The digital membership economy is growing, largely fueled by cloud-hosted apps and services. Subscription-based transactions are an important component of this sector, because the model makes sense for so many businesses and customers.
In the old days, if you needed software, you purchased a software package and installed it on your IT hardware. If your IT hardware was insufficient to run the software, then you had to upgrade. The whole process could be shockingly expensive up front.
Subscription-based software models are only one type of subscription model, but they’re tremendously important. The cloud has made it possible for remote servers to host software, and for people everywhere to access and use it by subscription. The only IT infrastructure requirements are compatible desktop computers, laptops, or devices, as well as sufficient broadband capability to run the software without lag.
Companies that offer subscription-based products or services (whether software or something else) need solid automated workflows to make sure subscriptions operate in as failproof a manner as possible.
Businesses That Are Well-Suited to Subscription Models
The entertainment industry is a natural fit for the subscription model. Before the web, people could subscribe to many forms of entertainment like cable television, premium channels, book clubs, and magazines. The delivery method may have changed, but people subscribe to entertainment products in huge numbers, as the 117 million-plus Netflix subscribers demonstrate.
In the 21st-century answer to the milkman of simpler times, people receive “box” subscriptions for products including clothing, pet products, and even meal kits. The market for subscriptions is considered wide open at the moment, and undoubtedly some players will shake out of the mix over the next few years, but it’s a business model that makes sense in light of how people use technology in their everyday lives.
Why People and Businesses Choose Subscriptions
The two main reasons individuals and businesses flock to the subscription business model are convenience and cost savings. If you know you’re going to need, say, shaving materials regularly, then subscribing to a service like Dollar Shave Club offers convenience and ends worries about running out of supplies.
For cost savings, few things in the past decade have made as much of a difference to small businesses as being able to access cloud-hosted software. Cloud software, which is typically sold on a subscription basis, reduces buy-in costs considerably, putting advanced software within reach of small start-ups and other businesses that don’t necessarily have big IT budgets.
Workflows Help Manage Subscriptions Flawlessly
Naturally, if your company chooses to offer subscriptions, whether for pantry supplies or investment services, you want to ensure that the subscription workflows work consistently, quickly, and accurately. The key is developing automated workflows that allow subscribers to make their needs plain, find the right subscription plan for them, and set up a subscription with minimal time and fuss. You can’t ensure that level of service without defined workflows, or if you depend upon old-guard tools like spreadsheets (or worse, sticky notes). Creating automated workflows requires the right workflow software, and increasingly, it doesn’t involve hiring programmers.
The Right Workflow Software Is the Key
For subscription forms to do as they are intended from both your point of view and the customer’s, they must be part of a well-planned, thoroughly tested workflow that ensures everyone fulfills their part of the transaction with as little “friction” as possible. Customers choose a subscription, pay for it, and receive what they paid for with minimal delay. You deliver products or services, and can count on payment arriving on time, regularly. It can involve a lot of moving parts depending on how customized the subscriptions you offer are, and that’s why the right automated workflow software is absolutely essential.
PerfectForms is workflow software that makes it easy for non-programmers to make automated workflows to support countless business processes, including the establishment and continuance of customer subscriptions. The intuitive user interface makes the creation of completely customized forms and automated workflows straightforward, and established forms and workflows can be updated as needed with minimal disruption.
If your company is considering offering subscription-based products or services, PerfectForms would like to invite you to watch our demo video. It only takes a moment to realize the possibilities that customized, automated workflows offer to businesses like yours. Contact us to learn more.
Financial advisors have always faced strong competitive pressures. New regulations are a continuing fact of life, and market forces have been putting the squeeze on fees in recent years. Therefore, the financial advisor who wants to succeed and scale up simply must run lean and run strong.
Automated workflows are the key to consistency in any industry, and in finance, consistency is perhaps more critical than in other industries due to the large amount of trust clients place in their advisors. At the same time, financial advice must be strongly personalized. If a client could get the same advice using a one-size-fits-all online tool, they’ll opt for the tool over the potentially pricey advisor.
