How the IoT Will Help Improve Workflow Automation

Thursday, August 16th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Person designing the interior of a home structure on a tablet.

The IoT isn’t the future; it’s now.

Most of us have heard of the “internet of things,” or IoT. The high-level view is that the IoT is made up of billions of physical devices throughout the world that are connected to the internet and that collect and share data.

Elements of the IoT range from coffee makers to airplane parts, and the result is a gradual merging of the digital world with the physical world. “Smart” thermostats in homes are an early example of IoT elements, and today there are even children’s toys that can be considered IoT devices.

Their potential lies in taking care of tasks that humans would otherwise have to do. For example, your smart thermostat at home “knows” that everyone leaves the house by 8 a.m., so the thermostat can be adjusted at that time to minimize the use of the heating and AC system while the house is empty. Likewise, it “knows” that the kids get home from school at 3:30, and gets the temperature to the correct setting before that time. Think of the many ways the IoT could improve automated workflows!

Smart Sensors and Workflow Triggers

Suppose your workplace has a server room that must be tightly temperature controlled. People may go in and out of it on occasion, but usually, no one is in there. Suppose the temperature in the room goes out of the optimal range, and it’s hours before someone goes into the server room, realizes it’s way too warm and notifies building maintenance. Damage could have already been done by that time.

By contrast, a smart sensor in the server room could closely monitor the temperature and when it goes out of range, the sensor could trigger an automated workflow that immediately notifies maintenance, so someone can be sent to check out the issue before it escalates.

No, You Don’t Need Robots

Robot at a trade show.

No, the IoT doesn’t mean that robots will take over everyone’s job.

The IoT doesn’t necessarily have to do with robotic automation, though eventually that may be a bigger factor in automated workflows. Right now – today – IoT elements can be put to work triggering workflows when necessary so that people’s time is used optimally. A smart GPS unit in a fleet vehicle can, for instance, monitor mileage and automatically schedule the vehicle for maintenance without the driver or fleet manager having to regularly check vehicle mileage. The potential is great for a reduction in human error!

Integration Is the Main Challenge

Automated workflows have been around a long time, and currently, the main challenge for putting the IoT to work in these workflows is integrating IoT elements with workflow software. Rest assured, however, that these challenges are being addressed, so companies like yours can make automated workflows that are as sleek and efficient as possible.

The ultimate result will be that your greatest asset – your people – will be freed up from more routine, repetitive, or administrative work so they can put their energy toward core business goals and do what they do best, whether that’s engineering, designing graphics, teaching children, or processing insurance claims.

PerfectForms is workflow software that has helped automate workflows for businesses of all sizes, all around the world. With its user-friendly, drag-and-drop interface, PerfectForms allows workflow users to create the exact workflows they need without having to bring in programmers. If you’re interested in automating workflows and freeing your people up to focus on more important core business activities, we invite you to check out some of our many case studies.

Is It Time to Re-Imagine Your Online Forms?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Person using their tablet at a grocery store.

Most people are used to completing online forms in their work and personal lives.

Online forms are nothing new, and most people are used to them.

In fact, online forms are the backbone of many businesses, and are typically the primary way businesses collect data about their customers and their internal employees. But online forms can be so much more than just electronic versions of the paper forms you used to use. They can accomplish much more, in less time, all while building a collection of data that will help you run your business better and make your customers happier. If you have been using your current online forms for a while, maybe it’s time to re-imagine them.

Duplicates of Paper Forms are Fine as a Starting Point

When companies first make the transition from paper forms to online forms, it makes sense in many cases to simply duplicate the layout of the paper forms for their online versions. That way they look familiar to people who are used to the paper forms, and it will be easier for people to make the transition from filling out paper to completing forms online.

But this is hardly ever the ideal online form layout. We’ve all seen good and bad online forms, and it is often the bad online forms that most closely mimic the paper ones of earlier times. The truth is, what worked fine on paper is often far from ideal when it comes to online forms. Fortunately, with the right online form software, creating engaging online forms is easy.

