Many K-12 schools and institutions of higher education already make use of the convenience of online forms for things like student registration, equipment checkout, and disciplinary reports. Cost savings can be significant. One California school district saved $10,000 by using online forms to automate a single workflow. Multiply this by several workflows, and schools can optimize the use of their funds.
School systems must ensure resources go toward learning activities .
In addition to using workflow tools to create online forms and automate workflows, schools, colleges, and universities can use the same tools to facilitate learning. Online forms can be designed for any task that requires the collection of data, and some classroom projects involve data collection. Why not create online forms for these class projects? The advantages of doing so are significant to teachers and students.
Could Teachers Create Workflows for Class Projects?
Creating workflows for classroom projects is apt for social studies and science projects. Suppose a group of middle schoolers is testing the effects of different soil on plant growth. This would involve regularly recording information about properties like plant height for various soils. If each student can log into an online form each time they measure plant height, and enter the information there, several learning modalities are facilitated. Unlike data collected with pencil and paper, data entered into online forms will not be lost. Mistakes due to a student’s penmanship are eliminated.
The Importance of Mobility for Data Gathering
Suppose a group of high school students in a biology class, or perhaps an ecology club, has been tasked with conducting a weekend bird survey, similar to community bird surveys like the annual Christmas Bird Count. If the teacher creates mobile-friendly data entry forms, students can collect data in the field right on their smartphones, anywhere mobile coverage exists. Not only is this data entry faster, but it is also more likely to be accurate. If the teacher sets a Sunday night deadline for data submission, the results can be tallied and reported as soon as the next class or club meeting.
Kids are glued to their devices anyway, so they might as well use them for learning.
Data That’s Automatically Fed to Databases Is Likelier to Be Accurate
Collecting data on a paper form and then having someone enter it into a database or spreadsheet is tedious and error-prone. The data gathered using workflow tools for online forms can be automatically routed into one or more databases, cutting out the time-intensive manual data entry process so data can be made useful sooner. Moreover, if a teacher does so, he or she can create a new database annually, or once per semester, building up enough data to spot trends, such as an increase in a particular local animal species.
Find Out Results of Data Collection Experiments Quickly
Suppose students can collect data for a class project and enter it into online forms right from their computers or mobile devices. When workflow tools route data to spreadsheets, databases, or other software automatically, the calculation of distributions, averages, medians, and other statistics on the data is fast and accurate. This allows students to make important conceptual connections quickly, so their learning is more engaging and effective. Students could even use online forms software to create their reports about the project.
Schools are no strangers to workflow tools. Many schools rely on them to manage the vast amounts of information generated every school day. However, these workflow tools need not be limited to school administrative tasks like counting attendance and booking buses for field trips. Teachers can use them in the service of learning itself, by creating online forms students can use for class projects. Whether they are learning about historical lifespans from local cemetery headstones, counting butterflies, or tallying different traits in pea plants grown in the classroom, students can benefit from online forms that make data collection quick and accurate. Moreover, if those workflow tools create mobile-friendly online forms, students can make use of mobile devices in their studies.
PerfectForms is a favorite of school systems, for both K-12 and higher education facilities. That is because it offers powerful features, incredible flexibility, and the convenience of a drag-and-drop interface. It means programming is not required to make perfectly customized online forms and workflows. Have a look at some of our case studies. You will be amazed at the potential uses you will envision for PerfectForms in your educational institution
Creative projects are like any other projects in several ways. There are goals, deadlines, and deliverables, and teams hope to learn something during the execution of the project that can make the next project better. An outstanding creative project manager has the same basic skills as any other project manager, plus a certain amount of creativity him or herself.
Effective creative project management encourages, rather than stifles, creativity.
The project manager who gets results and who people want to work with doesn’t make up deadlines from thin air and doesn’t pad schedules beyond the necessary “chaos margin” required with any project. A great project manager is also honest, a strong communicator, and a builder of relationships within project teams, as well as with clients, management, and other key people.