Fortunately, the right workflow software can keep today’s financial advisor in compliance with regulations and streamline repetitive processes while laying down audit trails and ensuring that no critical steps are missed, so that advisors remain in compliance with all applicable regulations.
The Importance of Regulation Compliance Cannot Be Overemphasized
Larger financial advisory firms have to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, while smaller ones register with state securities authorities. Anti-fraud provisions, disclosure obligations, and recordkeeping requirements must all be followed to the letter to avoid costly and potentially devastating violations.
At the same time, financial advisors must be prepared to be audited, either as a routine matter, or as a response to potential irregularities. Assuming they are intimately familiar with their state’s compliance program, and have documented processes consistently and in sufficient detail, audits can go much more smoothly and cause the minimum amount of disruption to daily operations.
Uses for Automated Workflows in Finance
Automated workflows can be designed to automatically create audit trails so that recordkeeping is easier and more accurate. When workflows are designed so that they cannot advance until all required provisions of the current step in a process are met, there is far less chance of carelessness.
But that’s not the only way automated workflows can serve financial advisory businesses. Like any other business, a financial advisory firm must take care of things like onboarding new employees, managing offices, and making sure IT equipment is in proper working order at all times.
Automated Workflows Don’t Remove “The Human Touch”
The concept of automation may be objectionable to some financial advisors, who think of automation as “taking over for” humans. Applied strategically, however, automation takes over repetitive tasks that are critical to get right, so that the advisors themselves can focus on building strong relationships with clients and bringing in new clients. In other words, the tools designed to introduce automation can be the same tools that allow personalization where it really counts: in relationships with those who use your highly specialized services.
Take Care of Back-Office Tasks So You Can Focus on the Customer
When you use workflow software to take care of back-office, compliance, recordkeeping, and other repetitive tasks, your business becomes more efficient, error rates fall, and you’re never at a loss when you need to put your hands on a critical document for your own reference, for a customer, or for an auditor. It may seem ironic that adding automation to highly personalized businesses like financial advising can result in better, more personalized services, but that’s exactly what happens with the right workflow software and automated workflows.
PerfectForms is workflow software that puts the power to create customized automated forms and workflows into your hands. You can identify which office workflows are in direst need of automation, and address them first, to get the biggest up-front return. Moreover, you can automate more business tasks as you gain experience and see the benefits of previous automation efforts, allowing more of the day-to-day, mundane tasks to occur with minimal human intervention so that you and your team can offer truly superior service to your clients. You can actually try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. See what it’s like to put automation to work for your financial advisory business today!
The business world has always been home to businesses that bill by the hour. The most commonly encountered type is probably the law firm. But many other types of businesses track billable hours too.
If you run your own business, perhaps you charge by the hour for your services. Or perhaps you have dealt with others that do. Consultants, marketing agencies, PR agencies, web designers, and programmers are all examples of businesses that must track billable hours to turn a profit and remain operational.
We’ve come a long way from the days when billable hours were written down by hand, yet even with all the tools we have, it’s still all too common for billable hours to be forgotten, and that’s like walking away and leaving money on the table. Automated workflows are the answer to tracking billable hours. Your services are far too valuable for you to rely on “winging it.”
Methods for Accounting for Billable Time
Employees who want to be absolutely diligent in time tracking efforts can use a “stopwatch” method for tracking billable hours, recording start and end times of work sessions and billing accordingly. Workflow software with simple “start” and “stop” functionality buttons makes this easy.
Some employees may choose to track hours on a daily basis, spending a few moments at the end of the workday tallying billable time for that day and making a record of it. Again, automated workflows can be designed to allow this type of hourly billing.
Still others may only want to account for time on a weekly basis. While this gathers all time-accounting activities into one session, it can result in mistakes more easily than more frequent tracking of billable hours. Nonetheless, workflow software can be designed to accommodate this technique.
