How Automated Forms and Workflows Enhance Corporate Training

Monday, September 11th, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

Workflow software

Administrative tasks shouldn’t hold back the process of learning.

Training is a major investment for most businesses, yet too many of them fail to get an acceptable return on that investment. Perhaps part of the reason is that the training programs that served admirably during the Industrial Era are not quite right for the Information Era.

Back in the day, corporate training meant overhead projector slides or PowerPoint decks, and while these tools still make appearances, training can be far more high-tech these days, with mobile learning modules, gamification of training, and automatic collection of training and learning data. Online forms, as part of outstanding workflow software, can significantly enhance corporate training efficiency, however automated or old school it is.

Planning Training Courses

How are training courses planned in your organization? Are some employees required to have training on fixed time schedules, or is training provided on an as-needed basis? Either way, online forms and workflow software should have your back. A simple workflow, for example, to trigger annual training, could begin by alerting training managers and trainers of the upcoming necessity for training starting on a certain calendar date. On-demand training could be triggered when enough query forms come in about how to use the features in a new software update, perhaps. When it’s time to gather the troops to put together a training program, online forms and workflows have paper forms and manual workflows beat soundly.

Preparing Training Courses

Developing, or even purchasing training courses can be a long and involved process. Does your workflow software allow you to, for example, record every instance in which you evaluate a training program along with the “grade” you assign it? This can help you keep training programs straight and help you select the right one, even after you have evaluated so many that you feel overwhelmed. In other words, online workflows are great at recording and organizing pertinent information so you don’t have to worry about keeping it all straight in your head.

Online forms can be great for gathering information from trainers and employees about schedule availability, and about mobile devices, in case training is delivered through that modality. And of course, they are perfect for coordinating sign-ups for training sessions.

Delivering Training Courses

Your trainers won’t waste time with roll call if you create a simple online workflow where training attendees use their smartphones to tap a button when the trainer asks who is present. Workflows can also be created for trainees to submit their questions for Q&A sessions, and to indicate when they have finished a training module, whether that module is completed electronically, or on paper.

Workflow software

Workflow software that is mobile-friendly helps you reach trainees more easily than ever.

Workflows can also be created for electronic quizzes, automatically “grading” them, and submitting information to trainers so they can see right away what aspects of training are reaching learners effectively, and where it may be necessary to revise and review.

Providing Follow-Up

Once a training course concludes, most trainers want to know how effective the trainees thought it was. With the right workflow software, it’s simple to create online forms and workflows that enable learners to provide feedback on every aspect of the training course. Likewise, trainees could use a follow-up workflow to indicate what they think they may need additional training on.

Follow-up also extends to evaluation by trainers and their training managers. What materials and tools would enable better training programs next time? How might trainee feedback be put to work to make future training programs better?

Automated workflows can’t do the learning for people, but they can certainly take many inefficiencies out of the administrative aspects of corporate training. The right workflow software not only allows you to create fully customized online forms but also automated workflows that make use of them. The result is trainers who can spend more time actually training people, and trainees who know every moment spent in the training classroom has value.

PerfectForms is online form and workflow software that allows the very people who use forms and workflows to design them to exactly suit their needs. With a drag-and-drop interface, PerfectForms can accomplish the simple (like online sign ups for training courses) to the complex (administering and grading quizzes, then reporting results to trainers). Watch our demo video and see how powerful and flexible PerfectForms is. It’s an all-around solution that can help revolutionize your company’s training programs.

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5 Errors Online Forms and Workflows Can Prevent

Thursday, September 7th, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

Online forms

Even with tools like calculators, errors can easily make it onto paper forms.

When some people need to accomplish some business function, from sending a package to creating a medical record, their heart sinks at the sight of paper forms and a pen. There are too many better options these days, and paper forms filled out manually can bring a process to a near-complete, screeching halt.

Not only is it a pain to use paper and pen when you have a keyboard or smartphone available, manual processes are far more subject to errors. Not everyone has legible handwriting, and not every data entry clerk has impeccable eyesight. There are many more places for errors to creep in with paper forms than with online forms. When you use form creation software to make online forms, not only do you make things faster and easier, you cut down on errors. Here are five errors that online forms and workflows can help prevent.

