Could This Be the Year Online Forms Take Your Business Paperless?

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Online forms

If you’re old enough, you probably remember the promise of the “paperless” office that emerged as personal computers became popular in both workplaces and homes a few decades ago.

You probably also remember how that didn’t happen, and how if anything, the ease of printing meant the consumption of more paper and ink than in the days of typewriters and stenographers’ pads. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept massive paper use as normal, particularly not today when so many formerly paper-based processes can be done electronically. You can even sign documents without ever putting pen to paper! Maybe this should be the year you finally get paper usage under control in your business.

Benefits of Reducing Consumable Resources

No matter how committed your staff is to recycling paper waste, there will always be some paper trash diverted from the recycling stream, and there will probably always be employees who don’t think it’s worth their time to toss paper waste into a recycling bin instead of a trashcan.

Better than recycling, however, is reducing usage in the first place. For one thing, the “cheapest” paper is the paper you don’t even have to buy. For another, the less paper your business uses, the less time and effort is spent recycling it and dealing with recyclables and trash. Cost savings from reducing the use of consumables like paper and ink start almost immediately and continue indefinitely. And you’ll have a cleaner, less cluttered office as well.

Online Forms Are a Great Way to Introduce Automation

The concept of automation strikes fear into many workers’ hearts because of the fear of robots taking over human jobs. While there are cases where that has happened and will happen, automation doesn’t necessarily mean elimination of the need for humans. In many cases, it means helping humans do important parts of their jobs better.

When you introduce online forms to replace paper-based forms, everyone can do their jobs better. No longer do people have to figure out where the paper copies of a form are kept. No longer must they take the time to fill forms in manually and then hand-deliver them to their recipient. Online forms are a type of automation that makes perfect sense for the majority of businesses and business processes because they’re faster, more accurate, and less costly in terms of time and resources.

Online forms

Online forms are a terrific use of automation.

Document Management Transforms More Than Just Filing

Some businesses are document-heavy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be paper-heavy. Companies that carefully design and implement document management programs that are based on the majority of documents being electronic enjoy better document security, easier collaboration, and again, less use of consumable resources.

A great document management program won’t just eliminate row upon row of filing cabinets, it makes the information contained in documents more readily accessible to authorized personnel, and ensures that everyone who accesses a document is accessing the same version of it.

Paper-Free May Be Impossible, But That Doesn’t Mean You Shouldn’t Try

Can a business operate entirely without paper? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about trying to reduce paper usage. The business benefits of reducing paper are clear, and they begin as soon as a paper-based process is replaced by a paper-free one. Today’s companies – and in particular, companies that sell consumer goods – are expected to have a strong understanding of sustainability, and that is something that can be a competitive advantage in some consumer markets. The fact is, paper-based processes are slow, and paper is a resource that requires manual organization and attention. Your employees have far better things to do with their time.

PerfectForms is workflow software that lets you make pixel-perfect online forms with a convenient drag-and-drop interface. Not only that, you can also create sleek online workflows that can take paper out of work processes altogether. We invite you to look through some of the many PerfectForms case studies and see how beautifully electronic forms and automated workflows can transform businesses in all industries.

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What Your Business Can Learn from Publishers about Workflows

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Workflow software

On paper or on a device, published content goes through several steps from idea through delivery.

The books, magazines, and professional journals you consume all come to you after an intensive process that really only begins after writers have finished putting words on the page. This is true whether you read a publication that is printed on paper, or if it comes to you in electronically.

Getting words from the stage of idea generation to where they’re in front of readers’ eyes requires several steps so that the original purpose of the idea is fulfilled. To be able to do this consistently, organizations that publish documents, books, journals, or news media must develop tried and true workflows so that to the best of their ability, they only put out content that is of high quality.

Just about any business organization can learn from the publishing process because it’s about collaborating and ensuring all the moving parts to work together smoothly. Workflows in most businesses are variations on this concept. Here are some things any business can learn from the publishing workflow.