Conversational Data Collection Should Be a Goal

Your goal with online forms is essentially conducting a conversation with the form user – a conversation that yields the data you need. People are put off by online forms that are massive, detailed, and require a lot of typing and scrolling. For one thing, people don’t want businesses (or their employers) collecting data beyond what is appropriate. No one will fill out a highly detailed landing page form solely to gain access to a white paper.

If you must collect more data than what can be captured in two or three questions, it’s usually better to do so with a series of screens, each containing one or two questions. A progress bar at the bottom of the page to let users know how far they still have to go in completing the forms is also helpful.

Woman sitting on the floor using a laptop.

Multiple, easy-to-complete screens beat single-screen, massive online forms every time.

Use Collected Data Wisely to Improve Personalization

The data you collect can often be used to improve online form personalization immediately. If, for example, the first bit of data you collect is a person’s name, you can then address them by name in subsequent form pages: “Thanks, Jessica. This page is where you enter your shipping data.”

Behind the scenes, collected data can also be mined to enhance personalization. Suppose Jessica completes her forms and then returns a week later to place another order. The new form can be presented with her contact and shipping information already entered, saving her time and assuring her that you already “know” her.

Simplicity and Reduction of Screen Clutter Is Important

The more you can reduce screen clutter and simplify online forms, the better. If there are only two or three possible answers, presenting the user with answer buttons to click rather than drop-down menus (or making them type in their answer) speeds form completion along even more, and is far friendlier to your mobile device users. In fact, when you design your online forms with mobile users in mind, you make things easier on all your form users. Lack of mobile-friendliness with your online forms is a sure way to frustrate and potentially drive away form users.

Of course, making online forms that people want to engage with requires that your online form software be up to the challenge. PerfectForms is a leading provider of online form and workflow software that makes creation and modification of online forms simple and fast. It has a drag-and-drop interface and makes it easy to create forms that are aesthetically pleasing, fast, and mobile-friendly. And you can try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. Don’t let your aging online forms frustrate and turn away users. The power of beautiful, engaging online forms is yours with PerfectForms.

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How Smart Contracts Could Revolutionize Workflows

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Woman going over a document with a male coworker.

Not all contracts involve negotiating and actually signing on a dotted line.

Contracts are such an ingrained part of everyday life that we don’t notice them a lot of the time.

Basically, a contract is an agreement between two parties that if Party 1 does this thing, then Party 2 does that thing. If I provide you with a computer program or a pair of shoes or a great haircut, then you pay me an agreed-upon amount for it.

Many of today’s contracts could be considered “smart” already. For example, if you have an agreement with your bank that a certain number of dollars comes out of your automatically deposited paycheck and goes into the bank account of your landlord or insurance company, that agreement could be considered “smart,” because it’s set up once and allowed to run on its own, without you, the bank, or the recipient of the funds giving input every time the transaction needs to take place.

True smart contracts, that incorporate blockchain technology, are better in many ways.

Why Blockchain Technology Makes Smart Contracts Better

Trust imbalances occur at many stages of the execution of a transaction. If I buy something from an online auction, I send money and expect to receive a product in return. Most of the time it works fine, but what about when it doesn’t? I sent money and didn’t get my product, but the seller’s records say they never received my money. Which version of the truth is correct?

Blockchain remedies such situations by automatically creating a distributed ledger of discrete transactions that are not owned by one or the other party to a contract. In other words, if I held up my end of the smart contract and sent the money under a smart contract, that independent ledger will say so, and it’s believable because I have no way of altering it. In fact, no one really has a way of fudging that ledger, because discrete transactions are never erased. They may be amended, but the old transaction record is always there.

Benefits: Speed and Trust

Smart contracts speed up transaction workflows because there’s no waiting around for intermediaries to confirm that something happened. Sure, ACH transactions are stupendously faster than the old system of waiting for a check to clear, but smart contract transactions made with the aid of blockchain technology take the process to an even faster level of operation.