Workflows Can Be Tailored to Users
You may run a business that depends on billable hours, but has employees with different approaches to timekeeping. Naturally, you want to emphasize to them how important it is to keep track of every billable hour, however they choose to do so. With the right workflow software, you can create automated workflows to accommodate the “stopwatch” employee, the person who accounts for hours daily, and even the person who chooses to tally billable hours once a week.
The key is making the workflows as easy as possible for your team members to use. When they know that tracking their hours is as easy as clicking and filling in a few key form fields, they’re far more likely to assimilate the workflow into their routines. The result is more accurate billing for your company overall, with less hassle for everyone involved (including the customers who are billed).
Make Automated Workflows Mobile
Another important tip for better accounting of billable hours is to make the workflows mobile-friendly. That way, if an employee goes straight from a client consultation at the end of the day to their child’s ballgame, it’s still quick and easy to record those billable hours with a minimum of disruption. And if you should need to remind one of your employees that payroll needs their billable hours for the week ASAP, they won’t have to be in the office in order to submit them.
Don’t Leave Money on the Table
Clients want to be confident that the hours of services for which they’re invoiced are accurate and not inflated. At the same time, business owners want to be confident that they are billing for every legitimate work hour the employees work. Automated workflows are the key to reassuring clients they are being billed fairly while making sure that no billable hours are accidentally given away for free.
PerfectForms is workflow software with an intuitive interface that requires no programming for the creation of fully customized workflows. Whether you have your team track billable hours as they happen, daily, weekly, or however they see fit, you can create automated workflows that help ensure that every last hour is tracked and accounted for. PerfectForms invites you to have a look at some of our many case studies so you can see the huge variety of tasks for which automated forms and workflows can be created. You’re sure to be inspired with ideas of your own!
Technology such as video conferencing has cut down on the need for some business travel. But there are still types of business that must be transacted in person, and that requires employees to hop on a plane now and then.
In the old days, not only was actual travel necessary more often, the travel itself introduced sizable inefficiencies. Someone needed to cover the person’s phone calls during their absence, and once they returned to the office, filling out travel reimbursement forms by hand could take up a significant chunk of time. Reimbursement itself often relied on physical hand-offs of forms from one party to another, and the end of the process only occurred once the traveling employee received a paper check and deposited it into their bank account.
Obviously, things are easier now due to technological advances, but travel can still introduce inefficiency to the smooth flow of business. The great news is that online forms coupled with automated workflows can whittle these inefficiencies down to where they make much less of an impact than they used to.
Mobile-Friendly Forms and Workflows Are the Key
Suppose an employee travels to a client in another time zone to demonstrate a new piece of equipment in person. The potential client is impressed, and decides then and there that they want to order five pieces of equipment for their production line. Mobile-friendly online forms allow clients to place their order then and there, and mobile friendly contract workflows allow clients to sign on the dotted line without waiting for papers to be drawn up. In the United States, electronic signatures are considered the signer’s bond, and when automated workflows incorporate contracts that can be signed, the pace of business proceeds faster.
Business Proceeds Faster, Benefiting All Parties
Before online forms and automated workflows, the time that elapsed between a rep impressing a potential client and getting a verbal go-ahead, and actually drawing up contract papers gave customers more time to change their minds. With electronic forms and workflows, agreements can be made more quickly, not only locking in a customer for the provider, but also ensuring the customer receives their products or services more quickly.
When customers order something via mobile form and it arrives within a few days, they remember it better, remember why they were so enthusiastic, and are still eager to put it to use. Everyone benefits from a lack of waiting around.
Accelerate Revenue Flow with Smart, Mobile-Friendly Forms
Smart, mobile-friendly online forms also accelerate processes like invoicing and processing payments. For the provider, this means that revenues flow in faster, and for the customer, it means that their payments are processed in a timely manner, so there is less confusion involved in everyday bookkeeping. The time you don’t spend chasing down unpaid paper invoices is time you can spend focusing on providing the products and services you went into business to provide in the first place.
