At Oregon’s Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, the Focus is on Advocacy, not Paperwork

If someone you love lives in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or adult care home, you want reassurance that if there is a problem with their care, it can be resolved quickly. In the state of Oregon, the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman has a small staff and a large team of volunteers whose job it is to advocate for the rights and dignity of the people living in these long term care facilities. It involves visiting residents individually and discussing any issues or difficulties they may be having with their care.

 

Electronic frms

In Oregon, ombudsman volunteers help ensure better conditions for long term care residents.

 

Ombudsman volunteers are problem-solvers and their services are invaluable to residents of long term care facilities and their loved ones. But because of strong regulation in the care industry, these volunteers must carefully document their interactions, problems, and the steps they take. Until a few years ago, this documentation was done on old-fashioned, carbon-paper forms, with information later entered into a database. This was far from ideal.

 

Problems With Using Paper Forms

When ombudsman volunteers had to use paper forms, filling out paperwork took longer, and getting information into the database was slow. Something as simple as an illegible word could affect the accuracy of the information. Also, volunteers had to choose from a list of situational codes listed on the back of the forms, and it wasn’t always clear which code was appropriate. The system was cumbersome, slow, error-prone, and not conducive to efficient problem solving for long term care residents. Clearly electronic forms were necessary.

 

The Switch to Electronic Forms

The Long Term Care Ombudsman office evaluated their options and decided to use PerfectForms to create a pilot program involving a single online form and an automated workflow to support it in three counties. It didn’t take long to realize the benefits of the electronic form and workflow, and the program was rolled out across Oregon. Without clunky, carbon paper forms, error rates dropped, and information got into the system much faster, which meant problems could be solved faster. The new forms also offered assistance problem codes by allowing form users to instantly look up a code definition to ensure it is the most applicable. Speed, accuracy, and results all improved quickly.

 

Bottom Line: Volunteers Spend More Time with Clients

Perhaps the greatest benefit of using PerfectForms to replace paper forms with electronic ones was that it allowed volunteers to spend more time interacting with clients and less time doing paperwork. Long term care residents and their loved ones have the added peace of mind of knowing that problems are reported more quickly and accurately so they can be solved more efficiently. And ombudsman volunteers can do more of what they volunteered for in the first place: helping people in long term care facilities have better quality of life.

 

Electronic forms

Ultimately, electronic forms get problems solved quicker and improve quality of life.

 

Programming Skills Not Required

Transitioning from paper to electronic forms does not require a major IT initiative or hiring of programmers. PerfectForms allows non-technical users to create electronic forms that look exactly like their paper versions if they want, down to colors, fonts, and position of information fields. Forms are created with a drag-and-drop interface, and the information fields can be customized with drop-down menus, specifications of type of data required (so that only numbers go in an ID number field, for example), and auto-population, where multiple fields can be populated by data entered one time.

Moreover, electronic forms are easily connected into logical workflows, and trigger events can be designated so appropriate personnel are automatically notified when certain actions occur. For example, a county coordinator could be notified that a new problem form has been submitted about a particular care home so it can be acted upon as quickly as possible.

 

Conclusion

PerfectForms is all about helping people do their work more effectively and more efficiently, with fewer errors. In Oregon, the Long Term Care Ombudsman office cut paper usage by two-thirds in the first year, and when regulations change, they can modify the affected electronic forms in minutes rather than redoing the paper forms, which could take months. Case reporting became faster, as did training of volunteers, because using the forms is intuitive, and training modules could be made conveniently available online. Best of all, the volunteers were overwhelmingly pleased with the electronic forms, because it allowed them to focus on caring for people rather than doing paperwork.

If electronic forms sound like something your organization could benefit from, check out our demo video and see for yourself how easy to use and powerful PerfectForms is.

Automation: It’s Not Just for the Factory Anymore

Automation has revolutionized manufacturing around the world, allowing consistent, fast production, and reducing safety hazards and other risks. Because of automation, people everywhere can enjoy products that incorporate high quality control standards and help keep prices affordable.

 

Automation

Automation is essential to manufacturing, and is becoming more essential to non-manufacturing processes as well.

 

The concept of “shared services” is also popular in business today. It’s essentially the centralization of services that are used by more than one department. By sharing resources, internal service provision becomes more efficient and cost-effective. Not only are responsibilities shared, but so is accountability, and the success of shared services is often evaluated based on defined measures like key performance indicators.

The idea behind shared services is that business processes can be managed more efficiently, and some of the “silos” that tend to spring up in organizations can be avoided. Shared services and automation of processes go hand in hand. Manufacturing isn’t the only thing that can be automated. Countless back office processes and procedures can be automated too, whether or not your business manufactures products.