Night street view in a city.

Blockchain technology has the potential to turbo charge execution of the contracts of tomorrow.

Furthermore, the existence of a distributed ledger that isn’t owned by any one person makes it virtually impossible to fake numbers and other details. In other words, a transaction (or any other automated workflow, really) can proceed faster because the speed bumps of trust imbalances go away under smart contracts.

Smart Contracts and Automated Workflows

Automated workflows themselves can be considered a basic type of smart contract because of the triggers and “if-then” aspects of many workflows. “If the purchase order is for more than $1,000, then the approval of a department head is required,” for example. Not every automated workflow needs blockchain technology to ensure optimum speed and trust. We’re still humans after all, and we know that if Carlos in Drafting says he’ll deliver the engineering sketch file by noon Tuesday, he’ll deliver, because he always has.

But some automated workflows may benefit tremendously from the incorporation of smart contracts. This is particularly true in B2C companies that want to make transactions faster, more trustworthy, and less laden with overhead.

It can also be used in multi-party contracts to keep workflows on track. Say a plumbing contractor is contracted to begin work on the plumbing system for your new office building as soon as the smart contract indicates that the pipes have been delivered from the pipe manufacturer. Delays simply won’t fly when a smart contract (as backed up by a distributed, unalterable ledger) shows that the materials were delivered on time to the right place.

Workflow automation won’t demand smart contracts in every instance, but as blockchain technology emerges, it’s clear to see how incorporation of smart contracts and blockchain technology will improve transactions of nearly every type.

Smart workflows are nothing new for PerfectForms, which is form and workflow software designed to empower users to create custom forms and workflows that do exactly what they want, complete with triggers, notifications, audit trail creation, and reporting. Interested? We invite you to read through some of our many case studies to see how PerfectForms makes businesses in every industry work smarter.

Perform a Workflow Inventory to Maximize Efficiency

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Man pointing to a graphic showing workflow with shapes.

Does your business utilize workflows to help automate systems and processes? A workflow is a set of steps that must be completed in order to get a task done. These can be workflows throughout every department of your business, these can be automated, and they can be manual.

Essentially, workflows help get stuff done. And regardless of the size of your business, it can benefit from the use of workflows.

But if you’ve been in business for a while, some of these workflows may have been around since the inception of your business. And some of those might not be working as well as they could be anymore.

This is at the fault of absolutely no one. Things change. Different tasks need different workflows, and one department may need a different workflow than another.

New software and tools come into the picture that can help streamline processes and workflows. New methods of automating are always being created (because, hello, we humans want to be productive and not stuck doing tedious work that robots can handle).

So it’s a great idea to periodically perform a workflow inventory to make sure all of those automated workflows are still working for your business the way they should. Here are a few tips for performing an inventory on your business workflows.

1. List all of the automated workflows and processes you have within your business.

Have your employees assist you in putting together a list of every single workflow you have within your business. Getting help from those working with these workflows every day is a good idea because they’re going to help ensure you don’t leave anything out when performing your inventory.

2. Write down the purpose of each process.

Or at least, what you believe the purpose is. Sometimes things start out as one thing and end up evolving into something else entirely. Next to each listed workflow, write down what you believe its purpose is before moving on to the next step.

Woman and man looking at a document.

3. List everyone involved in each workflow or process.

Regardless of whether it’s a single person, a group of people, or an entire department, be sure to list everyone involved in each workflow. This list can also be helpful when you need to know who to talk to about changing up workflows to make sure they’re as efficient as possible.

4. Rank your workflows in order of importance.

Workflows are important, but some may be more important than others. Some workflows may help keep an internal process organized and others may have a direct impact on your bottom line so those may rank higher on your priority list. For example, special attention should be given to workflows related to actually working with customers and directly generating revenue.