Reduce or Eliminate Inefficiencies of Traveling Workers
Business travel will never completely go away, because there are some things that simply must take place in person. But online forms and automated workflows can greatly reduce the impact that employee travel has on business operations. When travel had to be documented on paper, it was more expensive simply because of the added time involved in taking care of things like paper receipts, time accounting, and reimbursement. Online forms and workflows have cut this extra time significantly.
PerfectForms is online form and workflow software that allows you to create fully customized online forms and automated workflows for processing travel, and for almost any other application you can think of. With the PerfectForms drag and drop interface, you can create forms and workflows not only for employee travel, but also for new employee onboarding, departing employee out-processing, IT service requests, and facilities maintenance, to name but a few. We invite you to watch the PerfectForms demo video. See for yourself how many inefficiencies the right forms and workflows can eliminate in your business.
As of mid-2017, the number of work-at-home employees who were not self-employed had grown by 115% since 2005, which is almost ten times faster than the workforce as a whole. Currently, around 3.7 million employees work from home at least half the time.
Technology has allowed work teams to be widely dispersed geographically, which is terrific both for workers who want to maximize opportunities without relocating and for employers who don’t want geography to be a limiting factor to assembling the talent they want into the teams they need.
Many dispersed teams meet in person on occasion to take care of business that cannot be done remotely. Nobody wants to waste that precious in-person time on administrative chores that can be completed remotely, or on catching up with communication. The key to making the most of in-person time is making the most of remote work time, and that requires well-thought-out workflows.
Ensure Everyone Has the Tools They Need
First, you have to ensure that everyone on a remote team has the tools and resource access they need to do their work. That may mean that everyone has a particular company app, or access to a particular Google Calendar. When employees are missing tools, they spend valuable time tracking down fellow team members for help rather than putting their skills and talents to more productive use.
Workflows for Clear Expectations and Accountability
Workflows can be designed so that they communicate expectations and document accountability, as long as you use the right workflow software to create your automated workflows. For example, simple online forms for documenting things like billable hours can automatically check for out-of-range errors (say someone leans too hard on the “zero” and accidentally bills 40,000 hours for a week), and ensure all necessary form fields are completed before allowing them to be submitted.
The right workflow software can show you who has done what within a workflow. Has everyone submitted their time sheet for the week? Has Jane in Portland finished the graphic so that Tim in Baltimore can design the document in which it will be published? Automated workflows can be made to take care of these checks and balances, so people rarely or never have to personally track down this information.
Workflows That Reduce the Need for Direct Supervision
Well-designed automated workflows can also drastically reduce the need for direct supervision. If online forms won’t allow submission without the user entering a specific bit of information, the form itself can pop up a notification to that effect: “Client phone number is a required field,” for example.
Likewise, when someone with approval authority acts within a workflow, the workflow can document this and notify the appropriate parties automatically via email. That way, the person waiting for the go-ahead to take the next step in a process can be notified immediately when they can proceed.
Workflows for Getting to Know Other Team Members
Workflows don’t have to be all-business, all-the-time, either. It takes more time for a remote team to jell than it does a team that is around each other all week, but that doesn’t mean strong bonds won’t be formed. Your new team member onboarding workflow can offer your new person the opportunity to let people get to know them better, with questions about hobbies, interests, and the like. And each team member can have their own team member profile that similarly helps everyone learn more about the people with whom they work. You can even send out annual reminders to each team member to look over and update their profile.
PerfectForms is the workflow software that makes it easy for the manager of a dispersed team to create online forms and automated workflows that uniquely suit team needs. Forms can be made mobile-friendly, so team members can use their tablets or phones to complete steps in workflows or fill in forms, and automated notifications can be set so that everyone is on the same metaphorical page at all times. Take a moment to watch the PerfectForms demo. You’ll be inspired as you discover many ways you can use forms and workflows to make remote team management far more efficient and effective. Contact us for more information.
