Workflow automation requires breaking a business process down into discrete steps and then automating whatever parts of the process can be automated. “Automation” typically means turning paper-based steps into electronic steps and automating the flow of completed electronic forms to their proper recipients.
Businesses automate workflows of every description, and there’s really no limit on what workflow automation can be applied to. Some of the more common processes automated include expense reporting, IT and maintenance requests, and the onboarding process for new hires.
The New Hire Process Must Happen in a Specific Order
When your company hires someone new, many steps must take place between the time you place an ad for the job and the day the new employee reports to work. What’s more, these steps have to happen in a certain order. For example, you wouldn’t order an ID badge for a new hire who hasn’t officially accepted employment yet. Because there are so many steps involved in the new hire process, because they have to be completed in sequence, and because no steps (like filling out a W-4 form) can be neglected, this process is ideal for workflow automation.
Creating a Workflow to Manage the New Hire Process
If you wanted to automate a workflow for the new hire process, the first thing you would need to do is break the entire process down into discrete steps and assign responsibility for each step to an appropriate staff member. Then you would use workflow automation software to convert cumbersome paper processes to electronic ones, route completed electronic forms to the right person, and automatically notify affected employees that their input is needed to keep the workflow going. Notifications when something takes longer than expected can be added too.
An Automated New Hire Workflow Reduces Errors
One of the main benefits of an automated new hire process is that it reduces errors. For example, someone in the responsibility chain can’t say, “I didn’t know I needed to do that” because the workflow can send out automated reminders to people whose input is needed. The workflow can also be made so that it cannot complete some steps until certain prerequisite steps are completed. Multiple independent steps can take place in parallel, but steps that must be done in sequence can be designed so prerequisite steps must be completed before that part of the process advances.
Automating the New Hire Workflow Reduces Need for Direct Supervision
An automated new hire workflow complete with alerts and reminders helps each employee involved in the process understand what is expected of them and when. This reduces the need to “micromanage” employees who don’t complete work in a timely manner, because workflows can be designed to notify management if a step in the process has not been completed after a certain amount of time. Plus, managers can look at workflow status at any time and see for themselves what step the process has advanced to.
Automating the New Hire Process Boosts Efficiency and Improves Communications
Workflow automation makes processes significantly more efficient. Because workflow users have visibility into the process, there are fewer confused phone calls or emails inquiring about it. If bottlenecks in the process are identified, they can be addressed with the workflow automation software. By including relevant notifications throughout the workflow, affected employees can learn quickly when their input is required so they can get started without having to be phoned or otherwise reminded. Workflow takes care of many communication needs automatically.
A Great New Hire Process Can Help Reduce Employee Turnover
PerfectForms puts the power or automated workflows – whether for the new hire procedure or any other process – in your hands. You don’t have to know how to program to use PerfectForms, because the software has a friendly, drag-and-drop interface that allows you to create electronic forms and workflows easily. When you automate your new hire process, it’s a better experience for everyone, from HR to the person who distributes building keys to, perhaps most importantly, the new hire him- or herself. And when the onboarding process is smooth and efficient, new employees have a more positive perception of their new employer and will be less likely to look for a new job anytime soon. We invite you to contact us at any time to learn more.
Document management is whatever system an organization uses to track, manage, store, and archive documents. In the past it was done manually with paper documents, but today it’s done with electronic documents and workflow software, which offers countless advantages.
When workflow software is used to manage documents, it not only saves time and cuts down on paper usage (and waste), the software can keep records of every version of a document created and modified by a number of different users.
Document management isn’t just about reports or what people normally think of as “documents,” but includes every other type of paperwork a business copes with, from acquisition forms to time records to expense reports.
How Traditional Document Management Gets Derailed
Think of the “old way” of managing documents. An employee would fill out, say, a paper requisition form with specific items he or she needed, plus their costs. This physical document would be passed along to an approving manager, then to accounting for their approval, and once it reached the end of the approval chain someone would create a paper purchase order, which was physically handed to the person in charge of purchasing.
This way of managing documents takes longer than it has to, and brings risks at every step: risks of lost, torn, or illegible documents, or of approving officials who are out of town so no action is taken until they return. Slow, inefficient operations like this affect business performance and the company bottom line.