5. Break down each workflow into the individual steps involved.

Yes, this inventory is going to be a little time consuming. But if you haven’t revisited any of your workflows since you created them, it’s necessary. You’ll likely find so many steps that either are no longer needed or can be even further automated to streamline your processes and make them even more efficient.

6. Simplify your processes.

After listing the steps involved in your processes, look to see if there are any that can be eliminated. Solicit feedback and advice from your employees while working on this. Those who are in these processes day in and day out can have valuable input for your inventory, and they can also let you know when things are working smoothly so you’re not trying to fix anything that isn’t broken.

7. Utilize workflow software to automate processes.

Workflow software can automate processes and increase efficiency. Make sure to conduct a workflow inventory annually or semi-annually to keep your processes as efficient as possible. Consider whether any current manual steps or processes can be automated and how workflow software can help.

PerfectForms workflow software can help streamline your workflows even more than before. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help with your workflows, watch the demo today!

3 Workflow Categories and What They Mean to Your Business

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Man in a business suit pointing to a graphic with gears.

Workflows and processes are wonderful things that your business will always, always need. They’re pretty much what helps your business run smoothly and efficiently. And there are many different types of workflows, too.

There are workflows that get your products to your customers. Workflows that get the product created. Workflows that get your employees paid.

And so on and so forth.

A lot of business owners don’t really think about it, but businesses simply don’t run without workflows being put into place. So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to educate the masses about what workflows are, what types of workflows are out there, and what they mean to your business.

There are three different workflow categories that we’re going to focus on today: sequential workflows, state machine workflows, and rules-driven workflows.

Sequential Workflows

A sequential workflow is well-known for being predictable. After all, it follows a sequence (see where it gets its name?) that can be easily followed from one step to the next. These types of workflows are very easy to design and are typically used when there is just one way to complete a task.

In a sequential workflow, the process flow is similar to a straight line. A task must be completed before the next task can begin. Occasionally these workflows will branch out for tasks that can be done while another task in the sequence is being completed, but more often than not the steps are very linear.

Content marketing can illustrate a sequential workflow. The content marketing strategy begins with a topic idea for the content. The idea, once developed, will be reviewed and approved. After approval, a writer is assigned the task of creating the content. The written article is then reviewed by an editor and updates are made as needed. Final approval may be required by a business expert or other team member. From there the article is ready to be published. Each step must be completed before moving to the next.

State-Machine Workflows

State-machine workflows are much more complex than sequential workflows. These are driven by particular events or triggers. For example, this type of workflow can begin when a new order is placed. It’s currently in the Open Order “state.”

This type of workflow depends on tasks being in various “states,” just like it says in its name. It moves through each step of the workflow as the user completes each task and moves it to a different state.

For a workflow that started with a new order, it could go from Open Order to Order Processed to Order Shipped before being completed. These types of workflows don’t necessarily have to end, either. They could stay in certain states for weeks or months.

Laptop computer with a workflow displayed on screen.

Rules-Driven Workflows

A rules-driven workflow goes even farther than the other two and works to include rule-based decisions within your workflows. So while sequential or state-machine workflows are dependent on time constraints, a rules-driven workflow is independent of any issues having to do with time.

As an example, this type of workflow works well when a customer is trying to order something, but not every product comes in the same size, color, flavor, etc., and you need to apply rules to the product availability.

If a customer requests something that is unavailable, a rule can be put in motion to recommend something slightly different that is available instead.

If you’re interested in learning more about the three types of automated workflow categories and how your business can be improved by both these and PerfectForms workflow software, contact us. We’d love to walk you through it.

Design Online Forms to Deliver Customer Quotes Flawlessly

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Woman lying on the floor looking at her laptop.

Online quotes are great time savers, and that’s one reason they’re so popular among businesses and individuals.

Whether they’re searching for something for their business or their personal life, people often wish they could get a quick online quote for a product or service they want.

That’s why so many businesses offer simple online forms that potential customers can use to learn more about the financial commitment they’re considering. Some even offer quick online calculators so people can learn more about what they can and can’t afford. Online mortgage calculators are an example of this.

