4 Common Workflow Automation Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Thursday, January 17th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

If you’re new to workflow automation, you may be eager to get started as soon as possible.

The right workflow software will help you get to work quickly, but even so, a little planning is wise. Most organizations start by automating a simple work process, trying it out, maybe fine-tuning it a bit, and then moving on to automating other processes.

Organizations that have used automated workflows for a while have the benefit of hindsight, of knowing when great workflow intentions can go astray. Here are four of the most common workflow automation pitfalls. They’re easily avoidable, and they can help you get your workflow automation right the first time.

1. Too Many Notifications

One of the best things about good workflow software is that it allows you to create workflows that notify users of status changes and completion of workflow steps. It can be all too tempting to create notifications at every step, and for every workflow user. The problem is, once the workflow is in regular use, users of it may be inundated with notifications and reminders. Coping with a flood of workflow notifications usually means ignoring them, which can mean ignoring a single notification that matters along with all the others. Try to build in notifications and reminders only where they matter, and only for people who need to see them.

2. Prevention of Manual Error Manipulation

Suppose your input into a workflow isn’t needed until a few steps into the process, but you notice that someone before you has made a mistake. Maybe they obviously put a decimal point in the wrong place. Yet you can’t do anything about it except petition someone to start the workflow over, or let the workflow run to its conclusion with the error intact. Neither of these is ideal. It would be better if authorized users could fix obvious errors then and there, so the workflow can continue correctly. You need checks and balances to make sure people don’t change entries maliciously, but this can be done through specific user authorizations and other security measures.

3. No Transparency into Workflow Status

Automated workflows are wonderful in that some information goes in and something with added value comes out. But that’s not to say that workflows should be “black boxes” with mysterious inner workings. Being able to check up on workflow status is important. You need to know, for example, that your expense reimbursement form is awaiting the department head’s approval before payroll can cut you a check. Workflows should offer enough transparency that authorized users can assess workflow status easily and know at a glance whether things are moving ahead as expected, or whether something has gone wrong.

4. Lack of Documentation

The person responsible for automating a workflow should also be responsible for documenting it. How does it work? What does each step do? Why are the steps in a certain order? This information should be shared with workflow users and other authorized personnel. Otherwise, if the person who designed the workflow leaves the company or is out on vacation, problems can be much harder to fix than anticipated. If someone retires or otherwise leaves, you don’t want to be in a position of having to re-create the workflow due to lack of information about how the workflow they designed operates. 

PerfectForms is workflow software that allows you tremendous flexibility and power for creating a nearly unlimited range of automated workflows. It also requires no programming, and allows for automatic notifications, visibility, transparency, authorized error correction, and mobile friendliness. PerfectForms also has powerful reporting capability so you can measure and track the outcomes of your automated workflows. We encourage you to watch the demo video and see for yourself how easy it can be to create sleek, well-documented, automated workflows that take efficiency to a higher level. 

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Automated Workflows Power Modern Manufacturing Methods

Thursday, December 6th, 2018 by PerfectForms Editors

Workflow

Smaller manufacturing facilities have agility that bigger operations often do not.

Small-batch manufacturing has become important in a business world where agility is key.

It’s not easy for startups to find the right manufacturing partner, and small-batch production offers a way for new and small companies to test products without a lot of waste. And with the rise of the web, finding small-batch manufacturers is easier.

Making small-batch manufacturing work requires efficiency, and automated workflows are outstanding at powering efficient operations. Here are some of the ways automated manufacturing and workflows go together to power new and innovative business operations.

Textile Micro-Factories

Traditional textile manufacturing is designed for large scale production, which can be too risk- and resource-heavy for smaller companies. Textile micro-factories allow manufacturing on demand at varying volumes, reducing risks and waste.

The micro-factory production paradigm is typically “Sell, Produce, Deliver,” rather than “Produce, Sell, Deliver.” It is mostly driven by online sales, where clients select and buy textiles before they are produced. Automated workflows take care of tasks like image processing, digital printing, and cutting, and dispatch, allowing micro-factories to work far more quickly than traditional textile manufacturers. Without automated workflows, however, it would be much harder to make this type of operation profitable.

3D Printing Operations

3D printing can also be run as an on-demand operation, but automated workflows are needed to make it work efficiently and profitably. Workflows for 3D printing include both internal and customer-facing aspects. Customer-facing workflows allow those who need articles 3D-printed to transfer their build data to the manufacturer, while internal workflows allow engineers and designers to specify parameters like material and manufacturing methods.

Workflows

Customer-facing workflows get orders into manufacturing systems quickly.

Workflows can then be forwarded to those who validate the designs, prepare them, and send them to the 3D printing equipment. Without automated workflows, 3D printing in small batches would be difficult to make profitable.