What You Can Expect from Documents Managed by Workflow Software
When workflow software is used for document management, documents can be uploaded, passed along, modified electronically, and downloaded where necessary. Documents can also be generated by the software itself by taking data from electronic forms (which may be entered by several users) and putting it in a template that can be saved in various document formats. For example, information from one month’s worth of expense reports can be used to create a monthly report for a department director to make tracking of departmental expenses easier.
Workflow software can also manage access permissions, allowing only those with permission to access or modify documents. Documents can be electronically organized into relevant folders and subfolders, with an audit trail automatically created so that every change to a document is recorded.
How Workflow Software Can Prevent Problems Later
Suppose that in six months, you find yourself in the position of having to prove that you obtained proper approval for a purchase order. With a paper process, you have to hunt down the paper documents and hope you find the right one with the right signatures. With workflow software, however, you have an audit trail showing who handled the document and when, and what the document contained before and after they handled it. And it’s all stored electronically, so any document version needed can be found instantly.
Approval workflows can be made to assign tasks, generate automatic alerts for affected personnel, and create a record of the entire document creation process, from the beginning through archival. Employees can concentrate on doing the work rather than trying to track down the right people for signatures.
How Managing Documents with Workflow Software Saves Money
Taking just one document management process and making it electronic rather than paper-based can result in significant savings on paper, ink, printer wear, and physical storage needs. What’s more, processes are much faster, so what may have taken a week before can be done in a day instead. Finally, electronic document management using workflow software reduces errors. There’s no worry about a paper document being illegible, coffee-stained, or lost, or about two versions of a paper document inadvertently being routed around at the same time. The time spent diagnosing and fixing errors in the document management process falls precipitously.
Expensive Turnkey Document Management Systems Not Necessary
Not that long ago, document management systems were expensive turnkey systems that shoehorned users into doing things the way the software makers dictated. That’s all changed. With PerfectForms, you can create custom electronic forms and workflows with an easy drag-and-drop interface, so your forms and your processes align perfectly with how your company gets things done.
Have a look at the PerfectForms demo and see for yourself how easy it is to manage documents and an unlimited number of other workflow processes, without breaking the bank on expensive workflow software or having to hire a programmer to use it.
“Workflow” is a catchall term that covers any series of tasks that your business needs to perform. Changing the oil in your car requires a set of tasks performed in a certain order. Baking a cake, designing a mobile app, creating a professional video – these all require specific workflows. You probably know from experience that when you have a system for accomplishing something you tend to be more consistent and do a better job of it, because you are less likely to skip steps.
Being Organized Improves Your Bottom Line
Your business requires innumerable short processes that need to be followed, checked, documented and forwarded on to others. Whether you use a simple checklist or advanced workflow software, being organized improves your efficiency and your bottom line.
One of the classic examples of workflow improvement is the early assembly line created by Ford Motor Company in 1913. Toyota adopted Ford’s methods in the 1950’s and claimed that it increased productivity by over 300% and cut costs by over 60%.
Workflow is Simplified
The most obvious benefit of automated workflow is that it eliminates or reduces the paper-chasing. Checklists, submissions, proposals no longer languish in a middle manager’s work basket. Management can concentrate on analysis and strategy, instead of chasing down errors, appeasing angry clients and evaluating employee performance.
Speed is greatly enhanced because decisions that used to require people are now automated. Visibility is also improved every step of the way – both process managers and supervisors can see the exact status of a project and every one of its required steps. Processes require fewer people and tasks can run in parallel, with flags to indicate where things might be stuck in a queue.
Errors and Manual Labor are Reduced
This has the added benefit of demonstrating where processes excel, and where they need improvement. Most modern workflow platforms have a logging capability that records exceptions. This allows businesses to see where problems keep occurring and to analyze workflow interruptions or spot areas where mistakes happen most frequently.
Fujirebio is a supplier of biomarkers (blood tests) for oncology units. The company processes about 75 million tests annually. In 2013, the company decided to automate its former manual process of recording temperature readings. The old paper reports that automation replaced were several inches thick and had to be reviewed by hand prior to audits by the FDA. The new electronic reports have eliminated 1,100 hours a year of manual effort. “Everyone loves not having to go through paper records anymore,” the company reports.
Both Large and Small Businesses Enjoy More Efficiency
Digital workflow management doesn’t have to apply only to high-tech business processes like manufacturing, either. Many smaller businesses prefer cloud-hosted digital workflow management. The up-front investment is smaller and there’s no requirement to host and maintain servers on the premises.