Online forms for quotes benefit both parties. The person making the inquiry can get a better sense of what they can spend, and the provider has the potential to add a valuable new lead. Here’s how to design online forms that people will want to use for obtaining online quotes.

Make It Easy to Enter Specifics

Suppose you have a blank for entering a dollar value – perhaps a ballpark estimate of what the potential customer wants to spend. Do they enter the data as $20,000, as 20000, or as 20,000? Make it clear in the field directions above the blank (“Enter figure without dollar signs and commas” for example).

Drop-down menus or check-box options where the user can enter a range are also helpful. Minimize the amount of typing the form users have to do so the process is quick; they’ll have less time to reconsider and perhaps conclude that the effort isn’t worthwhile. These options are also far easier on people who use your form on mobile devices.

Don’t Be Pushy

It would be great if a person handed over their full name, contact information, and an indication that they’re ready to buy right now, but not everyone is in that situation. Some people are merely curious and don’t want to give you their life story to find out how much it costs to insure their 2007 Mitsubishi. In general, the less you require of the form user before you provide that estimate, the better. If some information on the inquiry form is optional, either make that clear or mark the mandatory fields with asterisks so users know what information is absolutely necessary in order to generate a quote.

Offer More Personalized Options

Maybe the user asking for a quote is ready to make a purchase and has no problem giving you their contact information. Or perhaps they are asking for a quote that is outside the scope of your online form. Offer these users another option, such as submitting their contact information along with a brief description of the type of quote they want.

Man in a business suit working at a laptop and reading a document.

Offer more personalized options for people interested in larger quotes, or more customized quotes.

More importantly, when you receive one of these completed forms, act quickly. The more time that passes between receiving a form and getting back to the potential customer, the more time the customer has to find another provider. In fact, any time a quote request form is completed request, the user should be taken to a ‘thank you’ page. It’s important to provide assurance that the information was received and that a quote will be provided soon.

Congratulations on Making Warm Contacts

The great thing about online forms offering customer quotes is that you receive contact information that is not “cold” or random. You’re receiving information from someone who has actually expressed interest, and you should make the most of that with your best customer service practices. Of course, not every quote leads to a sale, but those contacts are valuable nonetheless. Some inquirers may not be ready to buy now, but they might be in six months, and the warm reception they receive from your company will help them remember you.

The right online form software makes all the difference when you provide online quotes to potential customers. PerfectForms is online form software that makes it easy to create custom online forms that look and perform exactly as you want them to. You can include only the form fields you need, and make the forms look fantastic and memorable with your own branding, colors, fonts, and logos. Did you know you can test drive PerfectForms for free? Sign up for a free trial and find out for yourself how to make online forms work hard for you.

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Good Business Process Management Is Human-Centric

Thursday, July 26th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Person about to step on a banana peel.

Even the best business processes can’t account for every possibility.

Business process management is nearly ideal in principle. A good system of automated workflows can make up for many less-than-perfect human practices.

But even the most well-developed and tested business process management system in the world can’t operate on its own, devoid of human presence. And you can’t expect even a great process to work well if the people who interact with the system don’t care, are uninformed, or simply don’t know how to use the system.

Automated workflows only work when they represent a good fit with the people who use the workflows, and that varies from industry to industry, and from one company to the next within an industry. Good business process management puts people, and not processes, at the heart of the system.

We’re Good at System-to-System Interaction and Management

Humans have come up with some amazingly efficient system-to-system interaction processes. Think of how warehouses work, routing packages automatically and preparing them for shipment. Or consider the process of getting checked baggage onto an airplane. You don’t have to tell the check-in agent your flight number in order for them to print the right tag, tag your bag correctly, get it to the right carousel and onto the right plane (theoretically, at least).

But the human interactions that surround such processes matter equally as much. For example, what happens when an airline chooses to cancel a flight due to bad weather? The behind-the-scenes automated workflows must be modified, and they must be modified by humans.