 

Shared Services and Automation

When shared services are combined with automation of services, tremendous benefits can be realized. For example, suppose rather than each department having its own process for collecting time cards, the entire organization is able to centralize and automate the process. Now, rather than each department collecting time cards and delivering them to Payroll, the entire organization’s time cards are completed electronically and are instantaneously delivered to Payroll upon completion. Lost or illegible time cards are no longer an issue.

Many businesses have redundant processes that could be centralized and automated, and probably also have many individual departmental processes that could be automated through electronic workflows.

 

You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel

Automation and shared services have been around long enough that they’re considered tools. Your business doesn’t have to start from scratch to create automated processes in most cases, because there are either existing automation technologies that can help you, or there are tools you can use to create your own custom automations. You could, for example, choose to automate travel expense reporting through online expense reporting forms that can accept electronic receipts or photos of paper receipts, and then automatically deposit reimbursement checks.

 

Automation

Use existing automation tools to streamline workflows without reinventing the wheel.

 

You Also Don’t Have to Be an IT Genius

The great thing about automation and shared services today is that you don’t have to lean on your IT team or hire programmers to accomplish them in many cases. Custom programming your automated processes, in fact, could limit future options if your custom software won’t integrate with other processes you automate later. One way that organizations are discovering for automating workflows and implementing shared services is with tools that allow creation of electronic forms and workflows that can be customized to any number of business needs.

 

Meet BPM Needs With Online Forms and Workflows

Creating online forms and managing them with automated workflows doesn’t have to be expensive, technologically difficult, or disruptive. With flexible, powerful solutions like PerfectForms, you can create the exact electronic forms you need, and you can even make them look just like the paper forms that your employees are used to using. This minimizes the learning curve for the transition from paper to electronic forms. And when workflows are automated, there’s no chasing down paper forms, and recipients can be automatically notified of delivery through email alerts.

 

Conclusion

Automation has done wonders for manufacturing, improving safety, productivity, and quality. It’s also making countless business processes more efficient and effective, from managing the transportation pool to building maintenance to IT services. Today you don’t need programming skills or deep pockets to automate business processes, because powerful software like PerfectForms makes it easy. You can reduce resource expenditures, save time, reduce error rates, and make business flow faster and better. If you’d like to know more about how PerfectForms can help you automate business processes, please contact us at any time. It would be our pleasure to hear from you and answer your questions.

4 Ways to Make a Human Resources Specialist’s Job Easier

Human Resources is a department that deals with an astounding range of tasks that requires knowledge of subjects from employment law to psychology to budgeting. HR tasks are absolutely essential to successfully running a business, and those tasks are becoming more complex all the time, especially in regulation-heavy industries like healthcare.

 

Human resources

HR specialists must master a large range of skills.

 

Your HR professionals need exceptional tools to allow them to complete their diverse tasks in an efficient and effective manner. Otherwise, recruiting, on-boarding, administering benefits, and retaining top employees can suffer. Fortunately, you have great options for providing HR with customized tools that streamline processes and make things run more efficiently. Here are 4 ways to help make your HR specialists’ jobs easer.

 

1. Switch from Paper Forms to Electronic Forms

Don’t stick with paper forms just because that’s how you’ve always done it. With the right software, you can make electronic forms that look just like your paper forms, but function significantly better. When you create electronic forms that look like the paper forms people are used to using, there’s very little learning curve for end-users. You can expect fewer errors, because you can specify what types of information are allowed in each field, and you won’t have to worry about forms being lost or misplaced, because they can be automatically routed electronically to the proper recipient(s). You’ll save time and money, and improve your environmental footprint.

 

2. Make Use of Cloud Technology

Don’t think that adopting electronic HR processes has to involve the installation of servers and the skills of a dedicated programming team. When you use cloud providers, such as a cloud provider of electronic forms, the provider takes care of all the hardware as well as upgrades, patches, and improvements so that all users are always using the latest version of the software. With a cloud solution for electronic forms, you have all the power of big, impressive infrastructure, but you don’t have to cope with server maintenance, increased electricity demands, or manual software patching and upgrades.

 

3. Make Things Easier on the Employee Side

Think of employee processes that are form-intensive, such as new employee on-boarding or enrolling in fringe benefit programs. A brand new employee is probably already overwhelmed by being in a new work environment, and a big stack of paper forms waiting on his desk the first day can be quite intimidating.

 

Human resources

Help employees help HR by creating user-friendly electronic forms.

 

Electronic forms can simplify this in many ways. Not only will your new employee not worry about losing a form, you can set up electronic forms so that data entered once can populate appropriate fields on numerous forms. Moreover, you can connect those forms into workflows that automatically submit completed forms to their proper recipients, giving your new hire one less thing to worry about.