An outstanding project manager doesn’t proceed with the sole aim of checking off boxes, but adjusts as necessary, just as the great chef is prepared to do each time an ingredient is added to a recipe. The goal ultimately isn’t to use this amount of that ingredient, but to end up with a spectacular dish. Sometimes that requires adjustments along the way.
Creative Projects Require Creative Project Management
Trying to force a creative project into the same project management paradigm as, say, an engineering project is a sure way to end up with disillusioned creatives and a mediocre product. Some creative types balk at the mere concept of project management, but when project management itself is accomplished with creativity, it has the effect of better taking care of prerequisites, administrative tasks, and status updates so the creative team can focus more fully on accomplishing creative things.
Online Forms Don’t Replace Communication, but Enhance It
Successful completion of any project requires clear communication. Tools like online forms make communication better. Say you need brief status updates from your graphics lead and your chief copywriter at the end of each day. Don’t rely on sticky notes, voicemail messages, or a few words exchanged as you leave at night.
A simple online form asking for a quick summary of what was accomplished today (“Finished recording the voice-over for the promotional video”) and what’s on tap for tomorrow (“Post-production will edit in the voice-over with the music”) keeps everyone moving forward while keeping all relevant parties informed and ready to take action when needed. These updates also create a record of exactly what has been done when, so any questions about it later can be answered easily.
Simple, custom forms can improve team communication tremendously.
Workflow Solutions Should Be Designed to Enable Collaboration
Project management that’s opaque and hidden from the people actually doing the work is at cross purposes with effective collaboration. But, when all key people have up-to-date visibility into the project at any given time, collaboration is much more natural. Suppose a photographer is waiting on a new logo to be printed. If he can peer into the project management workflow and discover that the printer is scheduled to deliver the print this afternoon, he can plan tomorrow’s work session better. In fact, he could ask to receive an automatically triggered notification as soon as the print is delivered. And remember: the bigger the project, the more important collaboration is. Make sure your online forms and workflow solutions encourage, rather than discourage, collaboration.
Insist on These Features in Your Online Forms Software
To successfully manage creative projects, your online forms software should be powerful, flexible, and intuitive to use. When this is so, workflow solutions are more easily developed to meet the exact needs of the project. Online form software should allow creation of electronic forms and workflows without the need for programming. Users should be able to drag and drop form or workflow elements into place so the steps of the project are clear. The addition of automatic submission of completed forms, triggered notifications of people whose action is needed, and creation of an audit trail saves time and builds documentation at every step. And, if a project report is required after completion, your software should have reporting tools that make report generation simple and powerful.
Creative project management is an active rather than passive endeavor, and it requires a degree of creativity. With workflow solutions wrought by powerful online forms software like PerfectForms, managing creative projects is effective and efficient. An intuitive, drag-and-drop interface, easy implementation of automated submissions and notifications, the ability to create audit trails, and powerful reporting features, PerfectForms is the ideal solution for managing creative projects. Watch the PerfectForms demo and imagine the countless possibilities for your creative projects.
The idea of form following function goes back as far as ancient times, when first century Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio averred that structures should be solid, useful, and beautiful. When form and function are divorced, we’re left either with beauty that lacks utility (which prevents accomplishment), or utility that lacks beauty (which can be defined in many ways, and which can dampen morale and enthusiasm).
Function with little attention to form may accomplish a task, but it’s not great for motivation.
If you think back to the beginnings of human tool use, however, it’s easier to imagine function following form. For example, the smooth stone eventually is used to grind up berries or herbs. The form was there first, and function was assigned to it. But form and function engage in an eternal pas de deux, where neither is whole on its own.
This interdependence is highly evident in terms of business forms, too. A business form that fulfills its function by gathering specific information, yet offers no logic, beauty, or “flow” that makes it easier to use is not a good form. Neither is the perfectly beautiful form that neglects to gather the necessary information. Here’s how to ensure your business forms embody the best in both form and function.