1. Data Entry Errors

Is the character on a person’s insurance ID card a zero, or the letter “O”? Maybe the person entering data forgot their reading glasses and misread “9” as “4.” Naturally, misreading a character and entering it wrong in an online form can happen too, but online forms can be designed by your form creation software to “know” when certain errors have been made. For example, a particular parts number may always begin with the letter “Z” and can flag an error if someone tries to enter a “2” instead.

2. Data Transcription Errors

Transferring data from a paper form into a spreadsheet or database is fraught with error risks. Some people simply don’t, or can’t, write clearly.

Say you run a medical office. An elderly patient with hand tremors may not be able to write clearly. The result can be frustration on their part, as well as on the part of the clerk who must enter the data. Making forms available online beforehand can optimize the chances that the patient, or a helper, can enter data that can be automatically checked and sent directly to the database where it needs to reside.

3. Errors Due to Form Damage

Who hasn’t spilled coffee or a soda onto a form halfway through filling it out? With many spills, the temptation is to blot it with a paper towel and hope for the best. Unfortunately, however, information can become blurred or smudged, resulting in data transcription errors. Or if a paper form is damaged during shipment by mail, the receiving clerk may have a hard time reading an important bit of data from the form and may make their best guess – which might be wrong. Damaged forms aren’t just unpleasant to handle. They can cause errors to enter the system.

Online forms

Paper forms face issues that electronic forms don’t.

4. Careless Errors

You know how the IRS has all those worksheets on which you (or your tax preparer) make calculations? That’s an attempt to minimize careless errors, like misreading a figure when you add or subtract, for example. Online forms and workflows can include many backstops to prevent careless errors. For example, if shipping is a certain percentage of the purchase price, these calculations can be done automatically by the workflow, so you can be confident that the correct shipping rate is assessed.

5. Out of Range Errors

Suppose your company sells residential carpet by the square yard, but your new employee is used to calculating the area in square feet. This could lead to the mistaken belief that you have just sold quite a bit more carpet than you actually have! Again, online forms can include backstops to help prevent these errors. If your typical order is for under 500 square feet, the online form can be made to ask for confirmation and to reiterate the correct dimensions if someone enters something highly unusual, like 45,000 square feet. With a paper form, recognizing, tracking down, and correcting such an error can take much longer.

Online forms probably can’t be made 100% error-free, but the simple act of converting paper forms to online forms can drastically cut down on error rates. PerfectForms is online form software that gives you the power and flexibility to create fully customized online forms and workflows that include a number of different error checks and confirmation steps. And you don’t have to modify someone else’s online form template if you don’t want to: you can create exactly what you want from the start. Try PerfectForms for yourself for free by signing up for a trial. Drastically lower error rates, plus significantly greater efficiency make it a sound investment.

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What Is Document Management and Why Does Your Company Need It?

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

Workflow software

Documents are a fact of life for all businesses, but they don’t all have to be on paper.

Every business requires documentation, whether the primary business activity is law, catering, or styling hair. Some businesses, of course, have more documents than others, but every company has to deal with basic documents like tax forms, client agreements, and human resources forms for employees.

The paperless office has been promised the American business for decades, but only recently has the possibility become reality. And while it’s likely that no business will be able to dispense with paper entirely, more tools than ever are available today to allow companies of every size to minimize paper usage. Document management is the primary set of tools that allows them to do this.

More Than Just Storing and Locating Documents

Document management used to depend upon trained, conscientious clerical workers who knew where to find designated paper documents. Digital document management can reduce the number of filing cabinets and allow any authorized user to access electronic documents at any time. But electronic filing and archival of documents are only the beginning of a great document management program.

The right approach to document management lets you revolutionize your organization’s internal document workflow. The right workflow software helps you ensure that each document reaches the right recipient(s) at every stage of document creation, approval, filing, and archival.

Benefits You Can Expect with Excellent Document Management

For one thing, outstanding document management allows your company to save on space. When you use less paper and ink, you buy less paper and ink, saving significantly on office supplies.

Efficiency, access, and security are other important benefits the right document management system can confer. Papers no longer have to be hand-delivered, authorized people can gain immediate access from their workstation or mobile devices, and security measures can be implemented that just aren’t practical when you have a room full of paper documents.