Whatever your product or service, digital workflow management can vastly improve your organizational efficiency. Other results can include lower costs, better customer service, and happier employees, all of which directly or indirectly affect the bottom line.
Sometimes employee surveys are the best way to gather important information, and there are countless ways surveys can be used by companies to accelerate operations and improve employee morale and motivation.
But the old days of sending out a survey on paper and then having someone manually compile the results made the process too cumbersome to be used often. Plus, paper-based surveys almost guarantee a low response rate.
Electronic surveys, however, can compile data themselves, don’t waste paper, and are quick and easy for employees to complete and submit with just a few clicks of a mouse. Here are some of the ways companies can create surveys and benefit from the information they collect.
New Hire Surveys
Hiring has changed with the rise of online applications, video conference job interviews, and electronic onboarding. But many companies are still feeling their way when it comes to making the hiring and onboarding process effective, efficient, and welcoming. Creating a survey for new hires who have completed the on-boarding process can help. Such a survey can be completed by the new employee online and may include questions about problems they encountered during the hiring or onboarding process, and about what they thought the company did well in terms of hiring and onboarding.
Collaboration is a popular buzzword, and today it can be done with teams that are dispersed throughout the world if necessary. When a group completes a project, obtaining feedback about the collaboration process can help a company recognize where improvements can be made (by allowing video conferencing, for example), and where the collaboration process works well (perhaps with the aid of the company social network). Learning how to make collaboration easier and more effective is a key to driving the best results in today’s fast-paced, geographically dispersed workforce.
Surveys Related to Company Social Functions
Surveys can be a terrific way of getting a number count for the company picnic, or for finding out how many people want the turkey entrée and how many want the ham for the company holiday dinner. Calling people and asking takes a ridiculous amount of time, and paper surveys have serious limitations. But you can eliminate much of the guesswork by using electronic surveys. Afterward, you can even create a “guest book” survey in which people share their memories of an important company event, so participants can relive the fun and perhaps view photos from the event.
Employee Satisfaction Surveys
Are your employees happy in their work? If they’re not, they may feel that they have no options for stating their grievances. But employee satisfaction surveys allow employees to provide feedback about all aspects of job satisfaction with the reassurance of anonymity. Survey results can be calculated automatically, and you can even include fields where employees can offer details of their employee experience, helping HR identify and get to the bottom of potential issues before they can cause serious problems or increase employee turnover. Paper forms simply can’t match the efficiency and effectiveness of electronic employee satisfaction surveys.
Service Provider Surveys
Most businesses use services provided by third parties, for everything from water cooler service to cloud business apps. It can be difficult to know how well these third-party arrangements are working out unless you ask the people who use them every day. If, for example, a business app is buggy enough to slow productivity, you need to know so you can review the service agreement and work on getting the problem solved. Likewise, if you’re thinking of switching providers, it’s important to get feedback on existing providers. It’s important to know whether the providers you use are delivering the level of service you expect.
Create Custom Surveys and Compile Results Easily
When you use software like PerfectForms to create electronic forms and workflows, you can also create electronic surveys. These surveys can be designed into simple workflows where employees access surveys and complete them online, and then the results are tabulated automatically. The time savings are phenomenal, and with electronic forms you can be confident of more accurate results. You can try PerfectForms out for free and see for yourself how easy it is to create custom electronic forms and workflows, including surveys.
Rare is the employee who never uses any IT equipment. From the front desk receptionist to the engineers to the graphic designers, just about everyone uses IT equipment in their everyday work tasks. When IT system setup is consistent and made into a logical workflow, getting employees outfitted with the IT tools they need is fast, simple, and doesn’t require a lot of resources.
Furthermore, IT system setup can be designed so that as soon as a user sets up a piece of equipment, the company’s asset management program records it. That way, the piece of equipment is accounted for as having been taken out of inventory so that status of individual pieces of IT equipment are always up to date. Here’s how workflow automation makes IT system setup easier.
Ensuring Each Employee Gets The Equipment He or She Needs
Your company may assign a specific configuration of IT equipment based on a new hire’s job title. When you do this, you can set up an automated workflow for that configuration that steps the user through the process of IT system setup, ensuring it can be used for all the purposes for which it’s intended. The workflow can be designed to have setup tests at various points so the user knows that his or her IT system is working as expected. For example, once the user configures the system to access a network printer, he or she can print out a test page to ensure the setup is correct.
