Automated Workflows Increasingly Expected Across Industries

Thursday, June 21st, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Woman purchasing food from a market.

Automation isn’t appropriate for every work activity, but many tasks can be automated.

Automation is established in many industries, like manufacturing and IT services. But some industries consist largely of tasks for which automation doesn’t make sense. A local diner, for instance, has to be ready to provide an unpredictable range of cooked foods to customers at a moment’s notice.

The good news is that even in industries where automation isn’t an obvious solution for productivity and efficiency gains, automation has a place, and can provide a competitive advantage. Automated workflows can be implemented across just about all industries, and in ways that deliver a fast, positive return on investment.

Industries with the Lowest Automation Potential

Industries that involve managing people and their expectations are the hardest to automate. Sometimes, human experience and expertise are necessary for decision-making or creative work. Automation works best in industries where well-defined activities are the norm, but even in these industries, human input is required for things like interpretation of results or monitoring solutions for unexpected problems.

Workflow software can be used in industries that are based on hard-to-automate “knowledge work,” because every business has tasks that must be carried out with consistency on a regular schedule. When creative or highly customized businesses implement automated workflows where appropriate, they can advance their competitive position.

Automation Helps Cope with Email

You don’t even need workflow software to automate many email-related tasks. Most email programs allow creation of custom filters to route and respond automatically based on the email sender. Emails from key clients, for example, can automatically be flagged and routed to a folder designated just for them.

Many of us have used automatic “out of office” responses to let email senders know when we’re away, and whom to contact until we return. With the average office worker receiving 121 emails per day, it’s easy to see how manual management of emails can take up a disproportionate amount of time, and how automatic workflows for email management can save massive amounts of time.

Large @ symbol in white surrounded by blank paper.

Automation of many ordinary email tasks is a no-brainer.

The Many Advantages of Paying Bills Automatically

Many of us use automatic bill payment at home to make sure that our phone bills and other household bills are paid automatically and on time. It saves time and prevents problems like late fees. Businesses can use automatic bill paying too, and the advantages may be even greater.

If phone service gets cut off at home because someone forgot to pay a bill, it’s an inconvenience and a hassle. But if it happens at work, the results can be disastrous. Two of the best and easiest ways for a business to implement automation is to use providers’ automatic bill paying services, or set up automated workflows that transfer money on the correct day every month.

Data Backup: A Prime Opportunity for Automation

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have lost data due to not backing it up, and those who will lose data due to not backing it up. Some employees are going to be more vigilant about data backup than others, unless you set up automated workflows to take care of the task.

Scheduling and running data backups is one of the easiest tasks to postpone when work gets busy. But disk crashes don’t care how busy someone is, and there’s never a good time to discover that data has been lost. Automated workflows for backing up data may not be glamorous or exciting, but they can prevent a huge number of major problems.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that automated workflows are just for highly-automated industries. The truth is, even the most hands-on, mom-and-pop business can benefit from automated workflows, for tasks ranging from on-boarding new employees to timekeeping to making sure all bills are paid on time. PerfectForms is workflow software that makes automation easy, because there is no programming required.

With PerfectForms, you can drag and drop workflow elements into place to make fully-customized workflows that do exactly what you need. If you’re interested in learning more about how automation can benefit businesses in any industry, we invite you to read through some of our many case studies. PerfectForms helps businesses automate appropriate processes, so they can focus more of their time and energy on core business processes.

There Is Simply No Reason Not to Use Online Forms

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Woman at work with a stack of papers.

Paper forms are no longer a “necessary evil” for most organizations.

Filling out forms is the bane of many people’s existence, and the people whose jobs involve collecting and dealing with filled-out paper forms don’t care for them much either.

Customers and clients who fill out paper forms know that a sometimes-significant chunk of time will be devoted to form completion, and mistakes will have to be scribbled through and written over. The results may well be a mess, and that’s before the forms get dropped onto the floor, or have coffee spilled on them.

Online forms are practical for organizations of all sizes, and the benefits they offer overwhelm the benefits of paper-based forms. Here’s why there’s simply no reason not to be using online forms.

Barriers to Adoption of Online Forms

Change is hard. The same person who may grumble about having to enter or otherwise deal with data written on paper forms may nonetheless be intimidated by the idea of putting forms online. Perhaps a person who regularly deals with paper forms knows that they’ll have to go through the IT department to get an online form solution implemented, which can potentially stir up political maneuverings. Or maybe the sheer volume of forms is so great that switching over to online forms feels impossible.