The True Costs of Managing Paper

Online forms

The costs of managing paper go well beyond supplies and storage.

The costs of paper and ink are only the beginning of the total costs of managing paper. Storage costs are important, of course, and the time involved in locating and retrieving documents can be significant. Suppose your filing clerk is on vacation and someone needs to locate a contract from a year prior. Even with the best-managed and labeled filing system, someone is going to spend significant time locating the exact document they need.

There are also “soft” costs associated with managing paper documents, like the costs of lower efficiency, and the greater difficulty in answering client questions in a timely manner. Electronic document management also allows quick, cost-effective indexing and lets multiple authorized users gain access to the same document while minimizing the risk of it being misfiled by someone. In other words, everything is simpler, more precise, more compact, and more efficient.

The Right Workflow Software Lets You Tailor a Custom Solution

Stand-alone document management systems exist, but the right workflow software can skillfully manage documents and much more. With workflow software like PerfectForms, you can not only create a custom document management system, complete with security layers and user authorization, you can create custom workflows to accomplish countless other tasks, like managing IT help requests or making your facility manager’s job easier and more efficient.

With PerfectForms, you create electronic forms and workflows by dragging and dropping elements into place, with no programming required. Testing and modifying forms and workflows is easy, and most importantly, the very people who will use the document management system most can influence the design of the system, so their needs are met and workflows are efficient.

Many clients first use PerfectForms to turn a paper form into an electronic form, then quickly discover that there are countless other ways PerfectForms can be put to use. Workflows for everything from document management to employee ID distribution can be managed in the way that makes perfect sense for your company. Find out for yourself. You may try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a free trial. Document management isn’t just for big enterprises, and it doesn’t have to result in major disruption to your operations. Let PerfectForms show you how document management is done.

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What to do When You Don’t Have a Report for That

Thursday, August 31st, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

Online forms

Enlisting the help of the IT department to help with reports is far from ideal. Fortunately, you no longer have to.

Generating informative reports used to be a daunting task. Not only did the person responsible for the report have to gather data and confirm its accuracy, they often had to deal with a lot of back-and-forth with the IT department, because it was programmers who knew how to make raw data understandable.

Add in a couple of revision and editing cycles, complete with input from the IT department, and creating a simple report was far from a simple process. But with the advent of online forms has come online reports that can be created from them. With an increasing number of businesses of all sizes using online forms and workflows, the inclusion of powerful reporting tools has quickly become an indispensable feature of form and workflow software.

The Beauty of Drag and Drop

Dragging and dropping items using a mouse is as ingrained in most people’s computer skill repertoire as the classic double-click. As online forms software has evolved to allow drag-and-drop convenience for creating forms and workflows, organizations have been able to do far more without having to pull IT workers off their own tasks.

Imagine using a drag-and-drop interface to create online forms, and then being able to use that same drag-and-drop convenience to create reports from the data those online forms collect. The right online forms software will have functionality allowing you to create online reports too, without having to hire a programmer or climb a steep learning curve.

Features to Insist Upon for Creating Online Reports

You expect flawless functionality from your online forms and workflows, and you should expect no less from the process of creating online reports. Ideally, you should be able to use reporting tools to tap into a data source that has been created by an online form. Suppose you have used an online form for e-commerce orders and would like a report showing where you’re sending the most orders. With the right reporting tools, you can connect to, for example, a zip code field in the online order form and create informative charts and lists that accurately and clearly report where orders are strongest.

Online forms

Reporting tools should serve your needs, and not the other way around.

Suppose then that you want a similar report, but eliminating deliveries to your local zip code. Your online reports software should allow you to add filters to the data you use so you can only report on the data in which you’re most interested. And if you want to use more than one data source to create online reports, you should be able to without difficulty.

How Excellent Reporting Improves Workflows

Reports aren’t just for placing on the director’s desk and forgetting. Reports can be remarkably informative, helping you find places in workflows that are problematic (so you can fix them), and helping you better understand business trends. Maybe a report shows an increasing number of orders coming in from places with high Latino populations. This could prompt you to make customer service changes, such as adding more bi-lingual phone agents and having online help and FAQ pages translated into Spanish. When your reports help you spot trends early, you can make the most of them and gain an edge over the competition.