Start with Process Owners and Process Users
If it’s your job to orchestrate workflow tools to make processes more efficient, your starting point should be with the process owners and process users. Perhaps you’re one or the other of those, but even so, it’s important to evaluate how a process is carried out currently, where the snags are, what types of things go wrong, and how much time is spent dealing with problems. For example, if your task is to make the key request process for new hires easier, the people you need to talk to first are the people who assign keys, and some recent new hires for their perspective.
Whether you’re creating workflow tools for issuing keys or cutting checks to reimburse travel expenses, you need to define several aspects of a process function before you ever use your form creation software. Specifically, you need to know:
- General process and form layout
- A summary of the process
- What outputs the process creates
- Workflow stages
- User roles
- Transitions between workflow stages
- Transitions between workflow stages
- Inputs at various stages of the process
- Integration with other processes
- Other relevant information
Your forms and workflows must accomplish the necessary tasks first and foremost. And your form creation software should help you do this, and do it with polish and proficiency.
Define functions with the help of process owners and process users.
Should Form Extend Beyond Function?
Whether form should extend beyond function depends on context. There are some business workflows where it’s all about the output and finesse doesn’t really enter into it beyond simply making sure the process is accomplished efficiently. However, there are business functions where excellent form can take it to another level and even help you differentiate yourself from competitors. For example, an online customer service form can be dry and “all business” and get the job done, but if it is efficient, beautiful, and informative, making customers feel taken care of at every step, form adds to functionality.
Making Your Business’ Overall Form Appropriate to its Function
Whatever business you’re in, from baked goods to industrial control software, how the business is run (its form) should serve its function. On a more granular level, making business forms appropriate and useful for the individual processes that must be accomplished helps serve the overall goals of quality and efficiency. The right workflow tools can make the difference between work processes that get done despite inefficiencies and work processes that flow naturally and inspire a happy workforce.
PerfectForms is form creation software that does far more than just create electronic forms. With its intuitive, drag-and-drop interface, PerfectForms allows creation of entire workflows that are efficient, regulation-compliant, and that perfectly accomplish what they set out to. In other words, PerfectForms is the tool your business needs to ensure that it functions optimally. Watch our demo and see how PerfectForms provides the workflow tools every business can use to perform better.
In an automotive assembly plant the product is automobiles and the assembly line is the primary workflow and business process. However, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Accounting, engineering, payroll, maintenance, and inventory are other business processes that are essential to consistent, high quality accomplishment of business process management (BPM). Business process management tools are used throughout a business, whether in the business’s primary function or in non-primary (but no less essential) functions.
Workflows don’t happen in a vacuum. Countless supporting processes surround a company’s main function.
Ultimately, all those business processes are connected and, if any one were removed, many others would be affected. In other words, even a business with a clearly defined function (“We make cars”) has countless workflows involved to ensure that not only do the cars get made, but also the payroll is distributed, faulty lighting is fixed, safety procedures are followed, and new engineering ideas are tested appropriately. Work flows throughout a business in numerous directions, and business forms are a primary conduit for workflows.
Identifying Processes and Where They Cross Departmental Boundaries
Business process management tools, often incorporated into workflow software, help workflow designers identify processes, where they begin, where they end, and where they cross departmental boundaries. It is at these key junctures where communication is most important for helping departments work together toward the common goal of efficient workflows. Workflow software that allows a “top view” of an entire workflow helps tremendously with this task, helping all participating departments see where in the scheme of things their work falls.
Mapping Out Business Processes
Workflow software should also assist as you map out processes. Some people choose to begin to sketch out workflows with pencil and paper, and this is fine. But BPM optimization requires that your software have the kind of interface that allows you to translate those sketches into functional workflow designs with minimal trouble. Mapping out business processes is a necessary step for managing them effectively, discovering inefficiencies, and making improvements to them. This is how companies keep workflows from experiencing bottlenecks while keeping them coordinated.
Building Forms and Workflows
Sketching or mapping out a process helps everyone understand their part in it better.