Fortunately, these barriers are easily overcome, particularly with the right choice of form software. And since many form software packages today can be run from the cloud, worries about adding to on-site infrastructure disappear for most organizations.

Users Prefer Online Forms

Editing and correcting paper forms is a hassle, but doing the same with online forms is easy. Moreover, cutting and pasting is possible with online forms, but not with paper forms. When online forms have carefully thought-out features like drop-down menus, spell checkers, and check boxes, they can be completed in record time.

Depending on the form software used, online forms can include many checks and balances to make sure data is entered correctly. Furthermore, incorrectly entered data can often be flagged immediately, so the user can make the correction and move on quickly. And in many cases, lengthy online forms can be completed partially, and then saved with a password and retrieved later.

Man holding a table smiling with a couple in the background looking at a laptop.

Online forms can be set aside for later completion, just like paper forms.

Online Forms Are “Once and Done”

Think back to the pre-internet days. If you attended college or started a new job in those days, you probably remember entering the same data (like your name and Social Security number) multiple times, by hand, onto paper forms. Secure online forms make much shorter work of such processes.

For new employee onboarding, you can enter pertinent data once, and it can be used to populate multiple forms that require that data. And when an online form is completed and submitted, there are no worries about it being lost on someone’s desk or inadvertently left behind.

Data from Online Forms Can Be Routed Automatically

Suppose you operate a healthcare facility that serves people who don’t have health insurance. You could, for example, create online registration forms that collect all necessary patient information, as well as financial information. If the values in the financial information fields fall below a certain threshold, the new patient’s form could be automatically routed to a clerk whose job is to check whether the patient would qualify for Medicaid.

All this can be done automatically, with minimal stress on either patients or clerical staff. Facilities that use electronic medical records can also route data from online forms to the appropriate fields in other forms in that system, to minimize time and errors.

However “hands-on” your business operations are, you still benefit from using electronic forms over paper forms. They’re faster, more accurate, and are not subject to loss and damage the way paper forms are. PerfectForms is online form software that can be run from the cloud, so in most cases you can use it without having to upgrade your IT infrastructure. If you have sufficient bandwidth, you’re good to go.

PerfectForms allows you to create fully-customized online forms by dragging and dropping form elements into place. You can easily build in checks and balances, as well as automatic notifications to appropriate personnel, and you can route form data appropriately, so data entered once can be used by multiple forms. And with mobile-friendly features like drop-down menus and check boxes, PerfectForms is appreciated by mobile device users as well. We invite you to watch the demo video and see how PerfectForms streamlines and improves a nearly infinite range of online forms.

Online Form Design Can Make or Break Survey Projects

Friday, June 15th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Survey worksheet with a pencil lying on top.

Paper surveys are passé, and they’re not great at collecting data that can be trusted.

Businesses of all kinds use online surveys. Not only do retailers periodically survey customers after they have completed purchases, there are some companies that provide survey services as part of what they do. Consulting companies are an example.

The right survey, delivered in the right format to the right person at the right time can yield incredibly valuable data and help businesses improve their products and services, as well as how those are delivered. People are used to completing surveys that are given as online forms, and increasingly, they’re answering surveys on their mobile devices. Surveys on mobile devices can be particularly effective and convenient if they’re designed to take the mobile experience into account.

Online form software can be used to create customized surveys that are user-friendly and mobile friendly. What’s more, these surveys can start delivering insights very quickly.

Well-Designed Surveys Likelier to Draw Participants

Think about it: when you’re presented with an enormous, in-depth survey after completing a purchase, you’re not likely to want to respond. It’s like turning in a school assignment and then being presented immediately with a final exam. Surveys presented as well-designed online forms, however, are far more inviting. People would rather answer one or two questions on a “page” and then go to the next page than endlessly scrolling down a lengthy document.

Moreover, the easier you make it on the user (particularly the mobile user) with the use of radio buttons, drop-down menus, and other tools that minimize typing, the more likely you are to get a decent participation rate.

Surveys Demand Customized Online Forms

No business is exactly like yours, and no prefabricated survey template is likely to meet your needs exactly. However, the right online form software makes it easy for you to create online surveys from the ground up, precisely designed to meet your needs. Consulting and survey firm Affinity Management Group creates custom online surveys for Fortune 500 companies across several industries, and they rely on software that has the flexibility and the power that allows them to build and deploy surveys with a minimum of friction.