Three-dimensional (3D) printing is new and fascinating technology, presenting possibilities that were only dreamed about before. While there is a certain amount of artistic experimentation surrounding 3D printing, many businesses in many industries are already incorporating the technology into their operations.
Primarily, 3D printing is used for accelerating product development, creating limited series of customized products, and rapid prototyping, though the number of potential uses for the technology is practically unlimited.
The good news is that small businesses that don’t have the budget to acquire their own 3D printer can contract with a growing number of contract 3D printing companies in order to take advantage of the many benefits of the technology.
But 3D printing is still a relatively expensive undertaking, so it’s smart for companies that use it for prototyping or product development to have defined workflows for accessing 3D printing technology, whether it’s located on-site or contracted out. Creating automated workflows to control the 3D printing process, from idea conception through the creation of the physical object is the best way to keep costs and waste down while branching out into this exciting new technological marvel.
Creating the Data That Drives 3D Printing Is a Process
In order for a 3D printer to create an object, it must have a set of meticulous and precise instructions, just like your laser printer needs exact instructions so it “knows” when to print on both sides of the paper, when to turn documents from portrait to landscape orientation, and when to accommodate non-standard paper sizes.
But throwing instructions at a 3D printer and seeing what comes out is a luxury few can afford. Therefore, creating an automated workflow for computer modeling, conversion to the proper file type for the printer, and model optimization is important for maximizing creativity and efficiency at the same time while minimizing wasted effort.
Automated Workflows Reduce Mistakes, Do-Overs
When you create a custom workflow for, say, a 3D-printed prototype of a custom, limited edition container you plan to create for your product, you need to minimize the number of attempts it takes to get it exactly right.
When someone creates a computer model, it should be reviewed by a separate person to look for mistakes and potential problems. Once the model appears to be up to standards, approval can be granted, and the print file can be converted to the right file format for the printer. If you’re contracting with a 3D printing provider, the print file can be delivered electronically with “read” receipt, so you know the provider received it. By creating an automated workflow around 3D printing, you have the checks and balances you need to ensure that do-overs are kept to a minimum.
On-Site or Outsourced, 3D Printing Benefits from Defined Workflows
It’s easy to see how automated workflows make sense for 3D printing done in-house because you don’t want everyone clamoring to use the machine at once and causing conflicts. But workflows are just as important when you outsource 3D printing, because everybody involved in a project that requires 3D printing should be kept apprised of where the project is at any given time. Automated workflows allow all authorized personnel to check and see that the design was reviewed and converted to the right format, and the contractor received it yesterday afternoon. Everyone stays on the same page, in other words.
PerfectForms is workflow software that empowers users to create custom automated workflows, via an intuitive user interface that offers tremendous flexibility. You can create a workflow for assigning cubicles, and then create a workflow for having a prototype 3D printed, all with the same software. We would love to talk to you about the nearly limitless potential PerfectForms offers to businesses just like yours, whether or not 3D printing is in your future. We encourage you to contact us at any time and look forward to hearing from you.
Form software is considered a basic tool for operating a small business with efficiency and resource savings, so it’s not unusual for small startups to invest in form software right away.
Investing in form software that only makes online forms and doesn’t allow for reporting on the data those forms collect is short-sighted, even if you save significant money by foregoing reporting features.
For most businesses, the day will come (and it’s often sooner rather than later) when data collected from online forms needs to be put into an organized report, either for a client, for improving business operations internally, or for an auditor. Don’t short-change your small business by getting form software that doesn’t have fully fledged, easy-to-use reporting features.
Smaller Businesses May Benefit Most from Reporting Capability
Big enterprises with deep pockets can bring in a consultant or other contractor to produce custom reports when the occasion arises that they need one. Or, they don’t have to squeeze dollars to the point of buying software that doesn’t quite do what they need.