The process of building a workflow often starts with sketching or mapping out a process, but when it’s time to automate that workflow, the first step is usually creation of a form. Suppose you want to automate as much of the building maintenance process as you can. Creating an electronic form where employees can report building maintenance issues is a starting point for a workflow that goes from employee to maintenance department to the worker dispatched to make the repair. Repair technicians, too, can use mobile devices to log repairs, saving more time.
Ensuring Quality and Consistency
Defining business processes and workflows isn’t for its own sake, but to ensure consistency and high quality throughout an organization. Like water flowing through irrigation channels, workflows flow to where they’re needed so they can do what they were designed to do. Automating forms and workflows offers tremendous advantages over the old way of doing things with paper forms and manual workflows. With the right business process management tools, any organization of any size can benefit from evaluating and refining workflows.
PerfectForms is workflow software that provides all the business process management tools your organization needs. It’s flexible enough to work across departments, and has an interface designed for the non-technical user, so the burden on your IT staff is negligible. Turn one paper form into an online form and you’ll quickly envision countless ways to streamline forms and workflows throughout your organization. Results include higher efficiency, lower costs, happier customers, and a more motivated workforce.
We encourage you to read through some of the PerfectForms case studies to see how a wide range of organizations have put this outstanding workflow software to use, managing and improving business processes across departments and on all hierarchical levels.
Employee mobility facilitated by laptops, tablets, and smartphones, leads to higher productivity, better work processes, and happier, more engaged employees. But are companies making the most of this opportunity to revamp processes that have needed overhaul for a long time? Not always. This is despite the fact that being untethered to the desktop environment allows employees to take even more advantage of new technologies.
A recent study found that employees who have mobile tools and who have more control where and how they work are more engaged than other employees. An overwhelming 88% of “highly engaged” employees say they have some autonomy to choose where they want to work, depending on the task. If you use workflow software to create online forms and workflows, but aren’t taking advantage of mobility features, you could be limiting how productive and engaged your employees are. Here are four ways mobility takes online forms to the next level.
1. By Facilitating Form Completion When it Matters
If you have field workers who jot down notes or fill out paper forms in the field, or who bring their notes back to the office and complete online forms several hours after job completion, you could be missing out on impressive productivity improvements. When your field service technician, for example, can log a repair using an online form on his tablet or phone as soon as the repair is completed, accuracy increases. This reduces the chances of errors being propagated throughout a workflow, which can upset customers and cause extra time to be spent tracking down and correcting mistakes.
2. By Reducing Dependence on Third-Party Mobile Form Apps
Apps like Google Sheets have their uses in mobile work environments, but generally you’re better off using workflow software that lets you create online forms and make them mobile-friendly. This creates consistency among online forms that your team uses, and eliminates one more app “layer” between your workers and their forms and workflows. It also eliminates worries about third party app upgrades that can wreak havoc, or worries that third party apps will eventually stop being supported altogether.
3. By Integrating with Mobile Security Tools
Companies that must adhere to strict security protocols can, nonetheless, make their mobile online forms and workflows integrate with necessary security tools such as digital signature tools. Many people are still skeptical about the authenticity of signatures on online forms. Providing such security tools helps improve uptake of the technology and reassure workers and clients that forms and signatures are secure and binding. Signing for a delivery electronically takes advantage of what’s best about both online and paper forms.
4. By Keeping Workflows on Track
There are times when the smallest of added conveniences can make a measurable difference in keeping workflows on track. Suppose an employee on her way back from an industry conference realizes she won’t make it back to the office that day due to a delayed flight. With online forms that are mobile friendly, she can go ahead and enter her expense data while waiting on layover: one less task to have to complete once she’s back at her desk. The mobility option alone significantly increases employee flexibility for completing workflows.
Workflow software that isn’t mobile-ready is really only offering your team half a solution. Even if the bulk of your work takes place in a desktop environment, that may not always be the case, and mobile-friendly forms can make things easier on employees who travel on business frequently (and personnel who process their completed forms).