Checks and Balances in a Workflow

After an editor accepts a manuscript for publication, someone else has to check the manuscript for plagiarism and if necessary, return it to the author for changes. This process repeats until the manuscript is free from any content that would encroach on someone else’s intellectual property. The cleared manuscript must be reviewed and edited by one or more editors for mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and for problems with style and wording. Once the content has been edited and proofread thoroughly, an editor in chief will give a final decision on whether the manuscript is ready for a “proof” copy.

While all this is going on, graphic designers are busy creating cover art and the text that goes with it. This process also includes review and final approval. It’s only when both the manuscript content and all associated graphics (including any graphics that are embedded in the manuscript) are close to completion that it’s time to work with printers to determine how the document will be bound, how many copies will be made, and when they will be completed.

With electronic publications, the printing element is removed, but publication still requires careful collaboration and coordination between multiple parties for the content to be published electronically.

Collaboration Must Be Carefully Choreographed

Workflow software

Workflows are about every team member doing their part on time, to the highest quality standards.

Maybe workflows in your business have nothing to do with publishing. Still, they share the requirement that all the moving parts work together smoothly so that work can be accomplished efficiently. If your goal is to get the meal to your customer’s table hot, fresh, and beautifully presented, you must also have checks and balances in your kitchen and serving workflow. If your goal is to have your customer’s suit altered in time for his wedding, checks and balances ensure everything is done methodically, consistently, and in keeping with your standards for quality of work.

Many businesses use workflow software to manage workflows, and often a workflow is kicked off by the submission of online forms. For example, if a customer orders a product, the order form kicks off a process that involves procuring or making the product, ensuring it meets quality standards, packing it up, shipping it, and collecting payment. The key to being able to do this well, even as a company grows and changes, is having outstanding workflow software orchestrating everything.

Collecting Data from the Workflow Itself Is Beneficial

Did you know that automated workflows themselves can collect data? In fact, data collection can be one of the most useful ways a company can improve and set itself apart from competitors. A workflow can be made to automatically document when and by whom a particular step was completed – information that can be invaluable in organizations subject to third-party audits.

Automated workflows can also collect this type of data and funnel it into other processes that allow evaluation of efficiency, how quickly workflows proceed, where bottlenecks in workflows occur, and business trends, such as which months bring in the most orders. Publishers use similar data to evaluate sales and inform their future manuscript choices.

PerfectForms is workflow software that puts workflow users in charge. With the drag-and-drop interface, it’s easy to create online forms and custom workflows complete with checks and balances, automatic notifications, and automatic collection of workflow data. We invite you to check out some of the many PerfectForms case studies to see for yourself how well-designed workflows transform organizations of all types.

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Decision Points and Rules: Making Workflows Do the Right Thing

Monday, April 16th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Workflow software

With the right workflow software, you won’t have to know the intricacies of coding to create powerful processes.

The name of nineteenth century English mathematician George Boole may not ring a bell when you’re thinking about workflows, but in fact his work on logic created a foundation for much of the digital economy of today. Boolean algebra is all about logic, starting with a basic concept of “if this, then that.”

Boole went much further, combining conditions (“if this AND this, then …”) and excluding them (“if this AND NOT that, then …”), and Boolean algebra can become quite intricate and complex, but it follows simple rules and anyone who has ever written a computer program has used them.

Logic and decisions have always been at the root of even the simplest workflows: “If this step is completed, proceed to that step.” Automated workflows, too, can be complex, and decision points and rules for making those decisions are at the heart of how the steps in automated workflows proceed.

Workflows Are Made Up of Discrete Steps

Workflows, like computer programs, consist of a collection of discrete steps. The completion of one step leads to some other step until the entire process is completed. Some workflows are no more complicated than this, and the only “decision points” in the workflow are answering the question of whether the previous step has been completed before pressing ahead.

But sometimes, the decision point is more complicated. If the step is completed and the result is X, then a particular step comes next, but if the step is completed and the result is Y, then a different particular step comes next. Getting these decision points right is essential to making an automated workflow work.

