperwork on his or her first day, and fewer worries about forgetting a step in the on-boarding process.
PerfectForms is cloud-hosted and its uses are limited only by your imagination. If you would like to see for yourself how powerful and flexible PerfectForms is for new employee on-boarding or any other work process, we invite you to sign up for a free trial. Chances are, you’ll think of many ways PerfectForms can accelerate and streamline workflows in your organization.
Developing logical workflows helps any organization run more efficiently. Even if a process is completely manual, having a sequence of steps to follow can ensure consistency, cut down on errors and omissions, and make processes go faster.
Of course, today many workflows can be automated, no matter what industry you are in. Automation obviously speeds things up, and it can reduce errors and ensure data capture to meet reporting and regulatory requirements.
But workflows aren’t static entities that will always be ideal because they’re ideal today. Improving workflows should be a goal, and every six months or so, you should step back and review automated workflows to see where improvements could be made. Here’s why reviewing your workflow automation is essential to maintaining your competitive edge.
Customers and Marketplaces Evolve
Technology isn’t just affecting your business, it’s affecting your customers’ everyday lives in profound ways. Customers who were happy to log in to your website to check the status of their orders a couple of years ago now want a mobile app that will allow them to do the same thing. Or perhaps your competitors are able to manufacture products at a faster rate and you need to modify workflows to ensure you stay ahead of them. The point is, people and technology change, and when this happens, expectations change too. Re-evaluating workflows is simply smart business.
Today’s Employees Aren’t Deskbound
Another reason to periodically reassess workflows is that your employees may be working differently than they did last year. You may have more employees in the field who don’t want to have to come back to the office to submit their expense reports. Adding mobility to processes can be a tremendous time-saver for many processes. But automation that works great over the company network may need fine-tuning to work efficiently for mobile, so you have to ensure you have the tools to make processes mobile while keeping them secure.
Some Improvements Are Evident Right Away
When you find a better way of doing things, the satisfaction can start immediately. Suddenly you don’t have to put that completed paper form on an HR manager’s desk, because you can submit it electronically and know that she will receive an email or text alert that her attention is needed. When your sales teams can turn in expense reports while on a long layover in Dallas, there’s less worry about lost receipts, and reimbursement checks can be cut sooner. Automating IT help requests keeps phone lines open and makes recordkeeping simpler and more straightforward.
Benefits Accumulate Over Time
Immediate benefits aren’t the only reason you should periodically re-evaluate automated processes. Those benefits accumulate over time. The two minutes each employee saves by automating timekeeping for payroll adds up when you have 100 employees and don’t have to worry about hiring another payroll clerk to process everyone. Automating a process (or automating it better) may take a little extra time right now, but it will be more than offset by the cumulative time saved when everyone uses that process.
Automation of workflows doesn’t require a huge capital investment, hiring consultants, or contracting with programmers. PerfectForms makes it easy to automate paper processes by creating electronic forms identical to your paper forms (so people are comfortable using them from the start), and then linking them together into workflows that eliminate time sinks like lost or illegible forms or the effort of typing information multiple times into multiple systems.
With PerfectForms, non-technical people can create forms and workflows with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, so manual workflows are made automatic and time and resource savings commence immediately. The ways PerfectForms can be put to use are practically unlimited. Check out our demo video and see for yourself how PerfectForms can be the perfect automation solution for today and tomorrow.
Think about your house. How many electronic devices do you own? In today’s multi-screen society, it’s common for families to have multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, iPads, etc.) filling up your time and personal space. Television shows even cater to it by asking viewers to comment on Twitter via predetermined hashtags. It’s a generation of social engagement and audience participation.
But when your head is in a million different places, how do you keep track of the things that really matter? How do you manage your priorities without losing focus? Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an employee, or a stay-at-home parent juggling multiple family members’ schedules, it’s all too easy to drop the ball.
That’s where Mike Vardy comes in. Mike is the Strategist and Founder at Productivityist, a business that is designed to make you more productive, focused, and effective in your day-to-day life. PerfectForms recently spoke with Mike about his work.
What inspires your work at Productivityist?
I want to make an impact on people’s lives by helping them get better at dealing with the things they need to do, deciding on what they ought to do, and – as a result – doing more of what they want to do.
You motivate people and businesses to be more efficient by organizing and streamlining their time and resources. Considering the busy world we live in, why is that so important?
We have so many inputs these days and they are coming at us faster than ever before. We’re not facing an information overload; we’re facing an input overload. But the great thing about that is that we can have a say in what inputs we receive – maybe not all of them, but certainly some of them. When you begin using a framework and approach that you can use towards your work and life, you’ll also recognize what inputs you need to pay attention to regularly and which ones you don’t. You may even find some that you can eliminate altogether. It’s important for people to recognize this so that they can really find their way forward in the world, rather than finding themselves lost in their to-do lists.
What would you consider to be 3-5 core principles that you try to convey in all of your workshops?
The core principles I convey in my workshops are:
1. Working by “mode” is far more beneficial than working by project. It allows you to work in better alignment with your current state – whether it’s time-based (how much time you have), energy-based (be it high or low), and/or resource-based (email, meeting, phone, etc.). In fact, tackling your tasks by mode is the closest we can get to multitasking.
2. Aligning days of the week with overarching themes gives the mind a waypoint to use as a starting point for each day. I encourage attendees to always look at their certainties when deciding on their daily themes and to work backward from there, because it allows them to use those days as a springboard to assign themes to the days where certainties aren’t nearly as apparent. For example, if you know that Monday is a day where you’re usually knee deep in administrative work, then theming Monday as “Admin Day” can really help you with your to-do list for that day of the week over the long term; because every Monday, you’ll wake up the knowledge that most of the work you’ll be doing on Monday is administrative.