PerfectForms is workflow software that empowers the non-technical employee to create pixel-perfect online forms and workflows that are secure, mobile-ready, and compatible with services like secure signature programs. Field technicians can complete forms the minute a job is complete, and traveling employees can input expenses as soon as they occur. The results are happier, more engaged employees, faster workflows, and fewer errors. Interested in the kinds of results online forms and workflows can produce? Check out some of our case studies and see for yourself the efficiency gains that are possible with PerfectForms.
Security with paper forms is fairly straightforward: You lock them up in a filing cabinet, or in a vault with limited access. But straightforward doesn’t always mean ideal, and it’s easy to see the many security risks that the use of paper forms entails. For example, forms that should have been locked up could be left out on someone’s desk, or could fall into unauthorized hands with no trail leading back to them.
Yet some companies are concerned that using online forms, particularly with cloud-hosted workflow software, presents security risks. Truthfully, however, security measures with online forms can be more comprehensive and easier to document, so organizations can demonstrate compliance with company, industry, or governmental security regulations while being confident in their security.
SSL Encryption and Custom Keys
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) security and custom encryption keys are two essential security protocols you should insist upon when choosing workflow software. Encrypting the software’s communication channels using SSL can prevent any number of attacks, and when software allows “white list validated” user input, even more nefarious uses are prevented. Make sure your workflow software uses HTTPS sessions with 128-bit encryption for all client-server interactions. Custom keys are an additional security layer. Each user session has its own custom key for each request, along with a unique response key. Each key is custom-generated and used only one time to protect against hacks known as automated load attacks.
Security with Cloud Workflow Software
It’s only natural that anyone considering cloud-hosted workflow software is concerned about security. The provider’s servers must be protected via firewall to prevent data compromise, and they should ensure that servers are updated whenever a patch is available. Another security measure you should ask about with cloud-hosted online forms and workflow software is whether the provider uses load balancers. This rotates servers in and out of service regularly so that servers exhibiting unexpected behavior can be isolated quickly and taken out of service while the problem is diagnosed. Ask also about whether the provider’s back end servers are designed to respond only to requests from authenticated users.
The Importance of Audit Trails
Certain industries, like healthcare and finance, are subject to regulations on top of those that other businesses must comply with, and the security features of your workflow software can help here, too. You should be able to design the creation of audit trails into your workflows so that you can demonstrate compliance with all regulations, and so, if irregularities do occur, tracing them to the exact step and user in a process is easy. Even companies that aren’t bound by governmental regulations like HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley often choose to create audit trails for internal security purposes and reduction of exposure to liability.
Sometimes Cloud Security Measures Aren’t Sufficient
Some organizations, for whatever reasons, are unwilling or unable to use cloud-hosted software for their online forms and workflows. For example, a law firm may not want to use cloud-hosted software if cases detailed in various forms and documents are potentially worth large amounts of money. Online forms are still possible if the workflow software is installed on the premises on local servers. This allows the convenience, accuracy, and space-savings of online forms plus physical security of the servers. Not all online forms and workflow software providers offer users the choice between cloud and on-premises software. Those that do can be excellent choices, because going from on-site servers to the cloud (or vice versa) is a future option should needs change.
PerfectForms offers its users the choice of cloud-hosted or on-site installation so specific security needs are met impeccably. Our cloud-hosted software features SSL encryption, white list-validated user input, and 128-bit encryption of all communication between clients and servers. PerfectForms’ web servers are firewall protected, and patches are faithfully applied whenever necessary.Roll-back mechanisms are in place, providing additional security. Finally, load balancers ensure users have continuous service, even if some servers must undergo maintenance.
All these security features come with software designed for the non-technical user, with a drag-drop interface for creating electronic forms and workflows with ease. Sound promising? You can try PerfectForms for free and experience for yourself how easy it is to enjoy fast, secure online forms and workflows.