Completion of a Step May Lead to a Choice of Next Steps

Suppose your company has an order fulfillment workflow. Maybe if the completed order weighs less than a defined threshold, or takes up a volume of less than a defined threshold, then the workflow sends it to one packing line. But if the order is bigger than one of those thresholds, the workflow sends it to another packing line. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to see how complications can arise.

Suppose a package’s weight is exactly that of the threshold weight that determines the next step. What then? Well, you could then gather further information. If the volume of the package is below the threshold volume for the decision point, it could go to one packing line, but if the volume is above the threshold, it would go to the other packing line. In other words, decisions that may appear straightforward at first may in fact come with exceptions, and your workflow must know what to do when these exceptions occur.

Workflow software

Workflows must be tested thoroughly so you know decisions are made in accordance with rules.

Making Rules for Complex Decision Points

Automated workflows depend on consistency of decisions based on any input the process may receive, and this means that you have to test workflows thoroughly before putting them into general operation. For example, if an employee starts a process to be reimbursed for business travel, how do you determine how much of the per diem allowance they get on days they are in transit?

You could have the employee enter the time they left on departure day, and the time they arrived back on their return date. If departure time is before a particular time of day, they may get the full per diem for that travel day. If it’s after that particular time, they may get half the per diem for that day. When your workflows have to do things like prorate reimbursement, you have to establish your rules first, and test out as many possibilities as you can think of to ensure that the rules always lead the workflow to the correct next step.

Workflow Software Should Handle Decision Points without Human Input if Possible

Ideally, your workflows should require the minimum of human interference from the outside. You can ensure this by running multiple test cases in an attempt to make the workflow malfunction, and then if malfunctions occur, you can address those cases individually.

PerfectForms is workflow software that lets workflow users create customized processes that make perfect sense for their needs. Adding steps, decision points, and rules is easy with the PerfectForms drag-and-drop interface. Testing and modifying workflows where necessary is easy too. We invite you to watch our demo video and see how workflows based on discrete steps, logic, and rules can transform just about any work process and make it faster and more accurate.

Workflows and Change Management: How to Do It Right

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Automated workflows

Change management helps businesses cope with disruption that is more than the typical day-to-day variation in activity.

In most businesses, every day is a little bit different from the day before. Nobody expects things to go exactly according to predictions at all times. People and workflows are accommodating to ordinary changes that occur from day to day, but major changes often require a methodical approach from everyone.

Change management is essentially a self-defining term. It is a systematic, methodical approach to dealing with changes that are big enough to transform a company’s goals, technology infrastructure, or processes. These are changes like using a different type of software for a process that large numbers of employees use, or starting on a year-long commitment to reducing the company’s environmental footprint by a set percentage.

Back in the 1980s when administrative professionals switched from using typewriters to word processors, it was a major example of when change management was necessary. The same is true today when personnel switch from using paper-based processes to mobile apps, for example. Doing change management well requires keen understanding of existing workflows, and which steps in those workflows will be most profoundly affected.

Workflows and Change Management

One change that many companies have experienced in the past five to 10 years is that of making the transition from locally-hosted software to cloud-hosted software. Companies do this to save money and time, and to free up their IT staff to take care of bigger or more complex problems than installing updates on local servers.

But even when the new cloud software is easy to learn and use, there will be a period of transition when older workflows need to be modified to accommodate the changes. Sometimes these changes are easy, like when cloud software eliminates the need to make local backups on hard drives every day. Even so, the entirety of a process undergoing change should be examined closely for signs of difficulty, so those difficulties can be addressed right away. Doing this requires intimate understanding of workflows.

Reporting Features Help Identify Lessons Learned

Companies that invest in major changes want to know that those changes were worthwhile and to understand the return on their investment. When workflows change, the reporting features of a company’s workflow software can be used to gather important data to assess how easily the change took place, and how soon the benefits of the change should be realized.

Automated workflows

Automated workflows that gather and report on data offer tremendous assistance for change management.

For example, suppose a company changes a supplier for one of their biggest resources. There are moving parts in the purchasing, finance, and receiving departments that must adapt to that change, and there may be a period of adjustment when efficiency drops as everyone gets used to doing things differently. When workflow software is able to report on things like expenditures, turnaround time, and overtime, it’s easy to see exactly how major changes affect work. This makes it easier to plan the next time a major change is on the horizon.