 

4. Create Processes That Incorporate Built-In Automated Alerts

One of the best things about using electronic forms and workflows in an HR setting is that you can designate trigger events that automatically notify appropriate personnel. For example, the completion of a health insurance enrollment form can be made to automatically notify your insurance liaison so the employee can be enrolled as quickly as possible. Once a new hire completes his or her intake forms, building maintenance can be automatically notified to issue a key card or access code. And all this takes place without phone tag, messages, or frustration, because alerts are delivered to the right person immediately, every time.

 

Conclusion

HR specialists have to have competence in a remarkable range of subjects. Among other things, they’re tasked with ensuring the company complies with employment law, that benefits are administered correctly, and that employee leave is accounted for with perfect accuracy. It only makes sense to rid HR of clunky paper-based forms whenever possible.

PerfectForms makes that easy. With your choice of cloud or on-site deployment, you can create beautiful electronic forms that look just like your paper forms if you want. Then you can collect them into workflows that ensure all steps are completed, all proper personnel are notified, and no forms are lost or misplaced. Why not try out PerfectForms for yourself for free? You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to streamline HR and other business tasks with our intuitive, drag-and-drop interface.

What’s the Best Software to Create Forms?

Though often maligned, forms are essential to the workplace. They collect information in a standardized manner so it can be used for any number of purposes: enrollment in a fringe benefit program, requesting help for an IT problem, reporting business trip expenses, or signing up for the company volleyball team.

 

Create forms

Few businesses can operate effectively without forms.

 

Fortunately, businesses are largely shifting from paper forms to electronic forms, which are faster and more accurate for everyone involved. Electronic forms also lead to sometimes significant savings on paper and ink as well as time. You have many options for creating forms. In fact, your word processing software may have some form templates. But the best software to create forms is software designed expressly for that purpose. Look for the following features in your forms software.

 

Auto-Population

Auto-population saves time and prevents errors. Whether it offers “auto-complete” functionality based on common input responses, or whether it’s able to use one field of information to populate multiple forms, auto-population is a feature you should require. The best software to create forms takes as many measures as possible to make things easy on the people who will be filling out forms.

 

Mobility

You may not think of mobility as a big deal when you evaluate forms software, but it really can make a tremendous difference. Suppose your business sends employees into the field, to make repairs, deliver items, or consult with clients. When you make the forms they use available on mobile devices, everyone benefits. Your delivery driver can mark delivery status on his tablet as soon as the delivery is made. If a sales team member receives a new order from a client, she can submit the order immediately. In today’s business world, the best software to create forms incorporates mobility.

 

Workflows

Sometimes forms stand alone in their function. But many times, forms represent one part of a complex workflow. Think about when you bring a new employee into your company. You have to collect a substantial amount of information before an employee ID badge can be made, keys can be cut, or a computer workstation can be set up. Your forms software should allow you to connect the forms you create into logical workflows that automatically notify the appropriate personnel when steps are completed. You could, for example, have the IT department automatically alerted to assign a laptop once an employee’s ID badge has been made and issued, with no phone calls necessary to coordinate it all.

 

Create forms

Connect related forms into workflows and save even more time.

 

Outstanding User Interface

Of course you want to create forms that look terrific and are easy for people to use. But the best software to create forms goes further by providing an outstanding interface for the people who use it to create the forms in the first place. If your form creation software is clunky or non-intuitive, people will avoid using it, or may find it overly frustrating and confusing. Those who create forms and workflows should have an interface that makes sense: a “blank canvas” onto which they can arrange fields how they want easily. Linking forms together to create workflows should be similarly intuitive and not require advanced IT skills.

 

Integration With Other Software and Data Sources

Imagine you have a spreadsheet or database full of information that you would like to use to populate a form. Can your forms software pull data in from other sources without a custom programming effort? What if your business takes in information from your website, like customer or purchase information? Does your forms software know what to do with the data it collects? Forms software today should be able to do this, and it should be able to do it without your having to write programming code. Even if this is not something you need now, it’s smart to insist that your forms software have these capabilities so you’ll be ready should the need arise.

 

Conclusion

Creating forms does not have to mean using your word processing software to create something that’s just acceptable. The best software to create forms is designed for that purpose and includes a suite of features that makes life easy for the people who use the forms and for those who create them. Outstanding forms software should also allow you to create streamlined workflows, work on mobile devices, and should let you do all this without programming. PerfectForms does all this and more. It’s flexible and powerful enough that PerfectForms users often discover many innovative uses they hadn’t thought of before. Watch the PerfectForms demo and see the possibilities for yourself.