Hello PerfectForms Community,
Today I would like to discuss adding a Workflow and Roles to your form. In order to provide a better learning experience, I will be splitting up the two topics over the next two posts. This week we will be discussing how to plan, layout, and apply conditional logic to your Workflow. Adding a Workflow in PerfectForms will enrich your skills designing forms and allow you to build a higher quality form with more automation.
To get started let’s begin planning your Workflow by writing down the Stages in the order they occur. As an example, I will map out a Workflow that could be used for a vacation request. I would begin with the following:
1. Request is made
2. Manager Reviews Request
3. HR Receives request
Now that I have those down I would map out the alternate possibilities. Please take a look at the picture below:
With our Stages written out, it is much easier to confirm the Workflow and make corrections or notes as needed. To get started on implementing your Workflow please load a form in the form designer and click the W button on the toolbar. The form will now transition to the Workflow view. There will be a blank Canvas with a Toolbox on the left and a property section on the right.
To add your Stages simply drag and drop from the Toolbox to the Canvas.
You will notice a couple things different from the drawn out version.
1. HR Reviews Request is a comment
2. The Approved and Denied Stages are a darker shade of purple
The reason HR Reviews Request is a comment is because the actual Stages are Denied and Approved. This is where the form will land after the Manager has made a decision. HR Reviews Request is the action that occurs when these Stages are reached. Denied and Approved appear darker due to having the Stages property set as a closed Stage. A closed Stage is used to indicate the form is at the end of the Workflow and is no longer actionable.
By changing the results of your process into Workflow Stages you are able to adjust the form’s properties, behaviors, and states to match the needs required by the next action.
Now that we have mapped out the Workflow we can account for the conditions that allow the form to follow the proper Path. On my Workflow model, I have indicated what should occur for the Path to be followed by applying a name. A name can be added by clicking on the Path, and adding a name in the Property panel to the right. To add a condition I will simply click on the Path desired and use the Condition portion of the Property panel to tie my Path to an object on the form.
As we have two potential Paths you will want to be sure to map both Paths to the corresponding options available to the manager. It is important to keep in mind the following while applying conditions to your workflow:
• Keep it simple
• Try to utilize only base a branches logic on Objects that provide ‘OR’ Statements
• Make sure ALL possible conditions are accounted for
• Make sure there are no Paths with duplicate conditions
Following these guidelines will ensure you never end up with a form stuck in an unexpected stage.
For more information on conditional logic please feel free to click HERE
Now that we have successfully planned, mapped out, and applied conditional logic to our form feel free to run through some practices until our next post. Over the next post, we will show you how to tie in Roles and Notifications. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and happy form building.
If you’re still using paper forms and haven’t tried online forms, what are you waiting for? If you enjoy having physical control over paper forms for security reasons, you should know that security with online forms can exceed that of the paper documents that you lock up in file cabinets. Unless you enjoy having mountains of paper in the office, online forms are far more preferable, if for no other reason than they free up space.
Paper forms are expensive in terms of supplies, time, and space.
What’s more, online forms are superior for workflow management, because they can be linked, routed, and acted upon without ever handling or using paper and pen. Here are six remarkable benefits of using online forms.
1. Less Stress on Your IT Team
One reason many businesses stick with manual processes and paper is because their IT team is always busy and they think that automated forms and workflows require a major programming initiative. That’s not the case at all, if you choose the right workflow management software. In fact, involvement of your IT team can be very minimal if you choose a cloud-hosted solution. You create automated forms and workflows, and they can focus upon the bigger fish they have to fry.
2. Quick Development and Deployment
Since you can now create online forms and automated workflows without the help of the IT department, you don’t have to wait weeks or months to roll out your new workflow management system. There’s no programming required if you choose the right provider, which means you can roll out online forms the same day you make them, and automated workflows take hours or days, not weeks.