People Aren’t Nodes in a Machine, However

While there is no question that automated workflows take efficiency to a much higher level, the fact is that any automated system cannot anticipate every problem or address every need without human interaction. Have you ever attempted valiantly to solve a customer service issue through automated channels only to eventually realize that the problem won’t get solved unless you actually talk to another person and explain what’s going on? There are some things that automated processes still can’t do. Maybe they won’t ever be able to do them. People are far more complex than even the most sophisticated business process management system.

Woman talking on the phone surrounded by towers of binders.

Rare is the process that can operate consistently and end-to-end without occasional human intervention.

Look for These BPM Features to Create a Good “Human Fit”

Good user fit should be a top priority when choosing a system of business process management to create and execute automated workflows. This requires workflow software with a user-friendly interface that is both powerful and flexible. The system that works for one business may not be a good user fit for another, even if the two businesses are very similar.

Workflow software should also handle change management competently. People change, markets change, products change, and technology changes, so there is no reason to think that the perfect workflow for today will still be perfect five years from now.

Additionally, your workflow software should support collaboration, both in its user interface and with the features you can build into your workflows. For example, you should be able to easily create workflows that automatically notify a workflow participant when their input is needed to minimize slow-downs and bottlenecks.

Your automated workflows should be scalable, and scalability depends heavily on the workflow software you choose. As your business grows, you should be able to modify workflows to accommodate higher volume and additional workflow users. And finally, your workflow software should demonstrate a strong return on investment. Business process management doesn’t matter much if it doesn’t produce ROI.

PerfectForms is workflow software designed so that workflow users can create and customize workflows to suit their exact needs. It is designed for collaboration among workflow users, is ready to scale and change with minimum disruption, and produces a fast and appreciable ROI. We invite you to read through some of our many PerfectForms case studies. See for yourself how business process management that puts people at the heart of the system makes a tremendous difference for businesses of all sizes, in a wide range of industries. Contact us to learn more.

Use Workflows, Not Spreadsheets to Manage Contracts

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Woman with a document speaking with a man.

Contracts must be up to date, with absolute accuracy to avoid misunderstandings.

Contracts, whether formal or informal, written or verbal, form the very basis of business.

A contract can be as simple as a fulfilled order or as complex as the distribution of a family trust. What contracts do is define a business interaction.

When contracts are not managed well (or at all), they almost inevitably underperform. They lose revenue, raise costs, increase risks of legal non-compliance, and cultivate ill will. By contrast, contracts that are managed will maximize revenue, minimize costs, offer greater assurance of legal compliance, and promote strong and healthy business relationships.

As important as contracts are to business operation, they should not be left to inadequate management devices. Spreadsheets may have been a great solution at one time, but today, automated workflows make far more sense for managing business contracts.

Contracts Demand To-the-Minute Accuracy

For contracts to proceed properly, all stakeholders need to be on the same page – sometimes literally! Contracts are rarely carried to completion without alterations and updates, and it’s absolutely imperative that all parties be privy to the latest version of the contract to avoid misunderstandings.

Automated workflows make sense for this, because as each workflow step proceeds, all relevant parties are kept apprised of the current status of the contract. If contract administrators agree to alter one of the terms, the workflow itself can notify all affected parties so that the alteration comes as a surprise to no one.

When a contract term that depends on completion of a prior contract term is ready for action, those responsible can be notified automatically by the workflow, so the contract moves forward with minimal obstacles. These are activities that are difficult or impossible to carry out when you manage contracts with spreadsheets.

Problems with Using Spreadsheets to Manage Contracts

Typing information into the columns of a spreadsheet is easy, and that’s why spreadsheets are beloved for their prowess at crunching numbers and ordering lists. But even with a common, shared spreadsheet, it’s possible for one authorized person to change something while everyone else is oblivious to the change.

Man working on his laptop with a mobile phone to his ear appearing frustrated.