Woman lying down looking at a laptop screen.

Well-designed online surveys are convenient and almost fun!

Data Collection and Data Analysis Can Start Simultaneously

Perhaps the best thing about using powerful online form software to build and deploy custom online surveys is the fact that the data that is collected can be immediately routed to more than one destination and can be processed at once. Nobody has to collect and enter survey data, because the survey process itself takes care of it. And if more than one department head at your company needs to know which geographical area survey participants are from, the data can be automatically sent to them.

The easier you make it for people online or on mobile to participate in online surveys, the higher the participation rate, and the more confidence you can have in the data collected. The analytics can work with the data you have right now, and they can be re-run as more survey data comes in. And all this can be done automatically, so it’s not only easy on survey respondents, but on your employees too.

The Affinity Management Group chose PerfectForms as the online form software they wanted to create and deploy the surveys they design for their clients. According to the company, “PerfectForms allows Affinity to quickly and easily execute surveys, which provides Affinity’s customers with the business edge they need to create effective marketing campaigns and make solid business decisions.” Moreover, survey response rates increased significantly, maintenance costs dropped, and the entire data collection workflow was streamlined.

You can try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a free trial. You’ll be amazed at how easy and straightforward it is to create perfectly customized online forms for a huge range of applications, including customer surveys, employee onboarding, ordering, purchase orders, and more. Give it a try and see for yourself!

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Workflows Reduce Time-to-Market without Compromising Quality

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Models walking down the catwalk at a fashion show.

Fashion is one industry where time-to-market can make a huge difference in quarterly profits.

“Time-to-market” is how long it takes from the time a product is envisioned until it is actually for sale. It’s a particularly important concept in industries where products grow obsolete quickly (like fashion).

While the first company to get a brand-new product on the shelves may have had the luxury of time to develop the product and work out the problems, it is the followers who stand to gain the most from a short time-to-market.

It is not a concept that can be measured in a standardized manner, the way, say, gross profit margin can be. Additionally, a “fast” time-to-market will vary greatly between industries, as will the official “starting point” from which time-to-market is calculated. Nonetheless, it is a critical differentiator in many businesses, and reducing time-to-market generally requires speed, innovation, and consistency.

Faster Time-to-Market Is a Competitive Advantage

It’s easy to see how faster time-to-market can be a huge competitive advantage in some cases. For example, every year after New York Fashion Week, lower-cost apparel makers try to be the first to get the newest looks into stores at prices that average people can afford. A slow time-to-market can be devastating in this context, simply because of the fleeting nature of a lot of fashion.

The same is true to a lesser extent in “slower” industries like the automotive industry. When hybrid cars first caught on, it was advantageous for car companies to introduce their own hybrid models to take advantage of consumer sentiment while it was hot.

Quality Is Essential, However

Time-to-market, however, is meaningless without a certain level of quality. Sure, your car company may have put a hybrid on the market in short order, but if there are recalls and problems with many of them, the result can be a loss rather than a gain. Quality is a matter of first, building quality control into every process, from design to production to packaging to shipping. It is also a matter of consistency. Nobody wants to wonder if they got a “good” batch of the latest fashion accessory, or if the items are going to fall apart as soon as people put them on. For time-to-market to make a positive impact, quality and consistency must be baked in.

Quality control measurement

Time-to-market means little unless quality is up to scratch as well.

Workflows for Streamlined, Consistent Processes

Defined workflows are the key to consistent processes, and they can streamline processes significantly as well. Creating a workflow is a matter of breaking down a work process into discrete, singular steps, even when some of those steps seem superfluous (“Place the boxed item on the shelf”). When steps are followed consistently, the end product is more consistent, and when quality control steps are built in, quality is consistent as well.

Creating streamlined workflows is part science and part art. Often, the people who can design workflows the best are the people who actually use them every day. They know why things need to be done in a certain order, or which processes need to be branched off the main workflow and carried on in the background.

The Right Workflow Software Is Key

Workflow software can benefit just about any business in any industry. Every business has processes, and workflow software can turn those processes into streamlined, automated workflows. But not all workflow software is created equal. Nobody has time to use workflow software that requires pulling someone in from the IT department or hiring a programmer on contract.