Looking Back from Point B to Point A

One of the goals of change management is to be able to look back from life after the change and see clearly why it was a good idea. Reporting features of workflow software can help here. But workflow software can help with the change process itself if it offers the flexibility and power that allows changes to workflows, easy testing, and easy modifications as the results of changes become known.

A major change in the workplace may result in some steps of a workflow being removed altogether. Other steps may need to be modified, and work may need to be redistributed. Workflow software that delivers the flexibility necessary to do this quickly helps ensure that changes start producing a positive ROI as soon as possible.

PerfectForms is workflow software that provides impressive power and flexibility along with an intuitive user interface. Since no programming is required to create online forms and automated workflows, changes can be implemented, tested, modified, and deployed quickly. And the outstanding reporting features included with PerfectFlows help organizations quantify the success of change management initiatives easily.

Change comes to every organization, sometimes in increments, and sometimes in bigger ways. If you would like to learn more about how the right workflow software can make a positive difference in change management, we invite you to look over some of the many PerfectForms case studies. See for yourself how the right workflows bring about changes that increase efficiency and deliver positive ROI.

Optimize Online Contact Forms and Make Them Part of a Strong Workflow

Monday, April 9th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Online forms

People expect online forms. Make yours beautiful and concise enough for people to want to fill them out.

Online contact forms are a routine element of business, whether products and services are sold online or offline. The hope is that someone will find your website, be captivated enough to develop a real interest, and then complete a contact form to learn more.

Many elements influence whether people take the time to complete an online contact form, and businesses must walk a fine line between demanding insufficient information for their needs versus demanding so much that site visitors groan in frustration.

The rule of thumb is that your online contact form should demand no more of the site visitor than is absolutely necessary for your needs (which often includes collecting enough information to enter someone into your customer relationship management system). Ask for too much, and many visitors will conclude the effort is not worth their time. Ask for too little, and you end up having to reach out to people to gather the basics, and most people won’t like that intrusion. Optimizing online forms and making them part of a workflow can ensure you collect sufficient data for your needs, without overwhelming your website visitors.

Incentives Are Part of It

People know that companies collect online data from interested parties, and what largely determines whether they’re OK with sharing that data is a clear answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?” Therefore, it’s important that you show you know their time is worth something, and in exchange for their contact data, you offer them something of value.

That’s why so many landing pages promise users access to a white paper or a video, or perhaps a special product offer or discount in exchange for completing a contact form. But while incentives are important, they’re not the entire story.

Excellent Design Crucial for Online Forms

Online forms need to be designed with skill if they are going to entice people to complete them. That means, they should conform to the rest of your website’s look and feel, they should be easy to read with plenty of white space and understandable form field labels, and they should not be too long. Nobody is going to give you their entire life story in exchange for an exclusive PowerPoint presentation.

Online forms

People have no patience for overly-demanding online forms.

Also bear in mind that many of your website visitors will be accessing your site on a mobile device, so you want to keep the typing burden to a minimum. You can do this for many form fields by offering drop-down menus from which to choose, or radio buttons that are easy to tap.

Using What You Collect from Online Forms

What you do with the data you collect from online forms is critical too. With the right workflow software, you can automatically take the data entered by people online and route it into other systems you use, such as your CRM system, or a spreadsheet or database. Your workflow software should allow you to distribute contact data to all the people who need it automatically.

Moreover, your workflow should be designed so that everyone who receives notification that there is incoming new customer data knows exactly what they are supposed to do with it. When this happens, the many moving parts involved in your core business processes are well-coordinated and streamlined, with a minimum of waiting around for someone else to complete a task before others can act.

PerfectForms makes the creation of online forms and automated workflows easy, because there is no programming involved – just a convenient, drag-and-drop interface. Design your workflows with PerfectForms and you can be confident that the data you collect from online forms goes exactly where it needs to go, automatically. And the online forms themselves can be designed to perfectly coordinate with the look and feel of the rest of your online branding. Intrigued? If so, please take a minute to watch our demo video.. Learn how PerfectForms makes data work for you, and not the other way around.