How BPM Software is Changing the Way Business Gets Done

The BPM Institute defines business process management as how a company defines, improves, and manages their business processes in order to achieve three outcomes:

• A clear strategic direction

• Optimal resource use

• Better-disciplined daily operations

 

BPM software

Optimizing business processes affects the bottom line and employee morale.

 

The concept of BPM software isn’t necessarily as straightforward as, say, word processing software, because BPM needs can vary so widely from one company to another. While some companies may purchase BPM software suites that do what they want, others may have difficulty finding BPM software that’s right for their needs. That doesn’t mean they have to give up on the concept of BPM, however. Here are some ways BPM software is changing how organizations operate.

 

BPM Software Allows Companies to Test Out New Ideas

BPM software lets businesses test new ideas without making an enormous commitment of capital and time. Software should be flexible enough to allow a business to custom design its processes and workflows and test out their implementation without major disruption. This is particularly true of cloud-hosted BPM software, because it eliminates the need for an organization to install and maintain the software on their own servers. Being able to test out new ideas is essential for maintaining agility and being able to innovate quickly.

 

Well-Executed BPM Helps Businesses Create Scalable Solutions

An outstanding BPM software solution lets companies create and test solutions, and then scale them up easily. For example, a company may use its BPM software to create and manage the process of requesting IT services. Once they discover that the process increases efficiency and accuracy, they may decide that the process could be scaled up to include other departments, such as maintenance and human resources. Or, an organization may use BPM software to create a pilot program, and then scale up to the entire company if it’s successful.

 

SMAC is Improving BPM Software

SMAC stands for Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud, and encompasses four technologies that are impacting a lot of workplace functions. In addition to the cloud benefits listed above, the benefits of mobility for BPM software are evident in companies where there are a lot of field workers. Analytics can provide valuable information to those who design work processes in terms of efficiency gains and problems with processes. Some companies even integrate social networking into their work processes to create team cohesion and a sense of unity.

 

BPM software

Mobility means workers don’t have to be tied to a workstation to use business processes.

 

BPM Software Is Starting to Put the Internet of Things to Work

As objects and machines become “smarter,” BPM software is gaining abilities to put the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) to work improving processes. For example, sensors could be made to send data (perhaps temperature or pressure data) to software or databases. Pattern recognition or predictive analytics could be incorporated into processes. In workplaces where smart technology (thermostats, lighting, etc.) are used, IoT data can be used to track things like energy efficiency and cost savings as part of operations.

 

It’s Helping Businesses Discover New Opportunities

When companies are able to make their processes better and more efficient, they can open up new opportunities. They may be able to enter new markets, create new products, or improve operations in ways that directly affect the bottom line. Suppose a company puts all (or a large subset of) its paper forms online and connects them into logical electronic workflows with BPM software. Error reduction and savings in terms of time, paper, and ink can produce an impressive return on investment, allowing the company the means to explore new opportunities.

 

Conclusion

BPM software doesn’t necessarily mean a major IT initiative or huge capital expenditure. Many innovative companies and organizations use PerfectForms as BPM software and have had remarkable results. With PerfectForms, you can take paper processes and make them electronic and intuitive. You can also link your electronic forms into logical workflows, and you do it all with drag-and-drop convenience, with no programming required. Check out some of our case studies and see how educational, healthcare, marketing, government, and insurance organizations have harnessed the power of BPM software by using PerfectForms.

4 Ways to Improve the Onboarding of Millennial Employees

A study by the Wynhurst Group found that nearly one-quarter of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment. Losing any employee can be expensive, but losing a new employee can be particularly costly because your business has not had time to benefit from his or her skills. It takes around eight months for the typical new employee to reach full productivity.

 

Millennial employees

How you onboard new employees sets the tone for their tenure at your company.

 

This is an important reason that it’s essential to start things out right with your new employees. Dropping the ball during the employee onboarding process could mean the difference between a satisfied employee who stays around for a long time, and one who is looking for the first opportunity to work elsewhere.

Today, it’s likely that many of your new hires are young adults of the Millennial generation. Almost half of Millennials think the employee onboarding process could stand improvement. Feedback is important to all new employees, and Millennials in particular want feedback to come more often than their quarterly or annual review. Take a look at your onboarding process and assess how it could be better. Following are 4 suggestions for improving the onboarding process for your new Millennial workers.

 

1. Don’t Wait Until They Arrive to Begin the Onboarding Process

Many companies can begin the onboarding process between the time a new hire accepts a position and his or her first day at work. A solid “pre-join” program can include online training modules, presentation of company information and history, and the opportunity for new hires to fill out some of the paperwork involved with joining a company’s workforce. The less actual paper you use for this, the better. Millennials are used to accomplishing tasks online and will appreciate being able to fill out multiple human resources forms online rather than on paper. Electronic forms are also less error-prone and you can arrange them into electronic workflows so that information entered once populates multiple forms and fields automatically.