Step Employees Through the Setup Process
Not all IT system setup processes have to be handled by an IT professional. Many employees can handle setting up a laptop or desktop computer and accessing the company network if a workflow is created to step them through it. A physical note on the equipment itself can tell the user what the first step is, like plugging in the computer, turning it on, and typing a specific web address into the browser bar. Along the way, each instruction screen can provide information on what the user should do if a setup step does not go as planned. When setup is complete, HR, the employee’s supervisor, and any other relevant personnel can be notified.
Employees Can Complete Initial Training During IT System Setup
IT system setup may include some preliminary training as well, like how to access and fill in a timecard, how to request building maintenance, or how to log completion of certain tasks. This can get new employees up to speed quickly and lets your company use its formal training for more in-depth learning. You can also allow your IT system setup procedure to allow the user access to resources for completing the onboarding process. For example, you could provide a link to HR that allows the user to check that all necessary on-boarding procedures have been completed.
Post-Setup Survey Can Fix Problems Quickly
At the end of an IT system setup process, you can provide a quick survey to query the user on how easy the setup process was, whether any problems were encountered, and whether he or she was able to solve those problems. The results of these surveys can help the IT and HR departments identify areas where the IT system setup process can be improved. If an employee is unable to complete IT system setup, each page in the process should offer information on who to contact and how to do so in order to get extra help.
Workflow Automation Makes the Process Far More Efficient
IT system setup is one of countless processes that can be made better with workflow automation. You can probably think of a dozen such processes for your own organization. Workflow automation can be used not only for IT system setup, but also for filling out forms, signing up for training, requesting building maintenance, or ordering office supplies. The only limits are your imagination. And with PerfectForms, the process is simple even for the non-programmer, allowing construction of electronic forms and workflows through an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. We encourage you to contact us here at PerfectForms if you’d like to learn more. We would be more than happy to answer all your questions.
The phone rings and it’s your boss. Whatever you do now needs to be done four times faster – your job now hinges on the efficiency of your workflow. You’ve got to find a way to speed things up exponentially, without losing data or impairing the quality of customer and client service. It sounds like a desperate science fiction scene in which you’ve got to make the spaceship go faster without going off course, right? Welcome to the world of business process management, which now permeates every corner of corporate culture.
BPM Improves Speed and Accuracy
Business process management (BPM) is the art of making business workflows more effective, more efficient and more capable of adapting to an ever-changing environment. BPM is about more than just creating speed, however. The field is also devoted to minimizing redundant and repetitive tasks, reducing human errors, improving communication, and enabling employees to focus on their core roles.
BPM Growth Fueled by Cloud and Mobile
Traditionally, BPM has been an in-house activity, but with advances in cloud computing, there is increased interest in on-demand, software as a service (SaaS) offerings. And with solutions more available to small businesses and entrepreneurs via mobile, social, and cloud technology industry analysts are predicting exponential growth in BPM solutions.
Businesses once devoted much of their IT budgets to creating BPM systems, but a survey by Gartner shows that an increasing number of companies are turning to online solutions or pre-designed workflow automation software, and funding the cost from their business budgets.
BPM Software Appeals to Large and Small Firms
Explosive, hockey stick growth is predicted for BPM software and online forms because they are accessible to individuals and small businesses via mobile devices. According to IT powerhouse Cisco, there are now over 7.4 billion mobile devices in circulation, and over 400 million new devices purchased every year.
A 2015 report from Gartner also explains that in addition to smart device adopters, the new BPM tools offer advanced services like analytics, custom designs, process simulations, real-time decision management, and enhanced support – qualities that attract midsize and large businesses.
Industry experts claim that BPM as a service or SaaS market will grow 37.18% by 2019.
The Birth of iBPMS
Having a one-stop solution for all kinds of workflow challenges has given rise to a new industry niche – the intelligent business management process suite, or iBPMS. The iBPMS providers create internet drive-throughs that offer the ability to create online forms, form creation software, and easy-to-use workflow tools.
The Bottom Line
And it isn’t just efficiency and accuracy that businesses are looking at. According to Harvard Business Review, companies that manage their sales pipelines effectively are achieving a 5.3 growth rate and revenue increases of 15% to 28%–versus companies with poor pipeline management in their survey who eked out only a 4.6 growth rate.