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4 Ways to Use Workflow Software to Manage Your Team Better

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Workflow software

Teams can keep right on going, even if a team member has to be sidelined temporarily.

Teams are of tremendous value to organizations, because they bring together complementary skills and styles. Strong teams are particularly valuable for their ability to continue even in the face of problems that might put individuals out of commission. For example, if one team member is out sick, the others can often cover their work so that impact to the team’s mission is minimized.

Enemies of good teamwork are inefficiency and duplication of effort, and automated workflows are terrific for reducing inefficiency and eliminating duplication of effort. In manual workflows, someone may complete a form by hand, and then another person collects data from handwritten forms and enters it into a database or other electronic format.

Online forms do away with that type of duplication of effort because the initial form user creates data that can be copied into other data collections. Better still, automated workflows can take data entered by an online form user and automatically use it to populate databases or other forms. These capabilities make teams more effective and more efficient. Here are 4 ways you can use workflow software to manage teams better.

1. Create Self-Updating Task Lists

Written task lists may work fine for assigning family chores at home, but they can result in problems when used by work teams. Someone could, for example, tackle a task that someone else has already worked on, not realizing the task had already been claimed or assigned. Self-updating task lists can be created with the right workflow software. When a task is assigned or claimed, it can be automatically deleted from the task list, so others don’t work on it. Likewise, as soon as a new task is created, it can be added to the task list. The result is a task list that is always up to date.

2. Use Auto-Populate Features for Online Forms

Have you ever filled out online forms where you have to enter data such as your name multiple times? Workflow software can be used to prevent this duplicated effort. With auto-populate functionality, data entered once can then be automatically copied and used to populate all the places where that data is needed. If, for example, a new hire’s employee ID number is needed for several new employee onboarding forms, the workflow can be designed so that the first time it is entered, it can be automatically copied and used to populate the “employee ID” field of all the forms instantaneously.

Workflow software

Auto-populate features make forms and workflows more efficient than you imagined.

3. Create Simple Workflows for Idea Submission

Ideas are a type of fuel for successful teams, but many times teams don’t have a good way of submitting ideas for consideration. With workflow software, it’s easy enough to create a simple idea-submission workflow that makes sense for the team’s needs. Suppose someone on a marketing team has a new idea for a social media ad. They could submit it using the idea submission workflow, knowing that it will be brought up in the weekly team meeting, with their name attached to it.

4. Ensure Forms Integrate with Web Pages, Databases, and Other Software

Workflow software really proves its worth when integrating the many entities that produce and consume data. Imagine data from one of your company’s web landing pages being automatically routed to your CRM and assigned to a customer care team member, without anyone having to intervene. These are the exact types of automated workflows you should insist that your workflow software be capable of creating.

Workflow software can function almost as another work team member, by ensuring that processes are efficient, and that data generated or used during a process is shared appropriately. Online forms themselves increase efficiency and reduce or eliminate duplication of effort. Couple online forms with automated workflows and team members can focus on core team objectives, confident that the information they work with is accurate and current.

PerfectForms is workflow software that allows for easy creation of custom online forms and automated workflows. The drag-and-drop interface means that no programming is required, and that form and workflow users can help design the forms and workflows that meet their needs perfectly. You can try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. See for yourself how PerfectForms may be the member of your team you didn’t realize you needed.

How to Scale Up a Workflow While Minimizing Disruption

Monday, April 2nd, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Workflow software

Scaling operations up is exciting – and perhaps a bit frightening as well.

Confronting scalability for the first time can be a heady, yet intimidating situation for a new business to find itself in. Demand for your products or services rises – just as you hoped it would – and perhaps you wonder how you will cope with increased demand.

The thing about scalability is that it isn’t only about producing more products or serving more customers. It’s also about preserving your brand and your uniqueness, and ensuring that a larger customer base has the same quality of experience that your earlier, smaller customer base did.