3. Easier Compliance and Demonstration Thereof
Excellent workflow management can incorporate audit trails and other failsafe mechanisms to ensure compliance where there are company, industry, or governmental regulations. Companies that don’t currently use audit trails and other safeguards may decide that, since they’re so easy to include in automated workflows, they should add them for the extra peace of mind and ease of reporting they facilitate.
4. Lower Operating Costs
Paper and ink are expensive. Not only must they be purchased, they must be disposed of when no longer needed. In between, papers need to be filed properly and stored. Filing cabinets take up a lot of space. That’s space you must either sacrifice at the cost of other offices and cubicles, or extra space you have to lease. Use online forms, however, and paper and ink costs plummet while filing cabinets become all but obsolete.
The savings from automating a single widely used form can be significant.
5. More Efficient Work Processes
It’s no mystery why automated workflow management is more efficient. Any step that can be completed online and doesn’t involve physically handing off a piece of paper is going to be more efficient than an offline process that involves hand-delivery. And electronic forms won’t get lost, damaged, altered, or be buried under a pile of detritus on someone’s desk. Try automating just one form and learn for yourself how much time it saves.
6. Visibility into Workflows
It’s hard to assess the status of manual workflows. You put a completed form in someone’s inbox, but have they looked at it? Is it going to be kicked back for revision? You won’t find out without some time-consuming phone calls. And if it’s been handed off to someone else, you have to track them down to find out how far the workflow has progressed. Electronic forms and workflows, however, allow complete visibility from end to end.
PerfectForms is an award-winning provider of online form and workflow management software. It has an intuitive drag-and-drop interface so there’s no programming required. You can automate anything from a single form to the most complicated workflow, and you can make forms and workflows interact with web pages, databases, and other electronic documents. If you’re curious about what PerfectForms can do in terms of quick development, lower operating costs, and efficiency, we encourage you to browse some of our case studies so you can see just how big a positive difference PerfectForms makes.
The modern business collects immense quantities of information every day, and the less they’re dependent on paper and manual processes, the better use they can make of it and the more efficient they become overall.
Think of the space you save when you don’t have to find room for all that paper.
With paper documents and forms, backup and organization are slower and less dependable. Plus “backing up” paper documents with copies only leads to more paper usage. Paper hasn’t advanced much technologically since its invention, though machines that use it (typewriters, copiers, and printers) have. We’re to the point that even email is considered “old school,” yet many businesses are reluctant to change workflows so that they’re paperless.
Change can be difficult, even when you know it’s for the better, but the use of online forms and workflow automation software benefits your business and your employees in numerous ways.
Online Forms Collect What You Need in One Place
When HR forms are in the HR office, building maintenance request forms are in the facilities manager’s office, and IT request forms are stored in still another location, the simple act of obtaining paper forms takes much more time than it should. With online forms, all authorized personnel can gain access to the forms they need at any time over the network. In some cases, electronic forms are even available to mobile users, so field engineers and others who don’t stay in one place long can easily get the forms they need to remain productive.
Workflow Automation Software Helps Ensure Data Integrity
Another problem with paper forms and manual processes is that data integrity can be sketchy. Some people will complete forms meticulously, while others will be more haphazard about it. If someone’s handwriting or spelling is difficult to decipher, mistakes can propagate throughout a workflow. But when you use workflow automation software and online forms, you can be much more confident about data integrity. There are no worries about penmanship, and you can even set up forms so they require data be entered in a certain format before the user can submit the form.
Break Down Siloes with Online Forms
Problems can arise when different departments operate in their own universes. For one thing, different departments tend to develop their own, rigid ways of accomplishing things, yet fail to communicate this to outsiders who need their services. Online forms are a terrific way to break up the siloes that can develop in a business. Workflow automation software can instantly ensure a completed electronic form goes to the right recipient, and can even send that recipient automated alerts to let them know their input is needed.
Siloes belong out here, not in your office.