PerfectForms is workflow software that puts the power of workflow creation into the hands of the people who know the workflows forward and backward. Because there is no programming required and the interface is intuitive, workflow users can drag and drop workflow elements into place, test them thoroughly, and make adjustments as needed. Then, when the workflow operates as needed, deploying it is easy and fast.

PerfectForms invites you to watch our demo video. It only takes a minute, and shows you clearly how clean, consistent workflows can prevent the waste of time and resources and help your business do what it does, only faster and better. Contact us for more information.

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What Workflow Designers Can Learn from How Law Offices Use Workflows

Friday, June 8th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Three people in business suits meeting around a table.

While each case is different, the practice of law must follow exacting processes, and meet strict deadlines.

The courtroom drama we see in movies or in highly publicized televised cases is only a small fraction of what lawyers and their assistants actually do. Much of the legal profession is driven by arduous processes that must be completed exactly and before strict deadlines. It isn’t glamorous, and some of those tasks aren’t billable to clients.

If any industry can benefit from defined, automated workflows, it’s the legal industry. Not only must complex procedures be completed in detail with perfect or near-perfect accuracy, they must be completed on time because the court system is not sympathetic to missed deadlines. A workflow designer can be one of the best investments a law firm can make, and businesses in other industries can learn a lot from how law offices use workflows. Here are some examples to illustrate this.

Automating Time Tracking and Billing

Writing down hours and projects to which they’re billable made sense in eras before computers were commonplace. Today, however, even the smallest law firm or other business can create time tracking and billing workflows that are designed to the exact requirements of the nature of the business and the way in which clients are billed.

Imagine a mobile-friendly workflow for tracking billable time. An attorney (or engineer, or consultant, or other field-bound professionals) can use their smartphone to create a record of billable work done in the field so that every billable hour is actually billed.

Document Management Designed to Remain Current

Legal documents must be kept up to date, and changes to legal documents must be noted and sometimes approved by parties to litigation or their attorneys. Automated workflows for document management can record exactly who has had access to a document, what changes were made, when they were made, and whether or not they were approved.

In the legal profession, relying on a document that may or may not be the latest version can have serious consequences. While the ramifications for using non-current documents may not be quite as dire in your industry, nonetheless, it’s always beneficial to have the latest version of a document, with a record of what changes have been made to it.

Workflows That Prevent Missed Deadlines

Workflow software

In law, missing a deadline can cause serious, long-term consequences.

Missed deadlines are a problem in any business, but in the legal business, missed deadlines can mean cases get dismissed or become subject to summary judgment. Automated workflows can be designed so that they create automatic notifications that are sent out to interested parties at strategic points in the workflow. For example, if an approval or signature is required before a particular date and time, the workflow can notify the person whose attention is needed automatically. An email or message to this effect can make the difference between an inadvertently missed deadline and a record of consistently meeting deadlines – something that can instill confidence in new or potential clients.

Result: Better Resource Allocation, Productivity, and Efficiency

In the legal profession as in any other profession, defined, automated workflows help ensure resources are allocated optimally, and that productivity and efficiency are maximized. The great news is that you don’t have to hire a workflow designer to create custom workflows for your business. PerfectForms is workflow software that allows the actual users of a workflow to design the exact steps needed, along with any automatic notifications and auditing notes that are necessary. Using a drag-and-drop interface, with no programming required, PerfectForms users can create custom workflows from scratch, or modify one of the many templates that come with the software.

Law practices use workflows to ensure consistency and precision. Workflows can be made to automatically delegate and approve work steps, raising productivity measurably. The overall result is better resource allocation and more freedom for personnel to focus on their billable tasks. Whatever business you are in, well-designed workflows minimize the time people spend on repetitive tasks, freeing everyone up to pursue core business objectives. You can try PerfectForms for free and see for yourself. Why not give it a test drive?Discover where PerfectForms can take your business.

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4 Ways Businesses Envision Incorporating Cryptocurrencies into their Workflows

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Computer circuits with silver and gold coins.

Bitcoin and Ethereum are two examples of cryptocurrencies, but there are many more.

Decentralized, anonymous, and electronic, cryptocurrency has the power to change some of the most fundamental ways business is transacted. Cryptocurrencies may be regarded as either a digital currency, or as an asset. They can be used to transfer value over the internet, or to buy and sell things online.

Like traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies store value and can (but don’t have to) be exchanged for legal tender. Most of these alternative currencies have a fixed supply, so their value takes on some of the characteristics of other finite assets, like gold.