 

2. Use Video to Introduce Geographically Distributed Team Members

Geographical location is not as big a factor in work team composition as it used to be. It’s not unusual for a project or work team to be scattered across different cities, states, or even countries. Online videos introducing key team members can save time on the part of team leaders, cut down on travel requirements, and help new hires put faces with names and get to know their new colleagues. Depending on company policy and what your new employee will be working on, these “get to know you” videos could be included as part of the pre-join program, or they could wait until the new employee has officially started work. Video offers everyone considerable flexibility in the onboarding process.

 

Millennial employees

Video conference technology is great for introducing geographically dispersed team members.

 

3. Company Social Media Can Help New Hires Feel Welcome

Millennials cut their teeth on social media, and many companies now have employee social networks. Social forums, discussion boards, and other participatory online interaction can help with the assimilation process for new workers, by allowing them to get to know their co-workers a little better and learn more about the corporate environment. Moreover, company social networks make it easier for leaders to offer new hires a personal touch by “introducing” them online and offering guidance without having to carve out large chunks of time for more formal introductions. A new employee FAQ page, or a questions and answers forum for new hires can also help your new employees gain their bearings.

 

4. Ensure All Appropriate Personnel Are Kept Apprised of a New Hire’s Status

Onboarding isn’t just for the new employee, but for everyone who will interact with that new person. That means all key personnel should be kept in the loop concerning when the new person’s first day is, whether they have acquired necessary credentials yet, which projects they’ll charge their time to, and where they’ll be located, for a start. An onboarding process that includes online forms and workflows that take care of paperwork can also be made to alert those who need to stay informed along the way. A facilities manager may need to know whether a new employee needs keys made, while IT may need to know where to set up the new person’s workstation. An online onboarding process can make all these notifications instant and automatic.

 

Conclusion

A streamlined electronic onboarding process doesn’t have to involve a major IT initiative, because PerfectForms lets anyone create sophisticated, beautiful online forms and link them into productive workflows without any programming. Watch our demo and see for yourself how PerfectForms can make your company onboarding process significantly better.

5 Tips for Successful Business Process Automation

Companies that are able to successfully employ business process automation (BPA) have an easier time controlling costs, and can raise productivity substantially. But BPA shouldn’t be implemented in a vacuum. Rather, it should be part of an overall strategy for increasing business efficiency.

Business process automation

Business process automation can increase efficiency and revenues.

Exactly how you implement BPA depends on what your company does and what your particular workflows consist of. One common type of BPA that works across industries is automating core administrative processes like on-boarding new employees or requesting IT services. But however your company’s BPA takes shape, there are several points you should keep in mind to ensure success. Here are 5 of them.

 

1. Define What You Want “Success” to Mean

What do you want a process to be like once it’s automated? Do you want to cut administrative processing time down from three days to one day? Do you want to eliminate the use of paper forms for a particular workflow or department? Do you want to be able to process a certain increased number of forms per day? By defining what you want BPA success to look like, you make a stronger business case, because both the people involved in the process and those in management are able to understand the benefits of automation.

 

2. Automate Current Processes That Work Efficiently

Automating workflows doesn’t necessarily mean overhauling them completely. If you have a workflow that is highly efficient and makes sense, but that you’d like to speed up, start with that exact workflow and determine which parts can be automated. If you have a highly efficient team manually processing paper-based travel reimbursement requests, how can you make things faster and easier? Perhaps using electronic forms, having all form “hand-offs” occur electronically, and disbursing funds via direct deposit would further streamline an already good process.

 

3. Executive Support and “Ownership” Are Essential

Executive and managerial buy-in is essential to the success of any BPA initiative. Furthermore, having a designated project leader for each initiative helps ensure success. When the people in HR know the name of the person in charge of automating the employee on-boarding process, they know who to contact with questions, and everyone has a “point person” for submitting feedback as the process unfolds. A BPA initiative without clear leadership or executive support cannot be as successful as it would be otherwise.

 

4. So Is Interdepartmental Cooperation

Business process automation

Silos hinder business process automation; collaboration facilitates it.

Some business processes cross departments, and therefore cooperation and collaboration amongst those departments is critical. Whoever is in charge of a particular automation project should work closely with stakeholders in each department that is involved and keep lines of communication open. Otherwise, one department is liable to feel as if another department is “taking over” and that they’re being squeezed out of the automation process. All affected departments should have a say in how automation takes place.