Whose spreadsheet is the “real” master copy? Who made those changes? Workflows prevent such questions.

Additionally, what if several spreadsheet “owners” decide to save their own “master copy” of the spreadsheet in different locations? It can be nearly impossible to determine which copy is the true master copy and which is the most current. When such incidents happen, it’s all too easy to focus on fixing the spreadsheet while deadlines slip by. In other words, spreadsheets have many glaring shortcomings when it comes to managing contracts.

Workflows: Accuracy, Timeliness, Efficiency

Automated workflows do away with the problems of managing contracts using spreadsheets. Access and permissions to different steps of workflows can be tightly controlled, so no one makes a change without the entire system being updated accordingly. You can even design contract workflows so that when a change is made by an authorized person, everyone affected can be notified automatically. Staying literally and figuratively on the same page could not be easier.

What’s more, automated workflows engineer out the inefficiencies that result from using spreadsheets or other methods for managing contracts. Because everything is done electronically, there are no worries about copies being lost, damaged, or forgotten, and instead of contracts being physically delivered to stakeholders, they’re delivered electronically and instantly.

The workflow software you choose makes all the differences when designing automated workflows for handling contracts. PerfectForms is powerful, flexible, and user-friendly enough to allow easy design and modification of the simplest online form to the most complex automated workflow. With its drag-and-drop interface, you can simply put form or workflow elements in place and connect them exactly the way you need to.

We invite you to take a minute to watch the PerfectForms demo video. There you’ll see the many ways automated workflows improve business accuracy and efficiency, eliminating misunderstandings and ensuring that all parties to a workflow are on the same page at all times. Contact us today to learn more.

Why People Abandon Online Forms and What to Do About It

Friday, July 20th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Man sitting in front of a computer appearing frustrated.

Online forms should minimize the “friction” between your user and the information or product they want.

All types of businesses and other organizations depend on online forms to collect and deliver information and strengthen relationships with clients. But most people don’t finish online forms after starting them.

It isn’t that filling out forms is too hard. People want their online activities to proceed with the least amount of “friction” as possible. They’re willing to make the trade-off of exchanging some of their personal information for something they perceive as valuable, but they evaluate these potential trade-offs in a split second, so you don’t have much time to convince users that your online forms are worth their time.

It’s important that you understand why people abandon online forms, how you can prevent this, and how well-designed online forms can strengthen your business.

Why People Abandon Online Forms

Some of the reasons people abandon online forms before submitting them include:

  • Concerns about data security
  • Forms that are too long
  • Experience of being bombarded with ads after completing previous online forms
  • Perception of some questions in online forms as being unnecessary
  • Difficulty in completing forms on mobile devices

Of the people who abandon online forms, only a small fraction ever return to complete the forms later. Most users give up on obtaining the information they want, choose another provider, or contact customer service for help instead.

Ways to Prevent Form Abandonment

One of the most important and effective ways to prevent people from abandoning your online forms is to be transparent about why the form exists and how you plan to keep data you collect secure. People want to know for certain that you won’t share their email address with third parties, and they want to know that you take data security seriously.

Man in a business suit leaning against a glass column reading a document.

People are highly attuned to issues of data security online.

Another way to encourage completion of online forms is to eliminate all extraneous questions. With each question added to an online form, the chances of the user completing it drop. Making forms mobile-friendly by minimizing the typing users have to do and using drop-down menus and check boxes wherever possible, is another way to encourage form completion.

People frequently abandon online forms because they don’t have access to information they need for it. If they’re allowed to save their progress and return to the form to complete it later, they’re likelier to come back than if they have to completely abandon what they’ve done and start over.

Good Online Forms Strengthen Customer Relationships

When you use best practices in developing online forms and using the data you collect from them, you create opportunities to strengthen the relationship with your customer (or potential customer). To gain their trust you can demonstrate that you won’t bombard them with ads or up-selling pushes and that you will never share their information with third parties.