Smaller businesses may find it harder to justify the purchase of form software with more features than what they need in the near term. But when the software they choose does have an extensive suite of features, including reporting features, they’re positioned to better understand what drives their business results, and they can impress new clients by being able to produce informative, great looking reports quickly, accurately, and with minimal hassle.
Compare Data, Gain Insights
Say you’ve been in business for two or three years, and the past December “felt like” it wasn’t as hectic or busy as the previous one. Is it just your imagination, or did sales really fall off? If you have been using form software to create orders, invoices, packing slips and so on, and if that form software has the ability to gather and make sense of the data your online forms have collected, you can answer your question quickly and unequivocally by generating a report.
Do you want to know which member of your sales team is making the most sales versus which one is bringing in the most total revenue? Reporting features of your online form software should allow you to do this. Are you interested in learning which department or staff member is responsible for the most requests for IT help? Reporting capabilities let you figure this out without having to really dig in and get your hands dirty.
Have Data Ready Quickly for Clients, Others
Suppose you sell products created for you by a local company, and they want to know what the sales trends look like over the course of the year, so they can staff optimally. The form software with reporting features helps you do this quickly, impressing your supplier with your speed and accuracy. And should you find yourself in the unenviable position of facing a software license audit, the forms you use to log software licenses, who they’re assigned to, and dates of expiration let you show your auditor definitively that you are in full compliance, without having to dig through file cabinets full of information.
Reduce the Need for Paper Reports
When you create reports with the right online form software, you don’t even have to produce paper copies, unless you want to. You can create reports and save them electronically, so they’re easy to find and reference, and you don’t need a clerk to spend time developing a usable paper filing system. Plus, you’ll save significantly on paper and ink, and help your company have a smaller environmental footprint.
PerfectForms is form software that presents you with a clean, intuitive user interface that makes it easy to make online forms and workflows and develop insightful reports from the data you collect. With its powerful reporting features, using PerfectForms means you don’t have to bring in an outsider to make sense of all your data, and you can transmit your reports electronically rather than on paper.
If you operate a small business, you owe it to yourself and your team to check out PerfectForms. Why not watch our demo video? You’re sure to discover several ways the right form software can make your business run more efficiently and make your competitive edge sharper.
The year is young, and many of us make resolutions to bring our lives back into better balance. It’s easy to let life become unbalanced by getting caught up in an endless cycle of pushing ourselves further professionally, and it can be hard to see that we’ve lost sight of more important things.
Fortunately, technology has the ability to help us bring work and life into better balance, as long as we don’t use technology as an excuse to cram even more work into our days. The right workflow software, combined with online forms and mobile functionality, can help us minimize inefficiency so that work gets done more quickly, freeing up time for other things.
Basic Automated Workflows: Ending Duplication of Effort
The main idea behind automated workflows is reducing or eliminating duplication (or triplication, in some cases) of effort. Think about it. With old paper forms that were filled in by hand, there was the effort of retrieving the right form from a filing cabinet, the effort of filling in all the blanks, and the effort of handing it to the right person. In many cases, the next step was someone else typing the handwritten data into a database or spreadsheet. That’s not very efficient!
The automated workflow means that information is input once and automatically routed to where it needs to go. Data that must fill multiple forms or multiple form fields can auto-populate those form fields, and workflow software can ensure that any of that data that needs to go into a database or spreadsheet does so automatically. Furthermore, completed online forms are sent to the right recipient by design, and it won’t get lost in the stack of papers on the recipient’s desk.
Add Mobility to Accelerate Workflows Further
Mobile forms take automated workflows a step further still. Most of your employees have at least one mobile device on them at all times, and they’re used to using them to take care of a huge range of personal tasks. If they can also access online forms and automated workflows through their mobile devices, they’re unshackled from their desk or workstation, adding significant flexibility, which also helps improve work-life balance. Mobile forms that minimize required typing through the use of multiple-choice fields or drop-down menus make the form-filling process fast and accurate.