PerfectForms is form and workflow software designed to allow non-technical users to create online forms, online workflows, and online reports without having to program. With its powerful and intuitive drag-and-drop interface, PerfectForms makes it easy to create custom forms and workflows, and then easily gather data from them to create informative, attractive, customized online reports.

Many organizations capture large amounts of online data through their forms and workflows, yet they don’t bother analyzing that data and putting it to work to yield business insights. Reporting tools let organizations take those extra steps, gaining insights their competitors don’t have, and documenting every possible aspect of the data from a form or workflow.

If you would like to see how powerful and intuitive PerfectForms’ reporting features are, we encourage you to watch some of our training videos, including our Reporting video, which gives you an overview of reporting capabilities and how you can use them to create a wide range of charts, graphs, tables, and cross-tabulations.

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Workflows for Less “Work,” More “Flow”

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

Online forms

Workflows are the procedures that businesses use to accomplish tasks. They may be simple or complex, manual, automated, or some combination of the two. Every business has workflows, whether they’re defined or not.

It’s not unusual for workflows to arise organically when someone starts a business so that the people, materials, and resources at hand are used efficiently. But this type of “organic” workflow is almost always outgrown as a new business gains its footing. Unfortunately, some businesses retain outdated and inefficient workflows out of entropy, when sleeker, better workflows could be developed with little effort. Here are some things you should know so that your organization’s workflows have more “flow” and less “work.”

Key Benefits of Optimized Workflows

Optimized workflows ensure that at every step of a business process, people and resources are being used at maximum efficiency. Waiting for someone else to complete a step is minimized as many parts of the process as possible are automated. One of the most important benefits of optimized workflows is consistently high quality from job to job.

  • Optimized workflows increase employee productivity because team members aren’t bogged down with inefficiencies.
  • Optimized workflows offer excellent visibility into processes so authorized persons can know the exact status of a workflow in real time.
  • Optimized workflows orient an organization toward a path of continual improvement.

Major Types of Workflows

Workflows can be customized to the team carrying them out, but there are three basic categories of workflows.

  • Some workflows are sequential.
  • These progress from one step to the next without back-tracking.
  • Other workflows may pause at a predetermined point.
    • Example: An order is not large enough to fill a shipping container, so a workflow may not progress until there is enough material to completely fill the container.
  • Other workflows may be rule-driven.
    • Rules inserted into sequential workflows to influence which step comes next. Say your e-commerce store offers free shipping on orders over $50. When a customer completes an order and checks out, the workflow can determine whether or not the order exceeds $50 and will proceed to either calculate shipping charges or skip to order submission.

How to Clean Up Your Workflows

Online forms

Like a tidy home, tidy workflows are more efficient and enjoyable.

Workflows evolve almost continually because circumstances evolve. Businesses periodically re-evaluate workflows to learn where inefficiencies exist and where improvement is possible. Some of the steps organizations and teams can take to clean up workflows include:

  • Looking for repeating steps. When efforts are needlessly duplicated, efficiency is less than it could be.
  • Having an outsider evaluate the process. This could be someone from outside the organization, or simply someone from a different department. It’s often easier for someone with an outsider perspective to recognize inefficiencies.
  • Being willing to make changes. Change is difficult, and people will sometimes cling to the predictability of an existing workflow even if it is riddled with inefficiencies. Leaders and their teams must be willing to tackle change when necessary.

Why the Right Workflow Software Is Essential

Using workflow software that is outdated, slow, or doesn’t offer the features your organization needs can hold it back, giving competitors an advantage. Ideally, your workflow software should make it easy for workflow users to create customized online forms and workflows that include the exact steps required to get the job done.

It should not necessitate your bringing in a programmer or an IT professional to create forms and workflows. The workflow software you choose should allow you to modify forms and workflows easily so that they evolve with your organization, your team, and the prevailing business conditions.

PerfectForms answers these needs and then some. It has an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface that allows your team to create online forms and workflows without the need for programming. It’s mobile-friendly and designed to ensure that the people who use a particular workflow regularly can design it to meet their needs perfectly. And when forms and workflows must be modified, that can be done with minimal disruption. Interested in learning more about optimized workflows? A great place to start is by checking out the PerfectForms Help Guides, where you’ll see exactly how PerfectForms takes your workflow needs from idea to reality.