Electronic Batch Records in Paperless Manufacturing Environments

Electronic batch methods make sense for both large and small manufacturers, because replacing paper-based workflows with electronic workflows reduces errors and accelerates processes. As a result, time-to-market is reduced, which leads to greater profitability.

Another important advantage of automated workflows in manufacturing environments is that they make regulatory compliance far easier. Not only can automated workflows ensure that all regulation-required steps are taken, they can make automated annotations each time this occurs, so if the company is audited, proving compliance is much easier.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that automated workflows are only for large enterprises. Cloud-based workflow software is affordable even for the smallest start-ups. And don’t think that workflow software requires the help of a programmer. Solutions are available that allow the actual workflow users to create custom workflows that suit their needs precisely.

PerfectForms is workflow software that requires no programming and that scales as you need it to. With PerfectForms, you can create custom forms and workflows with no programming whatsoever. Simply drag and drop form or workflow elements into place using the intuitive PerfectForms interface.

You can create workflows for anything from onboarding new employees to managing IT service requests to preparing manufacturing batches for production. The flexibility of PerfectForms means that as soon as you create an automated workflow for one process, you’re sure to envision new workflows for other processes, which you can then create easily. We invite you to watch the PerfectForms demo video and see for yourself how automated workflows can benefit your business, raising efficiency and sharpening your competitive edge.

Online Forms and Workflows Help Healthcare Providers Recruit Patients

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 by PerfectForms Editors

Online forms

Automated workflows help medical office processes run efficiently.

The healthcare industry is under constant pressure to hold down costs, while providing personalized care and maintaining strict confidentiality.

The development of electronic health records (EHRs) has helped healthcare organizations move away from paper-based records and their inherent problems, but EHRs are not the only ways healthcare providers make sure patients receive the care they need.

For many typical medical offices, attracting new patients and retaining existing patients are two tasks that are necessary to maintain profitability and keep the doors open, and automated workflows can help with these tasks. For researchers, workflows can help identify patients who are good candidates for clinical trials more quickly, so work can proceed at a more efficient pace.

Attracting Patients to Traditional Healthcare Service Providers

The American healthcare system demands that providers run their offices and clinics like a business. This means doctors must make it easy for prospective patients to choose their facilities instead of competitors’, and one way to do that is to offer online forms and online-initiated workflows that are efficient and easy to use.

For example, online forms for new patient registration and for making or canceling appointments are convenient for patients, while also being more efficient for the non-medical office staff. Many healthcare providers are going an extra step and making these services mobile-friendly, because they understand that their patient population spends more time on mobile devices than in traditional desktop / laptop environments.

Bringing Appropriate Patients to Clinical Trials

One study from 2017 developed workflows for data collection, linkage, and tracking, for potential participants in clinical trials. Records of clinical data were “deidentified” for confidentiality, then evaluated for eligibility in clinical trials. For patients who were good candidates as determined by the automated workflow, follow-up was automatically initiated. Researchers concluded that the workflow had great potential to improve the efficiency of recruiting patients for clinical research trials.

Online forms

Without dedicated workflows, recruiting patients to clinical trials would be more arduous and time-consuming.

Another study concluded that the use of a Clinical Trial Portal, where people who believe they may be good candidates for clinical trials can fill out online forms to further explore the possibility, is an important addition to current methods of recruiting patients for clinical trials, such as physician referrals. While the online portals alone aren’t sufficient for populating clinical trials (due to high numbers of people who don’t meet clinical trial criteria), they allow clinical trial planners to potentially draw on a larger proportion of the population.

Workflows Designed for Efficiency, Confidentiality

The healthcare industry is bound by strict laws concerning patient confidentiality, with harsh penalties when those laws are broken. So it’s especially important for automated workflows in healthcare-related businesses to be designed to guard confidentiality.

Non-healthcare businesses that are committed to patient confidentiality (whether or not they’re required to be, by law) can learn from healthcare workflows. The key is using workflow software that allows security steps to be built right in. Such steps don’t allow the workflow to proceed until all security steps are satisfied.

Maybe you don’t work in the healthcare industry, but developing customer-facing online forms and workflows is a smart idea regardless. Not only can you gather information more quickly and accurately, you can route that data appropriately and automatically, whether it’s a person who wants to schedule a haircut, or someone who wants to buy semiconductor silicon wafers.

PerfectForms is online form and workflow software with the flexibility and power to help people in all industries create the electronic forms and workflows they need to operate at peak efficiency. No programming is required due to PerfectForms’ intuitive drag-and-drop interface, and PerfectForms is easy to connect with other office systems like spreadsheets, databases, and Salesforce CRM.

We encourage you to look at some of the many PerfectForms case studies to see exactly how organizations across many industries are putting online forms and automated workflows to work, making business processes more efficient and less error-prone, helping avoid duplication of effort, saving money, and boosting profits.