Save a Trip for Your Remote, Field, and Traveling Employees
Suppose you are an insurance claims adjuster, traveling to sites of various incidents to begin the claims process. If you have mobile forms on your tablet that feed into an automated workflow, you can take down all pertinent claim information on-site, rather than taking notes and entering it later. And if you travel to multiple claim sites in a day, you don’t have to worry about returning to your office to fill out claim forms, because they can be submitted right from the mobile device. Madison National Life Insurance greatly streamlined their claims submission and approval process by making forms available on agent laptops that they could take into the field with them.
Work Time Saved Leaves More Time for What’s Important
It isn’t just insurance claim forms that can be completed and submitted without returning to the office. IT requests, travel reimbursement requests, field-service reports, and a nearly unlimited number of other forms can be made mobile, so that workflows proceed at a pace unheard of a decade ago.
PerfectForms offers workflow software that empowers businesses in all industries to create customized online forms and workflows that are mobile-friendly and fully automated. From the simplest request form to the most complicated publication or approval workflow, PerfectForms allows online forms, automated delivery of completed forms, automated alerts and notifications, and easy integration with databases, spreadsheets, web forms, and other business systems. We invite you to read through some of our many case studies and learn how automation puts businesses in a league ahead of the competition.
Back in olden times, spreadsheets were designed to be used instead of the paper sheets that were commonly used by bookkeepers and accountants. They provided the rigid layout for keeping accounts clear, and a built-in calculator that saved massive amounts of time..
They were so popular that many credit spreadsheets with prompting the development of the graphical user interface that replaced command line operating systems and opened up computer use to significantly more people. They were convenient, so people started using them for non-accounting purposes, like as stand-ins for actual databases. Spreadsheets can do a lot, but they can’t do everything.
What You Should Use Spreadsheets For
If your business uses collections of financial, statistical, or other numerical data, spreadsheets are terrific for storing and managing this type of data. Spreadsheet software usually has several built-in mathematical functions that save you from having to program them in (or worse, calculate them over and over). They’re easy to edit, and allow you to create different types of graphical displays, such as the various types of charts and graphs. They’re fantastic for managing the numbers associated with a particular project, person, or other discrete entity.
What You Should Use Online Forms For
Online forms are far better for tasks where duplication of effort is a risk. Suppose you and your business partner choose to keep a joint spreadsheet where you log incoming queries, who responded to them, and when the response was made. Further suppose a query comes in and you field it, but you forget to enter it into the spreadsheet because you’re busy. Maybe they’ll call back and get your partner, who may not have the first clue what this repeat caller is talking about. It makes your business look sloppy.
Online forms are far better for such functions. In fact, with the right form software, you can arrange for the data from the online forms to be automatically copied into spreadsheets if you still want to use them. But you won’t duplicate effort, and you won’t let processes slip through the cracks the way you can with spreadsheets.
“Shouldn’t Form Software Be a Later Addition to Our Software Anthology?”
Many new businesses think they’ll grow into their need for form software when in fact, they can make great use of it before they even open their doors for business. You can create online forms for simple timekeeping for your first employees, make employee onboarding forms that ensure everyone’s information is on file, and even create e-commerce forms that online customers can use to order your products and services.
In other words, there’s no reason at all to wait to add form software to your repertoire. Not only can you do a lot with it right now, you’re certain to find more uses for it as your business grows. Plus, if you start out with form software, you won’t find yourself having to replace spreadsheets and make everyone climb a new learning curve when you do.
ROI for Form Software
The return on investment with form software is both quick and long lasting. Right now you can make a tedious, paper-based process much faster, even allowing form users to access and complete forms on mobile devices. Time savings are almost instantaneous. Over the long term, you can be confident you aren’t wasting money on duplicated efforts (such as having someone write down data and then having someone else enter it into a spreadsheet).
And as your business moves forward, you’ll find countless other ways to use your form software, creating online forms for everything from IT help requests to paid time off requests to sign-ups for the company softball team.