Businesses that don’t plan responsible scaling risk losing what makes them unique when they have to mass produce products or services to meet demand. With automated workflows, however, along with outstanding workflow software, scaling doesn’t have to be such a risky endeavor.

Reasons Scaling Up Becomes an Issue

Scaling up production can become an issue when you simply don’t have the personnel to meet demand. It can also become problematic when you assume that scaling up is simply a matter of doing “more” at every stage of a workflow. Though workflows are composed of discrete steps, each step isn’t equal in terms of how easy it is to scale up.

Suppose a workflow includes a step where a product is closely examined and inspected so you can be confident it meets your strict quality criteria. In a small business, a single inspector may be adequate for the job. But when you scale up, you probably can’t expect a single inspector to double or triple their workload without affecting the speed of the overall workflow. This is why it’s so important to understand the ease or difficulty in scaling up each specific workflow step.

What Are the Consequences of Scaling Up Each Workflow Step?

Printing out a batch of 50 packing slips may not take much longer than printing out a batch of 10. Therefore, scaling this step up is relatively easy. On the other hand, inspecting 50 products for flaws will take significantly longer than inspecting 10, unless the inspection process can be shortened in some way. When you want to scale up an entire workflow, you have to understand the potential for some steps to scale up with ease, while others scale up with more difficulty. It’s nobody’s fault, but it means that “scaling up” requires more effort with some steps of a workflow than with others.

Automated workflows

Not all workflow steps scale up with equal ease. Modification of steps may be required.

Bottlenecks May Not Become Apparent at First

When you initially scale up a workflow, sheer enthusiasm may be enough to keep everything on track and raise productivity. But that initial enthusiasm can’t be expected to last forever. The person who is struggling to cope with an increased workload has a different take on things than the person whose productivity can increase without a major increase in time devoted to it.

Left unchecked, bottlenecks can develop, and people may have a hard time understanding what the problem is. After all, the first week of producing twice as many products went fine. Why are bottlenecks just now showing up? Unfortunately, scaling may require some steps to become far more effort-intensive, to a degree that is unsustainable in the long run. It’s important to understand where and how bottlenecks in production can develop.

Workflow Software Should Offer Flexibility to Adapt and Scale

Excellent workflow software is the foundation of good scalability, because it offers the flexibility a company needs to adapt workflows to changing demands. Suppose your company has to hire an additional inspector to prevent bottlenecks. Your workflow software should allow you to modify the process so that work is distributed evenly between the two inspectors, keeping the workflow on schedule.

Without the right workflow software, automated workflows may not scale well, and this can present serious business problems. PerfectForms is workflow software that offers users tremendous flexibility and power to create customized workflows that can grow and adapt as requirements evolve. With an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, PerfectForms makes workflow design and modification straightforward, helping you scale each step of a workflow appropriately. We encourage you to read through some of our many case studies and see how the right workflow software allows businesses and other organizations to scale effectively, for growth that works for everyone.

At What Point Should Online Forms Be Incorporated into Workflows?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Workflows

Today there are better, more secure ways of approving and passing along forms.

In business, just about everything is a workflow, no matter how simple it is. One could argue that a person completing a form for a building key and submitting it to the person who distributes keys is a workflow, even though it is simple and straightforward.

There are times when the completion and submission of a form constitutes the entire “workflow,” and these processes can be handled by online forms to avoid the pitfalls of manually completed online forms. But when does a process graduate from being a quick, form-only transaction to being a workflow? There’s not really a defined complexity threshold for this, so you’ll have to use your judgment. Here are some ways to learn whether a process can remain “form only” or needs to be designed into an automated workflow.

How Many People “Handle” a Given Form?

If a completed form passes through the hands of two or more people, it’s a good sign that the process should be managed as a workflow. It’s usually easy to keep a process on track when only one or two people are involved in it, but many times an organization can benefit by creating automated workflows for even the simplest processes. Automated workflows can do things like alert the next process participant that their input is needed, and they can create audit trails and gather statistics for later reporting.