Automate Form Routing with Workflow Automation Software
The old days when a completed form had to be hand-delivered to a recipient, or had to get to the right person by intra-office mail, were filled with the potential for problems. It was all too easy for a paper form to be buried under other things on someone’s desk, or for form users to go to hand in a form only to find that the person it was to be sent to was on vacation. And then they’d have to call to make sure the form was received. When workflow automation software immediately and correctly routes completed electronic forms, however, these worries disappear.
Mirror Current Processes, Then Optimize
If you are interested in moving from paper to electronic forms and from manual to automated workflows, it’s generally best if you make the new forms and workflows reflect the current ones, only in electronic versions. That way it will be easier for people to make the switch, and then, once everyone is used to electronic forms and workflows, they can be fine-tuned and optimized to make them even better. But the simple switch from paper controlled, manual workflows to electronic will still make a measurable difference in how efficiently your team can get their work done, right from the start.
PerfectForms is workflow automation software that makes it easy to create online forms and automated workflows that will measurably reduce your company’s dependence on paper. It’s designed for the non-technical user, with drag-and-drop simplicity for creating online forms and workflows that perfectly fit your needs. You can try PerfectForms for FREE and learn for yourself how easy it is to turn manual form into automated ones and to convert cumbersome paper forms to sleek, electronic ones.
Have you ever worked for the military, or for a company that keeps track of form revisions? If so, it’s clear to see from the revision numbers just how challenging it can be to create the perfect form on paper. What’s more, if you’ve printed out 1,000 copies before discovering a mistake, you have to choose to use the imperfect forms as is or throw them out.
Online forms are not automatically perfect forms, but it’s easier to get from Version 1.0 to the perfect form if it’s electronic. You don’t have to scrap a pile of paper forms, and can make changes and updates instantly. If those online forms are part of a workflow management solution or business process management software (BPM software), you can accelerate business processes as well. Here are several benefits you should expect from your own perfect form.
Less, Rather than More, Dependence on IT Resources
You might think that adopting online forms would require the help of the IT department, but if you have the right BPM software, you’ll actually reduce dependence on your busy IT people. Why does the “right” BPM software lessen the need for IT input? Because it will allow custom workflow management solutions without requiring programming code. Look for an intuitive user interface coupled with powerful features.
Easier Enforcement of Workflow Compliance
When you create online forms as part of automated workflows, you practically guarantee workflow compliance. That’s because completed forms can be instantly submitted to the right recipient(s), and recipients can be automatically alerted that their input is needed. If a request is denied, or if a recipient requires more information, the initiator of the workflow can be notified of this. The result is far more consistency when workflows are accomplished.
Lower Operational Costs
Even before your online forms are perfected, you can expect lower operational costs. Printing and paper costs go away for those online forms, and time that used to be spent manually handing off forms or using intra-office mail can be used more productively, because completed online forms can be routed automatically. Ultimately, your workflows will become faster and more efficient, further diminishing operational costs.
Implement automated workflows and online forms and watch operational costs drop.
Better Process Efficiency
How efficient is it to manually fill out a paper form, then leave it on someone’s desk where it might be buried or damaged? Not very efficient at all. By contrast, submitting online forms is instant, and these forms won’t get lost or coffee-stained. If a workflow initiator wants to check the status of his or her form, this can easily involve “phone tag” and wasted time. Electronic workflow management eliminates these problems.
Better Visibility into Processes
With electronic forms and workflow management, authorized users can determine the status of a process at any time. In fact, alerts can be sent out to key players at important points in a process. There’s no more chasing down the person responsible for acting on a form and figuring out how far a workflow has progressed. This enhanced visibility into processes is one of the most important advantages of great BPM software for workflow management.
PerfectForms is BPM software that lets you take control of workflow management with online forms and automated, electronic workflows that you build yourself. It’s designed for non-technical users, so there’s no programming involved, even with the most complex workflows. Online forms approach perfection much faster than paper forms do, and coupled with electronic workflow management, the benefits to your company are measurable, both immediately and long term. We invite you to watch our demo and learn how easy it is to create perfect online forms for improved workflow.