 

5. Measure and Adjust As Necessary

Don’t be surprised if once you automate a process you find flaws that you hadn’t considered before. Once automation is in place, you need to measure the results of the automated process, see what’s working well, and what could stand improvement. The specific key performance indicators you use will vary depending on what process you’re automating, but it’s important to define and measure them before and after automation to learn how big a benefit automation confers. With a flexible automation solution, making modifications as necessary should be fairly straightforward.

 

Conclusion

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that BPA is only for companies with deep pockets and large internal IT departments. Businesses in industries like education, insurance, and healthcare have successfully used PerfectForms as their engine for automating processes, without having to write any programing code.

With PerfectForms, you can make electronic duplicates of the paper forms you use now, so the people who use the paper forms will know how to use them electronically. What’s more, you can link electronic forms into workflows that can significantly accelerate processes like employee on-boarding, travel reimbursement requests, maintenance requests, and a nearly unlimited number of other business processes. Why not try PerfectForms for free and see for yourself how you hold the power of business process automation in your hands today?

How Designing HTML Forms Can Be Surprisingly Easy

There was a time when, if you wanted to create online forms, you had to know hyper-text mark-up language (HTML) and cascading style sheets (CSS). Web designers still learn these skills, but tools now exist that allow people who don’t know how to program to create electronic online forms and automatic workflows.

HTML forms

You can create HTML forms without knowing HTML.

While you can learn a few basic HTML commands in a few days, mastery of HTML and CSS for creation of custom electronic forms that are linked into workflows can take years. And even once you’re fluent in using them, you will probably still experience some degree of trial and error when creating forms and workflows this way.

PerfectForms makes it so you don’t have to know HTML, CSS, or any other type of programming to create custom forms and workflows that look terrific and accomplish what you want. Here’s how easy it can be to design HTML forms without knowing HTML by using PerfectForms.

 

Plan Ahead

If you’re generally happy with your paper-based forms, but want to speed up the form-handling process, you can start there. When electronic forms look just like the paper forms people are used to, there’s very little in the way of a learning curve for users. If your paper forms aren’t great, you can plan for an improved electronic version by sketching out what you want the form to look like, or marking up an existing form to indicate what you want to change. Once you know what you want your form to look like, PerfectForms gives you a blank canvas onto which you place the various form elements.

 

Drag and Drop Elements Into Place

With PerfectForms, rather than writing HTML and CSS code, you drag and drop elements into place on the canvas. First, you specify how many pixels wide and tall your form is. Then you can drag text, pictures, buttons, and blank fields for entering text or numeric input right onto the canvas and position them where you want. You can modify their size, fonts, and colors to coordinate with your company logo or to color-code forms by function. For example, IT request forms might be green, while vacation request forms are blue.

 

Use Radio Button Groups for Either / Or Choices

HTML forms

Radio buttons and drop-down menus make form completion quick.

Suppose you want to set up a workflow so that once a supervisor approves an expense request, the originator of the request and the appropriate person in the finance department are automatically notified. You can provide “radio buttons,” with one for “Approved” and the other for “Denied” to make it quick for the approving authority to render their decision. Once your form is created, you can create a workflow with automated alerts triggered by specific form actions (like approvals or denials). This lets stakeholders know where their forms have progressed to in various processes.

 

Drop-Down Menus Assist With Multiple Choice Form Fields

Some form fields involve selecting from a set group of answers, and with PerfectForms you can create drop-down menus that present these choices for people completing the form to choose from. This not only makes filling out the form faster, it also avoids spelling errors, and prevents people from making choices that are not valid. Suppose you create a form for ordering t-shirts for the annual company picnic. You could create one drop-down menu to allow people to select the correct size and another drop-down menu to allow them to select amongst the available colors.

 

Styles and Themes Allow for Consistency

If you want your department’s or your company’s forms to all have a similar look and feel, you can specify styles and themes so that forms are consistent in terms of font, colors, graphics, and even things like drop-shadows under blank fields. Once set up, styles and themes make it easy to create new forms that have the correct look and feel so that even first-time users of the forms are comfortable with them. Styles and themes allow you to enjoy custom-designed electronic forms without having to hire a designer, learn HTML, or bother the IT department.

 

Conclusion

Organizations in numerous industries have discovered how PerfectForms allows them to cut down drastically on resource use by making forms electronic, and how to automate complex processes so they’re considerably faster and more accurate. Doing what PerfectForms does used to require hiring a programmer and/or a designer, but now, creating beautiful, functional forms that can be linked into automated workflows can be done without writing any programming code at all. If you’d like to know more, please drop us a line at any time, or try out PerfectForms for free and see for yourself how easy it is to create visually stunning HTML forms.