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Glossary of Business Process Management (BPM) Terms

Monday, August 28th, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

BPM

Business process management, or BPM, is just what its component terms suggest: the practice of creating, analyzing, and improving the processes that make a business operate. It involves coordination of not only BPM software, but also the people, systems, and data included in the process.

Business processes are usually structured and repeatable, and sometimes automated, at least in part. Understanding BPM is a key to improving how efficiently your business functions. Here are some important BPM terms and what they mean.

Asynchronous Process

During an asynchronous process, one task or activity notifies another but doesn’t demand an immediate response. As an analogy, think of an ordinary phone call. It starts out synchronous, with you waiting for the person to answer. But if they’re not there, and you leave a voicemail message, it becomes an asynchronous process. Business processes can be similar.

Bottleneck

A bottleneck is a step within a chain of steps that, if limited in some way, will cause subsequent steps to slow down as well. Short-term bottlenecks aren’t usually a major problem, but long-term bottlenecks indicate that BPM changes are needed. The right workflow software can help keep bottlenecks in business processes to a minimum.

Business Process Simulation

Business process simulation is a way of testing a process before it “goes live.” It attempts to simulate what will happen once people start using a process, and is useful for finding bottlenecks and other problems and fixing them beforehand. In some ways, business process simulation is like a dress rehearsal for actual business process use.

Continual Improvement

Continual improvement is simply the philosophy of constantly improving an organization’s processes. It’s necessary to maintain a competitive edge and may happen incrementally, or as a breakthrough (often due to a technological advancement). Striving for continual improvement in workflows is a way that organizations stave off complacency and stay ahead of the competition.

DMAIC

DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control. It is a Six Sigma term defining the steps in a Six Sigma improvement process, but it makes sense for any organization that uses workflow software and strives for continual improvement. Defining what you need to happen is step one in a virtuous cycle of designing and improving processes.

Exception Processing

BPM

Business processes must be designed to know what to do with exceptional or unexpected input.

What happens when some step in a process has exceptional input? Maybe a customer wants an especially large order that will require team members to go above and beyond the normal process steps. Though not all exceptions can be anticipated, it’s wise to consider exceptions when designing and testing business processes.

KPI

KPI stands for key performance indicators, and they are the metrics and benchmarks that drive the success of your company. Your KPIs are probably different from your competitors’ KPIs to some extent. It’s important to choose workflow software that allows users or process managers to create clear, KPI-based reports.

Parallel Process

Parallel processes are sequences of steps that can take place simultaneously. For example, writing the executive summary of an important report might take place at the same time someone else is designing the cover art or arranging for printing services. As another example, sending a document to multiple people at once is a type of parallel process.

Process Mapping

Process mapping is a technique for making processes both more efficient and more transparent. Creating process maps, which show all process-related activities like approvals, hand-offs, and exceptions, may be done by hand, but many workflow software programs allow the drag-and-drop creation of workflows that map out processes as they are created.

Rules Engine

A rules engine is the set of rules that govern how steps in a process move forward. You can think of it as a series of “If-then” statements, like “If the purchase order is for more than $1,000, it must go to the department head for approval.” Rules may be necessary at several steps of a process, depending on its complexity and variability of input.

Sequential Process

In contrast to a parallel process, where multiple steps that don’t affect each other may take place simultaneously, a sequential process is one where each step depends on the step before it. It’s like painting a room: applying paint depends on having primed walls, which depend on the walls being clean, which depends on removing artwork and other items from the wall.

The right workflow software can make or break your organization’s BPM efforts. For an excellent overview of how BPM can be implemented using PerfectForms workflow software, we encourage you to have a look at our demo video.

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Online Forms: Balancing Business Requirements with End-User Needs

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

Online forms

Forms that are “all business” risk frustrating the people who have to use them.

When you operate a business, you use online forms and workflows to ensure consistent quality, while improving efficiency and accuracy. The people who use them want forms that make sense and that don’t require unnecessary effort. How do you balance these needs so as not to end up with either useless forms or permanently frustrated end-users?