No one disputes the value that spreadsheets have brought to businesses. They’re still extremely useful for several business processes. However, before the availability of easy-to-use online form software, people put a lot of effort into trying to make spreadsheets do things for which they were not intended.
PerfectForms is online form software that presents you with an intuitive, drag-and-drop user interface, and lets you create beautiful, functional online forms without having to program and without having to climb a steep learning curve. And since it is available as a cloud-hosted application, you won’t have to invest in an IT infrastructure upgrade to use it on exactly the scale that you need. PerfectForms invites you to watch our demo video and witness the many ways online forms benefit businesses of every size, and in every stage of development.
It’s possible that your company has developed solid workflows that make sense. But that doesn’t mean they are ideal. Everything changes, and technology changes more rapidly than almost anything else.
The lesson of Kodak is often brought up as an example of dangerous resistance to change, since the company rejected one of their engineer’s designs for a DSLR camera back in 1989. The fear was if digital cameras caught on, it would ruin the film business. Kodak made money off the digital camera patent, but by the time that patent ran out, film was dead, and Kodak hadn’t sufficiently embraced digital photography until it was too late.
Likewise, while you shouldn’t change workflows for the sake of change, you should periodically revisit them and see if you’re getting everything you can from them.
Are You Maximizing Efficiency?
Older computers running older software may not present any problems, since you’ve built workflows around them, and everyone knows what to do. But how might you gain efficiency if you upgraded? If current workflows mix digital and paper steps, what could you gain by creating fully automated workflows?
Do your employees have to return to their desks to fill out online forms? Certainly, this is faster than returning to their desk to manually fill out paper forms and deliver them. But what if they could complete online forms away from their desk, in the field, while traveling, or at a client location, for example?
Could Changes Produce a Strong Return on Investment?
Even the easiest technological transitions produce upheaval. But sometimes a major change can produce a major return on investment. Suppose your accounting clerk is leaving or retiring. Might it be a sound investment to acquire software that can scan invoices into the accounts payable system? It may represent an initial investment in the tens of thousands of dollars, but depending on what you would have to pay a new clerk, you could see a return on that investment within the year, and for every year afterward.
Often, ROI isn’t blindingly obvious, as it would be in the previous example. Perhaps changing workflows to automate steps that used to be manual won’t make a huge difference in costs. But over time, a savings of a few dollars every time a frequently used process is done can add up significantly. Complacency can ultimately cost you money and dull your competitive edge.
Revisit Workflows Regularly and Keep Up with Technology
Keeping up with technology isn’t just for the IT people. Business owners and managers should make it a point to understand how technology is advancing and ask questions about how it might be used. You don’t want to be tweaking workflows every week, but once or twice a year is reasonable and will help you stay with the latest, most efficient capabilities. Revisit workflows with the people who actually use them day-in and day-out. They can tell you exactly where the bottlenecks are, and can often suggest ways that those bottlenecks could be widened.
You Don’t Necessarily Have to Be an Early Adopter
In the decade since the iPhone made its debut, the rate of technological change has been dizzying. Some contend that the rate of change in technology now exceeds our ability to adapt. Even if you had all the money in the world to adopt new technologies, doing so would be too much, too fast.
It’s fine to let the early adopters get their hands on new technologies and identify its advantages and disadvantages. But you shouldn’t necessarily wait until your existing processes and technologies are inoperable before upgrading. The flip-phones or Blackberry devices you assigned to employees a decade ago may theoretically still do what you need them to, but think how much more you can do when you make informed changes to technologies and the workflows that involve them.
PerfectForms is workflow software that allows companies like yours to create online forms and automated workflows, so they serve your needs, and not the other way around. It offers mobile-friendliness and integration with other business systems, and allows you to modify workflows to accommodate changes to your personnel, processes, or technology. And how’s this for return on investment: You can try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. Your workflows may not be broken, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be measurably improved.