Gartner research director Rob Dunie says that one of the key strengths of BPM tools and iBPMS is that it provides critical intelligence when talking to customers. “An iBPMS supports business responsiveness, often at the ‘moment of truth’ in a customer interaction,” said Mr. Dunie.
Global BPM solutions and suites can be found for every type of business – retail, service or manufacturing – and for every size.
Data all by itself is hard to use for decision making, and that’s why data reporting is so important. Reporting is about communicating the information that the data reveals, and summarizing the data so that it is useful to users.
Suppose one of your managers requests critical information necessary to manage a particular production task. Providing that information in the form of a stack of spreadsheets technically gives him or her that necessary information, but wading through it, making sense of it, and drawing conclusions will be a protracted and difficult undertaking.
Providing a report based on the numbers in those spreadsheets, on the other hand, makes sense of data and allows your manager to make informed decisions more quickly. When you have the ability to create reports from the data your forms and workflows collect, you are able to do far more with your data, potentially gaining insights that can give you an edge over the competition.
Less About “Keeping Score,” and More About Innovating
Before we had so much access to data, and the tools for organizing and crunching it, much of business management centered around controlling costs. While that is still important, of course, today there is more emphasis on providing relevant information that can help daily business decision-making. Whereas before, “keeping score” with historical data was about the best we could expect, today we have the ability to use data to provide information that can increase innovation. The key is having the tools for reporting it so data has meaning and offers insight.
Putting Your Forms and Workflows to Work Generating Valuable Information
When you use electronic forms and workflows in your business, you already enjoy benefits of greater efficiency and fewer errors. But did you know that all that data collected by those forms and workflows can do more? When your workflow software allows easy visibility into work processes, you can take data your forms and workflow processes collect and examine it in new ways. For example, you can look at data across multiple forms and summarize it in a single report. Or you can compare two workflows to see if one gets better results than the other.
Visibility Into the Workflow Process Is Key
Suppose you are interested in which of two office locations has a higher order total per sales rep. You can take information from completed invoice forms and choose various data objects, including order totals, and which office location recorded them. Once you determine a cumulative order total for each office location for the same time period, you can divide these numbers by how many people are at each location to get a per capita sales number for each. If Office Location A is selling twice as many products as Office Location B, you may want to delve deeper to find out why. You can do this easily if your forms and workflow software has built-in reporting capabilities.
“It’s Probably Too Hard to Create the Reports I Want”
If you use manual processes, or cobbled-together processes that are part manual and part automated, then reporting can be quite a challenge. However, when your business uses integrated electronic forms and workflow software that includes reporting tools, you have powerful reporting capabilities at your fingertips. It’s worth taking some time and exploring the types of reports you can create to see which ones offer important information that can not only help you gauge past performance, but make better decisions going forward.
Add Reporting to Forms and Workflows for New and Valuable Insights
Automated forms and workflows are great in and of themselves. But you can make them do more if your software allows easy reporting. PerfectForms offers powerful built-in reporting tools that let you build reports using a similar interface to that which you use to intuitively create your electronic forms and workflows in the first place. That means that the data your forms and workflows collect can be examined at any time and reported on in ways that make sense and offer new insights. If you would like electronic forms and workflows that do more through the power of reporting, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We would be happy to show you how PerfectForms can perfectly meet your needs.
Financial operations within any company can be intricate. When your financial operations are carried out by manual processes with paper forms, not only does it take more time than it should, opportunities for mistakes abound.
Maybe some of the financial software options you’ve looked at don’t seem like the right fit for your business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t simplify your financial operations. The right workflow software will let you create custom-tailored workflows and electronic forms so they fit your processes, not the other way around. Here are 5 ways you can simplify your company’s financial operations.
1. Make Capital Expenditures Easier to Track
Keeping track of capital expenditures is a challenging task that it’s absolutely essential to get right. But tracking capital expenditures manually, and physically filing the papers related to them can be a full-time job in itself. Workflow software allows you to turn a clunky capital expenditures process into a streamlined electronic process, where every step can be logged automatically, and you don’t need a room full of filing cabinets to archive all the associated documentation. Additionally, every step of every capital expenditure can be reviewed at any time.