3. Review is crucial when it comes to prolonged effectiveness and efficiency, but not everyone is capable of reviewing their tasks daily (or even weekly). So I recommend that attendees keep a Daily Log that they compose at the end of the day (either at the office or before bed). Then they can review their tasks every week or two and simply look back at the log entries to see if they have strayed too far off course from what they ultimately want to be doing (or where they ultimately want to be going).
How do those principles encourage a simplified workflow in an organization?
These principles are easy to adopt and can be used within a wide variety of applications. They really tap into the individual rather than the team as a whole, which works better for the team because the way each of us work is very subjective. What may take me 10 minutes to do might take you 4 hours. And how we approach the tasks we have on our list is going to vary as well. These principles (part of what I call The NOW Year Formula) are part of the foundation of a simple, flexible, and durable system that can scale for both the individual and the team.
On your website, you have an extensive list of tools and resources. If you had to narrow your list down to three vital resources that you could share with our readers, which three would you choose?
The three vital resources I would suggest are as follows:
1. A digital task management application. Whether it’s Todoist or Asana, using a digital task management application is ideal for long-term task and project incubation. I look at my task app (I use both of the ones I mentioned) as a personal assistant of sorts because it keeps me in the loop of what I need to do soon and what I want to do down the line.
2. A paper notebook and pen that you’ll love to use. There’s something about pen and paper for capturing your tasks and ideas that just works. Neither will run out of battery life; and when you write something down that someone is saying to you instead of entering it into your smartphone, it shows them that you’re actually paying attention to what they are saying rather than possibly checking Facebook or email instead. But pick a notebook that you’ll want to use (I love the Baron Fig series of notebooks) and do the same for your pen (JetPens is my pen shop of choice). That way you’ll feel more compelled to use them because they’ll hold a greater value initially since you like them. Eventually, they’ll hold that value because they’ll hold a lot of what used to be kept in your head.
3. Sleep Cycle is an app I highly recommend because it allows you to wake up after sleeping during your lightest phase of sleep. As a night owl, I tend to go to bed around 1 AM, and I want to make sure I get a solid sleep when I finally go down for the night. Sleep Cycle lets me set an alarm, and the accelerometer in my smartphone does its best to monitor my movements in bed. Based on those movements, it has a good idea when I’m in a light sleep phase, and then wakes me up based on the timeframe I’ve asked to be awakened (which is usually a 30-minute window prior to when I know I have to be up). It’s replaced my alarm clock because of this, and I use it every single night.
BPM stands for Business Process Management, and it’s a way that any type of business can make everyday tasks as efficient as possible. The business processes managed consist of those activities that accomplish definable organizational goals. For example, the process of on-boarding a new employee is a business process. BPM offers a systematic way to make processes more efficient, effective, and adaptable.
BPM software is software that’s designed to help business owners and managers make their business processes as logical, effective, and efficient as possible, whether they’re in the financial industry, healthcare, manufacturing, education, or any other sector where efficiency can be a differentiating competitive factor.
What Can BPM Software Do for Your Business?
Put simply, BPM software helps businesses be prepared to compete better in today’s fast-paced and global marketplace. It allows business leaders to analyze business processes, identify inefficiencies, design improved processes, implement them, and monitor and modify as necessary.
With BPM software a business could, for example, measure operational processes and determine ways they could be done better, apply technology to business processes to make them better, coordinate staff activities better, and be prepared to respond quickly when a new challenge or opportunity presents itself.
BPM and Continuous Improvement
Closely linked to the concept of BPM is continuous improvement. When a business of any size is able to continuously fine-tune processes and improve ROI on an incremental and consistent basis, sales and revenues should go up, and inefficiencies can be worked out of processes over time.
Suppose a manufacturer recognizes inefficiencies in its logistics operations. Perhaps the shipping of damaged products is regularly costing the organization in terms of lost revenue. BPM software could help that manufacturer determine exactly where improvements are needed and gain a birds-eye view of an order as it progresses through the shipping process.
It may come to light that data about these orders arrives too late for anyone to do anything about them, and that real-time notifications could prevent some of these problems. Customer service could be notified immediately whenever an order experiences damage so they can resolve the issue quickly enough not to lose the sale or the customer.
BPM and Small Businesses
Maybe it sounds terrific, but something that’s only an option for big enterprises with deep pockets. That’s not necessarily the case. BPM solutions exist that are perfect for start-ups and small businesses and that don’t require big up-front investments in IT infrastructure, consultants, and software. BPM on a smaller scale is eminently practical today, allowing smaller organizations to improve productivity and business efficiency and compete more effectively, even against larger enterprises.
Extensive IT and Financial Resources Not Required
BPM software does not require a large capital outlay, nor does it require the services of a programmer or the resources of your IT team. PerfectForms is a straightforward, scalable solution that can be tailored exactly to your small business needs. Using a convenient, drag-and-drop interface, you can create logical workflows that help get rid of inefficiencies without having to write programming code.
Imagine being able to envision workflows and make them happen by dragging and dropping objects onto a blank “canvas” interface exactly as they work in your organization. That’s what PerfectForms does, letting even the smallest organizations create online forms and workflows that are the key to continuous improvement and efficiency gains. It’s a flexible, affordable option that can take BPM from analysis through implementation, in any department or across departments.
Technology is allowing businesses in all industries and of all sizes to take advantage of the many benefits of BPM software. PerfectForms can put the power of BPM software into your hands, even if you don’t know how to write programming code, due to its intuitive user interface. Businesses and organizations in numerous sectors have used PerfectForms to create customized electronic forms and workflows, allowing for continuous improvement and competitive advantage. Have a look at the case study for Houston Community College, which used PerfectForms to remove redundant business practices, turn cumbersome paper workflows into sleek electronic ones, and cut use of paper and printing resources.