Any form that is handled by more than three people should be part of a defined workflow. This helps ensure that no steps are skipped and that all necessary approvals take place each time the process is used.

How Frequently Is a Standalone Form or Process Used?

Online forms that are only used once in a blue moon may not need to be part of a defined automated workflow, particularly if only a couple of people are involved in it. The more frequently a form is used, the more likely the organization is to benefit from making the form part of a workflow. This is particularly true in cases where the next completed form arrives before previously completed forms have been processed, because it’s easy to forget whether a particular form was submitted when more are being added all the time. Automated workflows allow authorized users to determine exactly where in a given process a form is, and what is supposed to happen next.

How Many Steps Are There from Start to Finish?

Workflow design

Today there are better, more secure ways of approving and passing along forms.

When online forms must go through many steps before a process is complete, then the process is an ideal candidate for becoming a workflow. This is true even if the form isn’t used very often. As one example, suppose your organization is responsible for producing an annual end-of-year report, and the process begins with submission of a form requesting that the report be written. Though the annual report process is not used often, it involves many steps and coordination among several parties. The more steps a process requires to completion, the more likely it is to benefit from being a defined workflow.

Is Tracking Needed for Accountability or Reporting?

In some industries, even the simplest processes must have audit trails for demonstration of compliance. And there may be processes where collection of statistics is important. Maybe a facilities manager needs to know how many people requested a parking pass in a given quarter. With online forms and automated workflows, finding the answer to the question can be incredibly easy.

Or, consider landing page forms on a company website. Perhaps after six months’ time your sales or marketing team wants to know how many landing page forms were received month by month, or how many forms were submitted from users located on the west coast. Making landing pages a part of an automated workflow allows automatic collection of user data that can be analyzed later on.

Forms and workflows are intricately intertwined. Even standalone forms that are submitted to another party create their own workflow of sorts, but it is when multiple forms and/or multiple steps that are required that organizations should consider defining a process step by step into a workflow and determine which parts of that workflow can be automated. It’s one of the best techniques businesses have for streamlining tasks and reducing operational costs. If you would like to know more about how to do this with intuitive, powerful software, PerfectForms invites you to watch our demo video.

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How Strategic Workflow Design Offers Checks and Balances for Operations

Monday, March 26th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Workflow design

Workflow automation is not limited to big companies with big budgets.

Workflows are expected to do many things flawlessly. They must orchestrate tasks so they finish on time and to completion, and many of them collect data for use in reports and other applications. Some small business owners think that automated workflows are only for big businesses with complex operations, but nothing could be further from the truth.

With small and new businesses, people assume multiple responsibilities, backing each other up and covering for each other when things don’t go as planned. It might look easy when you watch a pre-press layout professional do their job, but when you try it yourself you can discover it’s significantly more complicated than you thought.

Automated workflows can help small businesses by defining work processes so that more than one person is capable of carrying them out successfully. When workflows are designed with skill, using powerful workflow software, they can include a number of checks and balances that ensure processes are done “by the book,” and don’t have to be done over due to mistakes.

Workflows Help When People Must Assume Multiple Responsibilities

Suppose you operate a small event planning business and your business partner, who usually takes care of venue deposits, is out sick. If your business has automated workflows for the many tasks that go into planning an event, you can take over your partner’s tasks with minimum upheaval.

By breaking every process into logical, discrete steps, automated workflows make it easier for one person to step into another’s shoes when necessary. Moreover, they can document completion of each step, so process users can be confident they haven’t forgotten anything.

Unknown Workflow Status Can Cause Duplication of Effort

Workflow software should make it easy for any authorized workflow user to check on the status of a process at any time. This capability can prevent duplication of effort and wasted funds. Suppose someone on your team uses a workflow for ordering supplies, and they’re always busy. It can be all too easy to forget that a workflow has been initiated, but with workflow transparency, it’s easy to check the status of a workflow at any time. That way it’s less likely that someone will order supplies, forget they did so, and put through a redundant order.

Workflow design

Not sure if you sent a request to the graphics department? Workflow visibility lets you find out for sure in an instant.