2. Accelerate Reimbursement Requests
Manual reimbursement request processing can end up costing nearly as much as the reimbursement itself unless you have a logical workflow for it. Fortunately, workflow software allows you to make your workflows electronic, so shuffling papers back and forth become a thing of the past. With a smart reimbursement request workflow, the cost of reimbursing employees drops because your personnel are spending far less time filling out forms manually and handing them off to people. Plus, the process becomes less error-prone.
3. Make Expense Reporting Easier on Everyone
Expense reporting can be a chore when it’s done by hand. But when you convert expense reporting into an electronic workflow, everyone benefits, from the employees who must submit expense reports to the approving managers to the people in accounts payable who disburse the money. Some workflow software solutions offer mobile functionality too, making the process even more convenient. Your employees who travel frequently can use their mobile devices to work on the expense reporting process even before they return to the office.
4. Keep Purchase Orders Organized
Purchase orders and their approval steps have to remain organized and trackable so that you don’t end up with mistakes like duplicate purchases. Manual purchase orders take an inordinate amount of time to complete and process compared to electronic purchase orders. When your workflow software allows you to create an electronic purchase order process where the electronic forms look just like the manual ones, the learning curve is short, and immediately it becomes easier to track and manage purchase orders at any point in the cycle.
5. Streamline the Billing and Invoicing Process
Mistakes in billing and invoicing can cost a company money and embarrassment when things go wrong. Furthermore, you want to complete and send out bills and invoices in a timely manner so they can be paid in full more quickly. Paper is not the way to do this. Most clients and customers expect electronic billing and invoicing and are able to process electronic invoices faster than paper ones. The result is time savings on everyone’s part, and a billing cycle that is efficient and makes accounting and forecasting easier.
Save Money While Making Financial Operations Easier
Perhaps the best thing about streamlining financial operations with workflow software is that you make financial operations easier while at the same time making them less costly. Processes move more quickly, they’re less prone to error, and there is far less physical paper to keep track of and file. And if you’re worried that workflow software is only for big enterprises or those with a deep IT bench, stop worrying.
PerfectForms is designed so that non-programmers can use the interface to create customized electronic forms and workflows that perfectly suit your requirements. Plus, it can be used in the cloud so you don’t have to worry about having the “iron” on-site to run it. Have a look at our demo and see how easy it is to take your financial processes to a higher level of functioning quickly, so you can enjoy the benefits of better, faster workflows as soon as possible.
To anyone who was around before email, the humble email message is a marvel of speed and efficiency. But emails themselves can be automated – triggered by certain events no necessity for human intervention. Email automation is remarkably useful in business.
Primarily used by marketing teams to nurture leads and reestablish contact with dormant leads, automated emails can actually be used for many other processes in departments other than marketing. Workflow software is the key to automating email processes, and even if your work has nothing to do with marketing, you can make use of automation to make your work life easier and minimize mistakes. Here are some ways workflow software can make emails easier.
Marketing Emails Triggered for Customer Actions on Your Website
Whether or not your company does ecommerce, if someone is spending a lot of time exploring your website, it’s good to know. Perhaps they are looking for a vendor for the products or services you provide, or maybe they’re looking for a job in your industry. Either way, getting in touch with these people is a positive, proactive step.
With workflow software, you can automatically trigger a welcoming email to people who enter their email address on your website landing pages. If your site has multiple landing pages, you can use your workflow software to trigger an email appropriate to their inquiry. For example, someone who enters an email on a landing page to find out more about a product can be automatically sent product information, while someone entering an email on your “Careers” page can be sent an email relating to open job positions.
Automatic Emails to Acknowledge Registration for Training
Coordinating corporate training is more involved and complicated than many people think it is. Suppose you’re in charge of registering people hired within the last three months for safety training. Your safety training workflow can be set up to identify new hires and automatically send them an email requesting that they register for a safety training session. Whenever someone registers, a confirmation email can be automatically sent to the registrant, with a copy sent to you to let you know who has registered. Reminder emails can be sent out to registrants one week, and then one day before the training session so nobody forgets to attend.
Email Triggers When Certain Forms Are Completed
Forms are a fact of life for businesses, but workflow software makes them better in every way: less paper and ink are required, mistakes are minimized, and audit trails can be created automatically. You can also use workflow software to automatically send out confirmation emails notifying people that their completed expense report form, travel reimbursement form, or office supply request form was successfully submitted.