Many of us have had the displeasure of having to complete forms that are unreadable, confusing, or that aren’t efficient or logical about collecting information. These forms tend to be ones that are on paper, but online forms can be poorly designed too. Balancing online form and workflow design to meet the needs of both the organization and the end-user largely depends on your choice of form software.

When Online Forms Forget the End-User

Online forms may be intuitively more accurate and efficient than their exact counterpart on paper, but “online” doesn’t automatically mean “good.” Online forms can be aesthetically unpleasing, they can run on for too long without offering the user the brief respite of a page break, and they can have confusing instructions or bad submission designs. Have you ever filled out a lengthy online form only to have it rejected due to a single, small error somewhere and had to start over? Forms that completely neglect the end-user can be demoralizing. Corporate efficiency gains may be overshadowed by end-user complaints and frustration.

When Online Forms Cater Exclusively to the End-User

It’s possible to take it too far in the other direction too. Spend too much time making a form beautiful, and you may forget to include critical form fields, which could cause someone to have to go back to collect that information later. Online forms, while they should be as brief as possible, still must contain all fields that are necessary to gather the information for which the form was designed. If you don’t ask for enough detail, (thinking that the person who receives the form will be able to “read between the lines” and make the right conclusions), you could be in for a rude surprise.

How the Right Form Software Helps

Online forms

Form software can ensure accurate, efficient data collection and happy end-users.

The right form and workflow software helps by allowing form creation and modification to be straightforward and logical. Making changes shouldn’t be a disruptive undertaking. Careful design by someone with experience in creating workflows might result in a form or workflow designer getting it right the first time, but that’s rare.

Often, forms are beta-tested with selected users, incorporate feedback, are modified and retested, only to discover unexpected problems once the form is released to everyone. The right form software doesn’t lock you into a design but makes it easy for a non-technical user to both create and optimize forms without the need for complicating matters by hiring a programmer.

Form and Workflow Development as an Iterative Process

Ultimately, form and workflow development is an iterative process, with a drive toward continual improvement. It doesn’t mean you make incremental changes to a form every day to try to tweak them, but it does mean regularly gathering feedback and listening to what form users have to say about their experience. Neither should you design a form or workflow once and for all and expect every end-user to happily fall in line if it isn’t well-designed and executed. Getting to that ideal form or workflow requires give and take so that the needs of the organization and the needs of the end-users are balanced.

PerfectForms is form and workflow software that makes it easy for the non-technical user to create and perfect online forms and workflows. Not only can you ensure forms take in all necessary data and process that data accordingly, you can also make sure that online forms and workflows offer a pleasant and aesthetically good end-user experience. You neither have to sacrifice business needs for end-user experience, nor vice versa. Intrigued? You can try out PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. Give it a go and see how well your forms and workflows can balance organizational and end-user needs.

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Minimizing the Risk of Error Propagation in Your Automated Workflows

Monday, August 21st, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

Online forms

When problems aren’t identified right away, they can escalate quickly.

Error propagation is actually an advanced branch of mathematics involving means, variance, and second order differential equations. But it’s a concept that can be understood easily in principle. In fact, there’s a good chance you have dealt with the consequences of error propagation in your work or home life.

Have you ever had the experience of a rumor starting, then mutating to the point that it’s almost unrecognizable by the time “everyone” has heard it? That’s partly because of error propagation.

Have you ever misheard the name of a new acquaintance and accidentally called them by the wrong name until someone corrected you? That’s also error propagation.

In business, error propagation can result in anything from minor annoyances to major problems, so it’s important that checks and balances be put in place where possible to prevent the propagation of inaccurate information before it can do damage. Forms and workflows are excellent places in which to add fail-safes that prevent error propagation.

Error Propagation in Online Forms

Suppose you’re in HR and have designed new employee onboarding forms so that the new employee enters their employee ID once and it’s automatically stored for use in other forms that use that same information. This is fantastic if you’re the new employee because it saves time and effort. But suppose you make a mistake – say mistaking the letter “O” for a zero or vice versa. That mistake that you have typed in one time is suddenly in all the other form fields the data is shared with. Online forms must have clear instructions, error notifications, and other checkpoints that help ensure accurate input.