Notifications, Status Updates Offer Checks and Balances

With the right workflow software, there’s practically no end to how notifications and status updates can be used to ensure optimum business operation. If, for example, a purchase order for more than $200 requires approval from a manager, the appropriate manager can be automatically notified via email when a purchase order requiring approval comes in.

Even forms themselves can have built in checks and balances. If, for example, measurements need to be entered into a form using centimeters, a wildly out-of-scale measurement entry can be flagged automatically, and the form user notified as to the correct measurement units to use. This can prevent major headaches.

PerfectForms is the kind of workflow software that helps you design processes that incorporate all the necessary checks and balances to ensure your business runs smoothly. You can add pop-up instructions to form fields, notify process users when their input is required, and allow authorized workflow users to check the status of a workflow at any time.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that workflow software is just for big enterprises with deep pockets. Automated workflows may in fact be disproportionately beneficial to smaller businesses by reducing error rates and allowing people with multiple responsibilities to be effective in the many roles they must play. See for yourself how PerfectForms helps businesses of all sizes and in all industries by checking out some of our many case studies.

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Templates: When You’re Not Sure Where to Start with Workflow Software

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Automated workflows

When you learn a new skill, you can make faster progress if you have pre-made patterns or templates to work with. Sometimes the steps involved in new processes don’t make a lot of sense at first, and having guidance as you climb the learning curve can put things into perspective and keep you on the right track without feeling like you’re wasting your time.

As you gain expertise in a process, templates and patterns are still useful, but they may not be strictly necessary. Suppose you want to learn to sew. You’ll start with simple, pre-made patterns that give you explicit instructions and take you step by step through the process of creating something. Even if you get quite good at it eventually, patterns will still come in handy. But after you gain enough expertise, you can create your own patterns because you understand each step in the process and what it is for. The same is true when you use workflow software to create automated workflows. Here are some ways form and workflow templates can help in several common business areas.

Education

Both K-12 and higher education require processes to be scaled up, often to accommodate thousands of students. Therefore, it’s essential that online forms and automated workflows be as streamlined and simple to use as possible. If you are principal of an elementary school, having field trip permission forms online and contained within a simple workflow, parents can use right from their phones or laptops, can free up considerable amounts of teachers’ (and parents’) time. And if your workflow software offers you a field trip request form template, you can create such a workflow without a long learning process.

In higher education, forms are even more ubiquitous. When students can access and complete them online as part of a well-planned automated workflow, everyone benefits. You can start small and watch how much more efficiently things go. You could, for example, use a template to create a transcript request form that’s mobile-friendly and takes a lot of time and inefficiency out of the process of getting transcripts to where they need to be. Once it’s established, you can create a form for some other process.

Human Resources

Automated workflows

Automate HR processes and you endear yourselves to anyone who interacts with HR.

Few business functions benefit as much from online forms and automated workflows as the HR department. If you’re just now taking many HR functions and processes online, look for workflow software that offers a range of templates for common HR tasks, like automatic payroll deposit agreements, mileage expense forms, vacation requests or employee name and address changes. Again, if you’re new to the automation process, then starting small and seeing the results of smart workflows can inspire you to expand automated workflows to other commonly used processes.

Finance

Paper-based purchase orders, expense reports, and the like can be excruciatingly slow and prone to mistakes. Workflow software that provides online form templates for these processes can help you automate these workflows without major upheaval or a major investment of time. As you get used to using the automated workflows, you can adjust template properties so that they are more closely tailored to your company’s actual needs. In fact, you can have the people who use those workflows the most assist in designing customized forms and workflows, as long as you have great workflow software with an intuitive user interface.

Templates are a great way for companies to automate processes without feeling like they have no safety net. PerfectForms is online form and workflow software that comes with a large library of templates that can be easily customized for users’ specific needs.

With a range of templates for HR, finance, operations, surveys, and educational needs, PerfectForms empowers new users to get to work creating online forms and workflows quickly, without having to program and without having to climb a steep learning curve. We encourage you to read some of our many case studies and see how organizations like yours have benefited from implementing online forms and automated workflows.

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