Expert Interview with Al Mackin on Improving Online Forms

Improving online formsAl Mackin, co-founder and CEO of Formisimo, says that overall, one of the most important things business owners can do with their online forms is to make them much easier to complete. Shorter forms routinely have higher conversion rates and can help reduce some of the friction that forms can create between users and businesses.

But there are other ways to improve online forms, too.

“Ask better questions, be conscious of context, remove blockages and make your form smarter so your users have less to fill in,” he says. “Think about what the experience you’re creating for your users with your form and try to improve that experience.”

Al recently spent a few minutes answering questions for us about Formisimo and the best practices for building and using online forms. Here’s what he had to say:

 

What is Formisimo?

Formisimo is an analytics platform for improving online checkouts and forms. We track user every user interaction, crunch that data, and then identify the pain points. We reveal data like where customers drop out, where they make the most corrections, and where they spend the most time. This data shows our customers what they can change in order to increase conversions.

 

What are the benefits of using Formisimo?

Formisimo helps you to understand how your users are behaving in any form on your website. You’ll see a greater degree of insight into user behavior and form performance than with any other analytics tool. We’ve been built from the ground up to tackle the huge problem of checkout and form abandonment.

Whether you use Formisimo on a signup form or a checkout, you’ll be able to identify pain points field by field. These insights are used to optimize your form and increase your conversion rates.

The tool is easy to install, requiring just 60 seconds of time, and you’ll start to see real-time data almost straight away. Our most powerful reports are updated overnight, and we reveal insights in beautiful, easy-to-understand reports.

 

What are some best practices for building online forms for checkout, registration or inquiry?

Any changes should be tested, as all websites are different; but these are general rules to follow for any form:

  • -Keep it as short as possible. Cut or delay any questions that aren’t vital to completing the conversion. For lead generation forms, cut questions in order to increase conversions and then nurture leads better. On ecommerce sites, don’t force shoppers to create an account before they go through the checkout; build it into the thank you page instead.
  • -Don’t repeat questions for security or data integrity (e.g. “retype password.”) Most web users don’t like the effort of retyping and will copy and paste, replicating any error. Get the user through the process as quickly as possible.
  • -Keep users focused. Only have one call to action on landing pages and isolate checkouts from the main site to remove distractions. Shrink down the navigation and any other links on the page, and remove anything that would excite the user and take them back to another part of the site.
  • -Alleviate tasks. As well as cutting unnecessary questions, you can make it easier for users to give information. For example, when adding credit card details, code your form to detect the card type from the card number. You can also allow mobile users to scan new payment cards with their camera.
  • -Maintain trust. Show that your checkout is secure and that you won’t misuse their personal details, and don’t trick users into joining your marketing list. If you’re asking for very personal or non-standard information, explain why you need it.
  • -Make your form accessible. Code your form fields to be easily navigated with a keyboard, ensure field labels are associated with form fields, and avoid using CAPTCHA.

 

What are the most common mistakes you’ve observed in how forms are used on business sites?

The biggest blocker to conversions is too many form fields. It may be that the form is asking for information that the user isn’t ready to give (like a phone number), or simply that the user suffers from form fatigue after being daunted by the effort of answering many questions.

Forms are one of the main ways that marketing information is gathered, but users don’t feel any incentive to provide details that will result in targeted selling. Either gather marketing information more gradually with smart forms, or offer incentives (like 10 percent off their next order) when an account is registered.

On the same note, mobile users need to be able to complete forms even faster. They experience increased difficulty filling in forms on smaller devices and are subject to myriad distractions.

We also see poor error handling in many forms. If users submit a form only to have it return an error or multiple errors, they’re very likely to give up on the process. We recommend:

  • -Good labeling and more flexible data formats to avoid errors in the first place.
  • -Inline validation so users can see and correct errors as they occur.
  • -Useful error messages placed next to the problem field so it’s clear what and where the problem is.
  • -Validate and correct user data automatically, and use loose validation. Phone numbers can be input in many different ways; don’t punish your users because they’re not keeping to your strict view on how they should be added.

 

What metrics should business owners be following on their online forms?

Our reports chart the important metrics you need to know:

  • -Form conversion funnel at three stages, from form visitors to starters to conversions.
  • -Drop off points
  • -Time spent in form fields
  • -Most corrected fields
  • -Number of fields completed before user submits
  • -Performance by country, device and browser

 

What’s the most surprising information your clients learn about their forms while using Formisimo?

Some clients have discovered that parts of their form are broken, which they didn’t know until they could clearly see lots of users dropping off at a specific point. Validation errors are often the cause of the breakage; they don’t cope with anything other than a strict, standard format, and they punish users for not adhering to it.

They’re surprised to see the areas that users hesitate at. When you see the same form every day, you become accustomed to using it,; and it’s only when you see how real customers engage with it that you realize there are flaws.