It’s early days yet, but cryptocurrencies offer possibilities to dramatically change the ways business is transacted. Some of these ways may eventually be incorporated into automated workflows, taking the efficiency and productivity gains of automated workflows to an entirely new level. Here are some of the ways businesses envision incorporating cryptocurrencies into their workflows.

1. For Improving Security

Fraud and credit card theft cost businesses billions of dollars per year, and cryptocurrency can help change that. The cryptography that undergirds cryptocurrencies makes them safe for stranger-to-stranger transactions. That alone makes cryptocurrencies less prone to fraud. The risk of identity theft is also lower with cryptocurrencies than with credit cards. And since, by design, there is no third-party intermediary (like a bank or credit card processing company), transactions can (but don’t have to) remain anonymous.

2. To Make Billing and Payments Faster

While there is no question that electronic funds transfer is fast, especially compared to older transaction vehicles (like checks), they are still complex and can take multiple business days to conclude. Small businesses that are most prone to cash flow issues, in particular, find this problematic. The blockchain transactions that power cryptocurrency exchanges are incredibly fast while being secure, and may help small startups cope better with cash flow in the early days of operation. Established businesses also appreciate smoother cash flow.

3. To Slash Processing Fees Significantly

Woman looking a pink piggy bank smiling.

With negligible processing fees, companies can save significantly over the cost of credit card transactions.

With an intermediary (usually a bank) facilitating payments, there are fees associated with credit card payments. A business may be charged a two to three percent fee for each transaction, and it can seriously eat into profits for smaller businesses. With no intermediaries, cryptocurrencies don’t have such associated fees. While there is a “buy-sell spread” associated with changes in cryptocurrency value, these are usually minuscule due to the fast speed of transactions. Not only can automated payment workflows be speeded up appreciably, they cost less to businesses.

4. For Improving Ethical Business Practices

Blockchain transactions can be anonymous and secure, but they can also be more transparent than ordinary business transactions. Business-to-business companies may be able to use cryptocurrencies to ensure that they only work with partners that engage in ethically sound business processes. And if cryptocurrency exchanges are built with blockchain-based “smart contracts,” payment can be reserved until the smart contract offers proof that a party’s obligations have been carried out.

Automated workflows can be much more than simple procedures for, say, processing online forms. Workflows that today include contract fulfillment, billing, and payment, stand to be completely transformed by the use of cryptocurrencies as these instruments gain traction in the business world. Changing workflows to use cryptocurrencies rather than credit card payments (or as an additional payment option) will save businesses money and time, while also making them more secure.

The online forms and automated workflows you create with PerfectForms can be modified and edited with ease, with no programming required. PerfectForms offers users a user-friendly interface, allowing them to drag and drop elements of online forms or workflows into place. As cryptocurrencies become more usable and popular for business transactions, automated workflows can take advantage of the many benefits these new financial assets offer. We invite you to read through some of our many case studies to see how online forms and workflows created with PerfectForms make businesses faster, more accurate, and more profitable.

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A Simple Workflow with Powerful Results: The Electronic Checklist

Friday, June 1st, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Red checkmarks on a paper.

Checklists have helped people work consistently and thoroughly for ages.

People have used checklists for as long as pen and paper have been available for the task. It’s a simple, straightforward way to ensure that you don’t forget something, whether it’s what to pack for vacation or what to check during pre-flight before taking off in a plane.

Checklists have persisted for so long because they work. Hospital clinicians have demonstrated improved performance during emergencies when they use checklists, and there’s a good chance you use checklists yourself, either on the job or in your everyday life.

While there is nothing wrong with paper-based checklists, the electronic checklist is a simple workflow that offers advantages over paper checklists. A simple workflow consisting of an electronic checklist can help many individuals and teams perform better. Here’s how.

The Electronic Checklist as a Workflow

Suppose you have a procedure you must step through in a certain order on a regular basis. Perhaps you are required to back up computer data weekly, but sometimes you forget. Maybe it’s a mistake that won’t catch up to you, but if it does, it could be really bad. To address the situation, you could use workflow software to create a process that automatically opens up on a particular weekday and steps you through the backup process so you not only don’t forget, but you have a record of having done the backups when you were supposed to.

Similarly, suppose you want to ensure that you complete the same steps when you make a new contact or lead. Automated workflows could easily be developed to step you through standard questions to ask the person, and then send the data you gathered to your company’s CRM. The checklist workflow ensures consistency and completion each time.

