Unsure How to Create Workflows? Start Here.
Workflows develop whether we try to create them, or not. When we allow workflows to develop organically, the results may be perfectly satisfactory for a tiny startup business or a one-person operation. But as businesses grow, the workflows we start out with tend to become inefficient or difficult to scale.
On some level, we all understand the sense in having reliable, repeatable workflows so that we’re consistently delivering our best work, but how do you go about creating workflows? It’s not something that’s taught in school because it has to apply so particularly to the circumstances. Here are some tips for using workflow software if you’re interested in creating and managing excellent workflows but aren’t sure where to begin.
The Dashboard and What It Can Do
With the right workflow software, you don’t have to worry about hiring a programmer or pulling one of your IT staffers from their existing work, because you will have a dashboard that makes it simple to find an existing form or workflow or create a new one.
Your dashboard is also where you receive notifications when your action is required. Is your approval needed to finalize a purchase order? If so, you should see a notification in your dashboard as well as receiving an email notification if your workflow software permits them. In short, a workflow software dashboard lets you take command of existing forms and workflows, and create new ones.
Process Planning Is Essential
So you have a dashboard that will step you through creating an online form or workflow. You could dig right in and start creating, but you’re far better off planning your workflow carefully in advance. There are several ways to do this, including sketching them out on paper, creating draft forms and workflows in your software, or using a template. The key to planning processes for successful translation into a workflow is breaking them down into discrete steps.
Process owners (those responsible for the end product of a process) and process users are essential to process planning. Process owners know what they want the result of the workflow to be (“distributing travel reimbursement checks within two days of receiving forms and receipts”), and process users often have excellent insights into pain points and how to address them. If process users have built their own job aids or workarounds, find out why and what they do. You may be able to incorporate them into the workflow, making things easier for everyone.
Creating Custom Online Forms
If, as part of a workflow, you’re taking what once were paper-based forms and putting them online, one good approach is making the new online form look identical to the paper form. That way people know what information goes where, and they’re just filling the form in with a keyboard rather than a pen.
The right workflow software will allow you to drag and drop form elements into place as well as customize sizes, fonts, and colors. Ideally, it should allow you to specify what type of data goes in each form field to reduce errors. For example, if someone should try entering an address into a phone number field, the electronic form could pop up an error message right away so the user can correct it.
Assembling workflows is partly a matter of linking online forms together with each other and with the people involved in each step of the process. That may mean, for example, that a purchase order request completed by an instrument technician is automatically submitted to the project lead for approval or denial, and then is automatically passed along to the next user in the workflow depending on the action taken.
It’s easy to think that you have a workflow designed with perfect logic, but then deploy it only to find that there are problems when it is used in real-world situations. Therefore, thorough testing of workflows is absolutely necessary before deploying them for general use.
PerfectForms offers you workflow software that lets you drag and drop form and workflow elements into place from a powerful central dashboard, and modify them easily until they suit your needs perfectly. If you’re interested in learning how to create workflows that streamline processes and get the results you’re after, we invite you to view some of our many training videos to see how easy it can be with PerfectForms.