Error Propagation in Online Workflows

Suppose you operate a commercial painting business and have an online workflow that’s used for, among other things, calculating the amount of paint needed for a job. As long as everyone knows that you input dimensions in feet rather than yards, there’s usually no problem. But suppose someone enters the square footage of a client room in square yards rather than square feet. If the error isn’t caught, you could inadvertently order one-ninth the amount of paint needed for the job. Just like online forms, online workflows must have clear instructions and error notifications to prevent errors from getting into and propagating throughout the system.

Excellent Form and Workflow Design Is Foundational

Online forms

Design forms and workflows well and you can minimize input errors.

When online forms and workflows are carefully designed and thoroughly tested, chances for errors can be minimized. Here are some tips to remember:

  • Make field labels clear and to the point
  • Offer “hover help” for further clarification about field input when a user hovers their mouse over the form label
  • Specify units of measure clearly
  • Where possible, indicate ranges of acceptable quantities that, when exceeded by someone inputting information, pop up an error message prompting them to recheck their input
  • When a form field must have data in a specific format, flag formatting errors immediately when the field is completed, rather than later, when the whole form is submitted
  • Test new forms and workflows under a wide range of conditions, including with erroneous input to see how errors propagate and determine ways to prevent them

Online forms and workflows can save astonishing amounts of time and effort, but they can also allow errors to propagate throughout, causing lasting problems. PerfectForms is form and workflow software that allows you to build in outstanding form design elements as well as checks and balances that help prevent erroneous input in the first place. Forms and workflows designed with PerfectForms and tested thoroughly under a range of reasonable and unreasonable inputs can help your organization enjoy the many benefits of automated forms and workflows without taking unnecessary risks with data accuracy.

If you’re interested in learning how PerfectForms helps ensure accuracy and prevent errors from entering workflows, we encourage you to browse through some of our training videos, including ones on how to add workflow rules and how to add intelligent, dynamic behavior to your forms. With PerfectForms, you can prevent many form and workflow errors from ever entering a work process.

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Run Nonprofit Organization Activities Efficiently with Online Forms

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

Form software

Successful nonprofit organizations are organized and know how to use their resources optimally. When activities and events are streamlined, less money is wasted, and people who support the nonprofit are confident their contributions make a real difference. 

Actions that must be defined and organized in order to run a nonprofit organization efficiently include:

  • Setting goals
  • Determining a budget
  • Building the right teams to carry out tasks
  • Understanding the target audience
  • Flawlessly executing fundraising events

Each of these actions can be made better through the use of online forms and workflow software. This is true whether you run a small, local organization, or a nationally recognized organization with a generous budget. Here’s how workflow software and online forms help you run your nonprofit organization with maximum efficiency.

Organizing Leadership and Staffing

Whatever the size of your organization, online forms and workflows help you define and carry out leadership tasks, recruit staff members and volunteers, and reduce or eliminate wasteful duplication of effort. For example, online forms that allow interested individuals to sign up to volunteer for an event or make a donation online save everyone time and effort. When your organization plans a special event, such as an annual gala, online forms and workflows make sure no steps are omitted and your resources aren’t being spent on inefficient processes like handling paper forms and having to send things by regular mail.

Workflow Software to Manage Your Budget

Nonprofit organizations have no room for waste. Form software that allows you to create online workflows for allocating budget monies helps ensure there isn’t any. What’s more, workflows can include built-in notification triggers. For example, if a large, one-time donation arrives, relevant leaders can be automatically notified. Benefits of online budget workflows include better communication, fewer misunderstandings, and less chance of duplication of efforts.

Form software

Workflows that allow collaboration and notification prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications.

Workflows for Marketing to Your Target Audience

Businesses and nonprofit organizations have used form and workflow software to manage marketing activities for a long time. Everyone wants a positive return on their marketing investment. Online forms and workflows enhance tracking and attention to detail that helps ensure the right people know about what you do. A marketing workflow could, for example, include parallel processes for advertising in print, while ensuring your social media strategy is attended to faithfully.

The Right Online Forms Facilitate Collaboration

When you combine online forms and workflows with transparency and automated notifications, suddenly it’s easier for people working with your organization to collaborate. Authorized individuals can be allowed to see where a particular process stands and prevent the need for endless rounds of phone calls to lock down information.

