At What Point Should Online Forms Be Incorporated into Workflows?

Workflows

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

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

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

How Many People “Handle” a Given Form?

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

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

How Frequently Is a Standalone Form or Process Used?

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

How Many Steps Are There from Start to Finish?

Workflow design

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

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

Is Tracking Needed for Accountability or Reporting?

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

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

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

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