Automatic Documentation of Step Completion

People are used to checking or crossing off items on a to-do list to show that tasks have been completed. Checklist workflows can go a step further. While there’s no good way to prove that you crossed off an item on a piece of paper when you finished a task (or that you didn’t cross it off by mistake because you weren’t paying attention), automated workflows can create their own “trail of evidence.”

Printer printing out a spreadsheet document.

Automated checklists allow you to refer back to workflows to ensure everything happened as it was supposed to.

You can use your workflow software to automatically record the time and date when an item in a checklist workflow is checked off. That way, if you have to refer back to your records in a week or two, you can see exactly when you completed a task. You can even set up workflow steps to deliver automated notifications to yourself or others when tasks have been checked off.

Workflows May Be for Individuals or Teams

Workflows make sense for teams because many team projects require careful coordination and timing for maximum efficiency. Team checklist workflows can be designed so that the time, date, and person completing a task are automatically recorded. That way everyone in the workflow can know that any prerequisite steps have been completed before moving forward.

But you can make individual automated workflows too. In fact, any multi-step task, whether completed by an individual or a team can be made into a workflow. Even if you are the only person who uses the workflow, it can be tremendously valuable because it keeps you on track, records your progress, and ensures that you don’t inadvertently forget an important step.

Workflows range from simple and straightforward to remarkably complex. While the checklist workflow may be simple, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have immense value. There is nothing wrong with manual checklists, but electronic checklists in the form of automated workflows offer checks and balances, as well as extras like automatic notifications that make them outperform paper-based checklists.

PerfectForms is workflow software that puts the power to create simple or complex workflows into your hands. There’s no programming involved, just a straightforward, drag-and-drop interface. This way, the people who use the workflows can have a major influence on workflow design, or even design them themselves. PerfectForms invites you to read through some of our many case studies. There you’ll find countless examples of organizations of all types that put automated workflows to work for them, saving time, reducing errors, and leading to consistently high quality of work.

How Could Blockchain Technology Affect Automated Workflows?

Thursday, May 31st, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Man scratching his head thinking.

Blockchain technology hasn’t been around that long, and if you find it difficult to understand, you’re not alone.

Suffice it to say that blockchain is a data layer that is both shared and cryptographically secure. It digitally tracks ownership of some asset across trust boundaries, which it can do because of its strong cryptographic security. Similarly to how the internet enabled email and took the postal service out of the equation for many communications, blockchain technology may take other “gatekeepers,” like banks, out of the equation, allowing transfer of assets without a coordinating entity in the middle of the transacting parties.

While it may not sound like that big a deal, in fact, it is poised to change some of the most fundamental ways that business is done. It will also affect the workflows that power many business operations.

Smart Contracts as Part of Workflows

So-called smart contracts are one application of blockchain technology. These are self-executing contracts that have the terms of the agreement written directly into lines of computer code and shared across a secure, distributed blockchain network.

Suppose your business needs a particular product delivered to a client. A smart contract could, for example, be written to automatically transfer payment to the deliverer upon receipt of proof that the product was delivered. That “proof” could come in many different forms, from direct confirmation from the client to scanning of a specific QR code at the delivery destination.

Smart contracts built into workflows have the capability to drastically simplify them by cutting out middlemen and being carried out in their entirety through automated code.

Security Tools Enabled by Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is a shared, unchangeable ledger for recording transaction histories. Ironically, while blockchain increases security drastically, it also increases transparency across networks. A blockchain represents a single record, distributed across parties with specific permissions about who can look at it. At the same time, no single person has control over the record. Therefore, not only could a single person not change the record, but a disaster such as a fire that destroys a server couldn’t change the record either. The record still exists, unaltered, due to the distributed nature of blockchain technology.

Hand with black glove opening door with chain on it.

Due to its distributed nature, data stored through blockchain technology is safer than older forms of data storage.

Every block in a blockchain is connected to the blocks before and after it, so tampering with a single record would not only be ineffective, it would draw attention to itself. Furthermore, blockchain records are cryptographically secure. Any time a record is altered, the entire distributed network on which the record is stored will be notified that something has happened. In other words, there is no single point of failure for blockchain records.

Expected Benefits of Incorporating Blockchain Technology into Automated Workflows

Speed and security are the two main benefits of blockchain technology in automated workflows. By cutting out some of the middlemen and gatekeepers business has had to rely upon, processes go faster, and there is less in the way of things like fees for transferring funds. Therefore, both time and money are saved.