Automatic confirmation emails can be used in countless work scenarios. When someone requests a truck from the transportation pool, an automatic email with details of the reservation can be sent out, or when a person signs up for the company volleyball team, a confirmation email containing the game and practice schedule can be delivered automatically, for example.
Email Triggers When an Action Hasn’t Taken Place
Sometimes people need to be notified when they haven’t done something. Suppose your engineering staff is responsible for turning in an electronic timecard by Thursday at noon. If they forget, the absence of their submitted timecard can trigger a reminder email. These reminder emails can also be turned into text message reminders if the worker has signed up for them. Or suppose someone signed up for a training session but doesn’t show up. As soon as the training leader has taken rollcall, those who are absent can be automatically notified by email that their absence was noted and they need to reschedule.
The Possibilities Are Virtually Limitless
Workflow software can be put to an amazing variety of creative uses in the workplace. Automated email messages have been a relied-upon tool of marketing professionals for years, but they can be put to work in just about any department, saving time and phone calls, getting problems rectified quickly, and creating an audit trail that could be useful later on.
PerfectForms is workflow software that’s flexible enough to tailor to each user’s needs. And the interface is intuitive, so a non-technical person can create electronic forms and workflows with no programming knowledge required. All users have to do is drag and drop elements into place on a virtual canvas. Best of all, you can try it out for free and see for yourself how many possibilities workflow software can open up in your business.
You are proud of your business’s reputation for getting things done. But lately, getting them done has become more difficult. Something is slowing down processes, and these bottlenecks are hurting efficiency. What can you do? Do you need to call in a high-priced corporate efficiency guru?
Probably not. You can identify bottlenecks with a workflow map that shows processes and sub-processes in detail. With the help of the people who perform these processes, you can ensure your workflow map is accurate, and you can identify precisely where things are slowing down so you know where improvement efforts should be concentrated.
The Workflow Map: Breaking it Down
There’s no one “right” way to create a workflow map. There is software that can do it, or you could start with a pencil and paper. It’s a graphical representation of a workflow that shows in sequence each step required to complete the process. It also shows the routes between steps, as well as a launch step that triggers the entire workflow. A launch step could be something like “An order arrives,” or “Someone new is hired.”
Simple processes result in simple workflow maps, and complex processes often result in complex workflow maps that may include several sub-processes, each of which can be broken down into its own workflow map. A workflow map is essentially step-by-step documentation of “What happens when this triggering event occurs?”
Identifying Bottlenecks Requires Input from Several People
Creating an accurate workflow map, and then identifying where bottlenecks occur requires the input of the people who actually carry out the processes. A “high level” view of a workflow risks omitting steps which may not appear important, but make a real difference. Asking people who use a workflow, “Where do you get bogged down?” is extremely helpful. One process user may tell you that the network is slow, so using his software takes longer than it used to. Another may say that her warehouse team is picking twice as many orders as last year despite not having hired any additional staff. This is the kind of input you need to determine solutions to these bottlenecks.
What Happens When You Identify a Bottleneck?
When you identify a bottleneck, speak with the process users and ask them what would help. If the company network is slow, speak with IT and find out if your ISP can deliver more bandwidth. If someone has to type information from hand-completed paper forms into a database, consider a pilot project for making those paper forms electronic. You may find that there’s only so much you can do to automate or accelerate a workflow without hiring more people, but in those cases you can be confident that you’re hiring people in positions that will make a positive difference.
Improving Workflow Maps
Improving workflow maps is ultimately about improving workflows themselves. Once you have identified and addressed a workflow bottleneck, adjust your workflow map accordingly. The very process of identifying and addressing bottlenecks is often enough to help you (and other process users) recognize other opportunities to improve workflows. If your pilot project to make a paper form electronic is a success, you could expand it to other manual workflows and experience improved productivity throughout your organization. Having the “right” workflow map isn’t nearly as important as having one that is useful to the organization and to the people who use the actual workflows.
Who Has the Time?
If you’re buried in work, naturally you don’t feel like you have time to map out a workflow. But even if you can find time to map out one part of a workflow, you might find glaring inefficiencies that can be rectified without a lot of trouble. Software like PerfectForms can help. PerfectForms is software for creating electronic forms and workflows, and it uses a convenient drag-and-drop interface for both form creation and workflow creation. And you don’t have to know how to program to use it. It’s fast, and can start you on the road to improved workflows right away. We encourage you to get in touch with us any time to learn more. We would be more than happy to answer your questions.