And when online forms allow customers to fill out future online forms without having to re-enter data, they’ll appreciate your efforts even more. Furthermore, by saving customer data and using it to auto-populate parts of new forms, you can reduce the number of errors contained in completed forms.

Your form software can make or break your efforts to provide online forms that people want to complete. PerfectForms has a user-friendly visual interface that allows you to drag and drop form elements into place, so your forms are visually appealing. You can customize with logos, text, and other graphics to reflect your branding, and use mobile-friendly form features like check boxes and drop-down menus with ease.

When you make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to complete your online forms, you reduce the number of forms that are abandoned. PerfectForms invites you to watch our demo video and see how easy it is to create pixel-perfect, fully customized online forms.

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Why Too Much Customization of Forms and Workflows Poses Risks

Thursday, July 12th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Close up of a music mixer board.

Customization can turn something good into something spectacular.

Customization in general is a great thing. The pair of jeans that fits like they were made for you, or the equalizer settings that make the most of the music you listen to are things that make life in general better.

For the most part, the same is true for automated workflows. After all, you don’t want to have to use a workflow that was designed for some other user.

It is important, however, to remember that there can be too much of a good thing. To a certain level, automation improves workflows and increases their ROI. But there is a point of diminishing returns, where excessive customization eats into ROI and increases user frustrations. Here’s what you should know about doing customization right when it comes to automated workflows.

The Perils of Error Propagation

If you have ever taken a beginning level programming class, you probably learned that changing one single aspect of your code can have unintended and unexpected consequences throughout the rest of the program. The same is true when you automate workflows. For example, if you automate too many tasks all at once, you could end up with a major bottleneck and not enough people to keep the workflow moving at speed. The result could be a slower workflow than before, which is the opposite of what you want. Making customizations one at a time, and then thoroughly testing them in all reasonable scenarios before taking them live is the best way to prevent error propagation.

Too Much Customization Makes Workflows Harder to Troubleshoot

From kitchen tools to cars to workflows, the more complicated a system is, the harder it is to troubleshoot. An automated workflow that has added many customizations at once can be a nightmare to untangle when something goes wrong. That’s another reason why it’s important to customize incrementally, test thoroughly, and be confident of the customization’s value before adding to it. And if you do it this way, you’ll have an easier time identifying which customization step is causing problems, so you can fix it more expediently.

Users (i.e. Experts) May Come and Go

People celebrating a retirement with cake and balloons.

When your workflow expert leaves, will they take all of their workflow knowledge with them?

An automated workflow that is personalized to the point that only one or two people know how to use it can be dangerous. What if that one person is out sick, or changes jobs? Automated workflows should be customized to the user base rather than to a single user. Additionally, you should avoid using jargon that only a couple of people are familiar with, and make sure that there is some level of redundancy when it comes to knowledge of how to use workflows. Otherwise, you could find yourself starting all over creating a new workflow when your resident expert retires or otherwise departs.

The Key Is to Prioritize and Customize Incrementally

When you’re tackling workflow automation, your best plan is to prioritize which single automation would make the biggest difference. For example, maybe automated submission of an online form could replace the current practice of people filling out forms by hand and delivering paper copies to their intended recipient. That alone can speed up workflows considerably.

Then, when that automation is second nature to workflow users, you could consider adding other customizations, like notifications to workflow users when certain workflow steps have been completed. Stepwise customization is less likely to put you in the position of having bitten off more automation than you can chew.

Your choice of workflow software can make all the difference when it comes to workflow customization. PerfectForms allows you to create online forms and workflows by dragging and dropping elements into place. You can start with one of PerfectForms’ prefabricated templates, or start from scratch. Testing workflows is straightforward, so you can be confident in your customization when you take it live. And going back and making changes is straightforward too because no programming is required.

If you’d like to see the power of customized automated workflows in action, PerfectForms invites you to check out some of our many case studies. We’ve helped businesses of all sizes and in all industries create custom forms and workflows that save money, reduce error rates, and help everyone do their work better.

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