Our clients are often shocked at the impact a small change in their form can make to the conversion rate and how many customers they’re losing.

 

Outside of forms, what other areas of the site are useful for business owners to analyze?

It’s important to understand the journey your users take through your site and with your product. Do you know how they get to the product page, or are you just assuming they follow the path you’ve designed?

Slow loading sites have higher bounce rates, so check that you aren’t losing conversions because users are getting impatient. There are some great ways to trim down your code and reduce the numbers of assets loading on a page, and keep in mind that users may not have a fast-connection.

Website copy is another big factor for conversions. Copy is your main method of communicating with and persuading your prospects. Testing different copy should be part of your optimization strategy.

 

What are the most interesting or exciting innovations you’ve observed in how online forms are being used or assessed?

It’s great to see developers devising ways to reduce effort for users. Things like postcode lookup, card detection with mobile phone camera, automatic reformatting of data and alternatives to CAPTCHAs make it quicker and easier for user to fill out forms.

It’s getting easier for non-technical marketers to create forms, too, which helps reduce development time and expenses. More analytics services are expanding to offer form analytics as well. The importance of fixing the end of the funnel is being recognized now, but Formisimo remains the most powerful form analytics solution; and we work out of the box on 99 percent of all forms and checkouts.

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How a Data Avalanche was Smartly Handled by One University

Whether in a business or in a school, “on-boarding” new people is administratively intensive and fraught with potential for mistakes, particularly when many on-boarding processes are done manually.

 

Data

Some tasks can’t be automated, but registering and on-boarding new students can be.

 

In a higher education setting, processing an influx of new freshmen every year is an enormous undertaking, and it has to be done correctly to ensure that student records are accurate and that students are able to use their ID cards for their many intended purposes. A few years ago, the Business Affairs department at the University of Tennessee Martin knew there had to be a better way to process the yearly inundation of new students than the manual process they had been using.

 

The Problem

The old way of doing it definitely had its limitations. Six manned digital camera stations would be set up during new student orientation. While registering for orientation, students would stop by the photo stations, where photos were taken in batches of approximately 300. Then a batch of pictures would be processed and uploaded to the school’s ID card program, with cards printed out later in batches.

To receive their ID cards, students would later have to go back to the orientation registration area and line up by the photo stations to wait for someone to hand them their cards. It wasn’t terribly efficient, and most new students had plenty of other things they would have rather been doing than waiting in line for their ID cards. Process Improvement Facilitator Mike Abney of UT Martin looked at his options for creating a better process.

 

Solution: Automated Online Student ID Request Form

PerfectForms caught Abney’s attention. Not only did it have a very reasonable price point with the convenience of cloud hosting, it was flexible and powerful enough to take on any number of manual forms and make them digital, without the need for programming. Using PerfectForms, UT Martin created an automated student request form online. When applying for orientation, students could now go to a web page and upload a photo.

Instead of standing in line at photo stations two separate times, IDs could be made well in advance of orientation day. When students arrived on campus, their ID cards would be ready and waiting for students in their orientation packets. Students who registered for orientation but forgot to upload a photo could be reminded via email so they could be sure their IDs would be ready when they arrived on campus.

 

The Savings: Time, Money, Sanity

 

Data

UT Martin’s new system was considerably easier on students and staff members.

 

With the new system based on electronic online forms created with PerfectForms, the school no longer needed to set up photo booths and hire photographers. The process of herding students through the process was eliminated, and moreover, the school was able to have student assistants supervise ID card creation so that regular staff members could focus on other important tasks. It’s safe to say that students appreciated avoiding long lines and having more time to explore the campus with their new ID cards waiting for them upon arrival.

 

An Award-Winning Approach

This student ID card initiative actually won an award for its ingenuity. At the Professional Development Group’s First Annual Best Practices Awards in April 2010, UT Martin was recognized for this easy-to-manage, money-saving approach. The award validated Abney’s commitment to successfully automating what had been a labor-intensive, time-consuming process. Later on, Abney was able to use PerfectForms to bring dual enrolment wizard workflows, admissions and registration forms, student vaccination forms, and purchasing forms online as well, streamlining several other formerly cumbersome processes.

 

Conclusion

The student ID initiative at UT Martin is just one example of organizations putting the power and flexibility of PerfectForms to work to streamline processes, cut waste, and save money. With PerfectForms, even non-programmers can create beautiful, pixel-perfect custom forms and use these forms to create logical workflows. Results include lower error rates, faster processes, and an end to lost paper forms, along with savings on resources like paper and ink. We invite you to watch our demo and see for yourself how powerful and easy to use PerfectForms is.