The person who carries out your social media strategy can be notified automatically when a promotional video is ready to post. That way, they can begin their work on time, knowing they have what they need. Collaboration is the key to each person knowing what to do and when to do it, and it’s also the key to avoiding “But I didn’t know!” excuses.

A well-run nonprofit organization helps people and communities improve. But they don’t just happen without a lot of behind-the-scenes work. PerfectForms is online form and workflow software that allows non-technical users to create forms and workflows that are applicable to business, education, nonprofits, or anything else that requires organization and collaboration.

Using the PerfectForms drag-and-drop interface you can put form or workflow elements exactly where you want them, and you can define permissions so that the right people see the parts of the workflows that apply to them. Watch our demo video and discover how PerfectForms gives nonprofit organizations the flexibility and power to operate at maximum efficiency.

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A “Bill of Rights” for Online Form Users

Monday, August 14th, 2017 by MEDIA MEDIA

Form software

Forms are needed for countless business transactions. The good news is that online forms are faster and more efficient than paper ones.

But, just because a form is online doesn’t make it good. Here is a “bill of rights” for what online form users should reasonably expect.

The Right to Aesthetically Pleasing Forms

Online forms assault the senses when they use tiny or unreadable fonts, garish color schemes, or other features that cause visual overload. A form doesn’t have to be a work of art, but it should be readable, and it should use colors, fonts, and white space carefully to make the form experience easy on the eyes.

The Right to Advance to the Next Form Field Automatically

When you put the last digit into a phone number field, you should expect to be automatically transferred to the next form field rather than having to use your arrow or tab keys. While this isn’t possible in all cases (answering an open-ended question), when possible, it should be done automatically for speed and convenience.

The Right to Instant Error Notification 

Most of us have had the demoralizing experience of filling in a lengthy online form only to have it thrown back at us when submitting it because of an error in a single field. The best form software is capable of understanding what constitutes correct input for most fields and of notifying us of mistakes immediately. Forms should incorporate instant error notification wherever possible.

The Right to Long Forms Broken Down into Pages

Lengthy paper forms have the built-in “breaks” that come with completing a page and flipping over to the next one. So why do some online forms force seemingly endless scrolling? Long forms broken down into virtual pages are easier to complete, particularly when they incorporate a progress bar or other visual that shows what percentage has been completed.

The Right to Freedom From Confusing Prompts

If a field is simply labeled “Number,” what does it mean? Is it a part number? A phone number? The number of items you’re requesting? Good form software allows creators to customize form labels. If a field needs a serial number it should say so. Ideally, it should prompt the user as to where to find the information needed.

Form software

Form field prompts should be clear and straightforward.

The Right to Sufficient Space for Completing Open-Ended Fields 

Many forms incorporate space for users to answer open-ended questions. Form users can add comments or expand on information given in a yes / no form field. Form creators should ensure open-ended form fields have sufficient space for the typical user to add their comment or explanation without having to abbreviate or leave things out.

The Right to Drop-Down Menus Where Appropriate

Sometimes users know in general what information a field requires, but not exactly how they should input it. Should they type in “Accounting” or “Accounting Department”? Drop-down menus are perfect for these situations, minimizing typing and ensuring information is input correctly. Drop-down menus are particularly important for mobile-friendliness.

The Right to Avoid Re-Entering Information Repeatedly

Suppose the new employee onboarding process has been made electronic. That’s terrific, but why do they still have to enter their name, date of birth, and Social Security Number on five different forms? Form software uses information that the user types it in once and distributes it to multiple places by virtue of using that same field and data in the design of other forms.

The Right to Help by Hovering a Mouse Over a Field 

Clear form field labels are essential, but sometimes users need more information. Seasoned users may know that “ID Number” refers to their employee ID, but new users may not. Form software that allows creators to display helpful messages when the user hovers their mouse over a field or label helps to prevent errors and frustration on the part of the user.

The Right to Acknowledgment That a Form Was Submitted Successfully

Have you ever spent 20 minutes completing an online form, only to click submit and then … nothing? Did it go where it was supposed to? Form users should be notified that their form was submitted correctly (or wasn’t, and given a chance to try again) after they have gone to all that effort.

PerfectForms is form and workflow software that empowers you to create online forms that are a joy to use. We encourage you to watch our demo video and discover how to make the form experience as enjoyable as possible for end-users.

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