The security built into blockchain technology means that even root users and administrators are prevented from accessing secured information. Furthermore, illicit attempts to change data records are prevented due to the distributed, encrypted nature of blockchain data.

In short, once businesses develop their use cases for blockchain technology, they will set the stage for faster, more efficient and cost-effective operations, while enjoying levels of data security that are not possible today.

PerfectForms is workflow technology that is designed with end-users in mind. Over the years, many of the upgrades to PerfectForms have been the direct result of user requests. PerfectForms looks forward to the day when blockchain technology offers businesses greater security and efficiency. We also invite you to watch the PerfectForms demo. In just one minute, you can see for yourself how secure, automated workflows power business processes across all departments and all industries.

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

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Shredded paper next to a paper shredder.

If anything, computers and printers invited more paper into our offices than ever before.

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.

Laptop displaying an online form.

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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Use Automated Workflows for More Effective Delegation

Monday, May 21st, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Woman eating a sandwich while writing and typing on a computer.

Learning to delegate can be a challenge for the start-up entrepreneur or the first-time manager.

Have you ever started a business? If so, you probably know what it’s like to assume all the job titles, from CEO to mail clerk. Starting a business by definition requires flexibility, because you have to learn how to make it all work, and it takes time.

The problem comes when the entrepreneur starts hiring people, yet has trouble letting go of some of the many tasks they’ve assumed for themselves from the beginning. Delegation isn’t easy, for a lot of reasons. But it’s a skill that benefits both the leader and the business long term. One way to learn delegation is to use automated workflows as a tool. Here’s how.

Breaking Down Processes into Individual Steps Makes Sense for Many Reasons

Sure, knowing how to take, process, and ship an order from start to finish is good for a manager or leader. Higher-ups should know exactly what’s involved in important work processes. But there’s a limit to how much one person can do, and delegation becomes necessary sooner or later.

One way to start is by breaking down key work processes into individual steps, like recording a phone order onto a particular electronic form, or receiving a web form and acting on it. Each step in the process should be called out, including things like fetching a product from the warehouse or creating shipping labels. Individual steps should be simple and clear enough that just about anyone could understand them.

Assigning Steps Is Easier Than Assigning Entire Processes

Maybe you’ll get lucky and hire someone who intuitively understands a process and knows exactly what to do. But it’s more likely that you will have to train employees, often on things that seem perfectly obvious to you. The great thing about automated workflows is that you can start by assigning specific steps rather than entire processes (or major portions of processes). For example, you could start your new employee by teaching them that when they get an alert that an order was received, they need to acknowledge receipt of the order, go to the warehouse and retrieve the product, acknowledge this by ticking a box in an electronic form, deliver the product to shipping, and then tick another box in the form.

Online forms

Delegating individual steps is often easier and more effective than delegating entire processes.

When people master individual steps, if appropriate, they can be assigned additional steps. Or, other people could be assigned other steps.

Workflows That Offer Transparency Help Everyone See the Big Picture

Although automated workflows allow people to learn individual steps, it’s also important that they understand the whole process. If they can see how the entire workflow plays out, they can see how neglecting what seems to be a minor step can cause problems to propagate through the rest of the workflow. Likewise, they can see how each of their actions works toward completion of the workflow and better business operation. If someone asks why it’s necessary to complete a certain step, it’s good to be able to explain exactly how it affects the people whose actions come later on in the workflow.

Delegation Is One of the Harder Leadership Competencies for Many

Delegation is challenging for many people. Some people don’t want to impose on others (even if it’s their job to do certain things), and others may feel like no one else can do it correctly. So, delegation requires a certain amount of “letting go.” That said, when delegation is done with forethought, it can be the key to taking operations to a higher level, and it’s a skill well worth learning and practicing.

The right workflow software can be an effective tool for delegation. With PerfectForms, you can create custom online forms, as well as automated workflows that break important processes down into discrete, actionable steps. PerfectForms also allows greater workflow transparency, so authorized users can check up on the status of a workflow at any time. Workflow users can clearly see where their tasks fall in the overall scheme of things and can be reassured that what they do matters.

If the idea of automated workflows appeals to you, PerfectForms invites you to watch our demo video. It only takes a minute, and you’ll see for yourself how automated workflows improve efficiency and productivity, while saving your business money.

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