Automated Workflows Help Increase Inventory Turns, Reduce Excesses

Thursday, November 29th, 2018 by PerfectForms Editors

Automated workflow

Inventory management is absolutely essential to consistent profitability.

Inventory turnover is important for many reasons, with the main one being that so many businesses have so much money tied up in inventory. Excess inventory that isn’t sold cuts into profits.

Another problem with excess inventory is that consumer tastes change. What was once a hot item may not be so in six months, and you don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of products that nobody wants to buy. Furthermore, slow-moving inventory takes up valuable space and can make warehouse operations less efficient.

Effective management of inventory maximizes inventory turns while minimizing problems with insufficient inventory, ensuring your customers can get what they want, while keeping excess inventory in check. One of the best tools for ensuring healthy inventory levels and adequate inventory turns is the automated workflow. Here’s how automated workflows help keep inventory turns on pace.

From Receiving to Shelf Presentation

Your marketing team works hard to ensure that once products hit shelves, they sell quickly. But what about getting those products off the trucks and onto the shelves? With the right workflow software, your business can design receiving and stocking workflows that don’t put undue burden on receiving and stocking staff, yet collect all the data you need to know what you have, where it is located, and when it is sold.

Inventory sitting in storage that has not been properly accounted for leads to waste, lack of storage space, and less data with which to track inventory and plan properly. The right automated workflows prevent these problems.

Workflows to Track Inventory Automatically

When each item is tracked from the time it leaves the delivery truck until it is sold to a customer, you automatically collect the data you need to determine how quickly products sell, how frequently you need to restock, and what percentage of items are lost due to damage or theft.

Automated workflows

The right workflow software lets you track items from the time they reach your business until they are purchased by customers.

It’s similar to tracking the money in your bank account, in that knowing how much comes in, where it goes, and where it’s wasted is the key to managing what you have to the best of your ability. Inventory tracking workflows are indispensable to properly taking care of your business’ inventory.

Benefits of the Workflow Powered Inventory System

When you design automated workflows with the intent of improving inventory turns, you experience several benefits:

  • Security is better, because you track the movement of items through the entire retail cycle
  • Accuracy and efficiency improve, because products can be tracked conveniently with barcodes, avoiding the potential for manual data entry errors
  • More inventory turns help keep physical inventory levels to just what is needed
  • Labor hours handling and tracking inventory drop
  • Efficiency gains and lower error rates increase profitability

You don’t have to operate a big box store to enjoy the advantages of automated workflows. Even the smallest computer repair business, florist, or day spa can manage inventory with skill, as long as the right workflow software is part of the solution.

PerfectForms is workflow software designed to scale perfectly for all business sizes. With PerfectForms, you can create custom forms and workflows without any programming, designing workflows that account for and track your inventory at every stage. As a result, your business can keep inventory turnover on track, avoid excess inventory, and manage orders for consistent, smooth business operation. If you’re interested in learning more about PerfectForms and how it can help your business, we invite you to contact us at any time.

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The Importance of Documenting Workflow Creation for Sharing

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 by PerfectForms Editors

Workflow

Good ideas have a way of inspiring further good ideas.

One of the most positive “side effects” of creating an automated workflow to better manage a business process is that it often inspires ideas for creating other helpful automated workflows.

Suppose one department creates a workflow for tracking departmental employee training. Other departments, upon seeing the benefits of such a workflow, may conclude that their own training workflow would be a good idea too.

Creating automated workflows is not difficult with the right workflow software, but it’s still a good idea to document workflow creation. This can be tremendously helpful when similar workflows need to be created later, because new workflow creators won’t have to “reinvent the wheel” each time.

Training Workflows

In businesses that don’t have departments specifically dedicated to training, the task of ensuring everyone undergoes required and recommended training may fall upon several departments. Human resources, for example, may be in charge of ensuring all employees undergo required safety training at the proper intervals. Individual departments may be in charge of ensuring that their employees are trained in use of a new software package.

The first person or team tasked with creating a training workflow can help others by documenting how their training workflows are developed. It adds some extra time to the process on the front end, documenting which steps are added and why, but it can save time in the long run, because it can prevent future workflow developers from getting stuck or not knowing which step to add to a workflow next.

Service Workflows

The IT desk will often choose to create an IT help workflow so that when employees experience problems with software or devices, they have a standard format and procedure for requesting help from the IT people who know how to fix their issues.

Workflow

Automated workflows for IT services prevent duplication of effort and make IT services run more smoothly.

The benefits of such a workflow are numerous. Each time the workflow is used, the issue can be documented automatically, as can the solution. The IT desk could even use completed service workflows to make the case for hiring more IT workers.

Service workflows aren’t just for IT, however. Facilities managers may choose to have a similar workflow for requesting help when, for example, lights burn out, keys need to be issued, or a damaged floor somewhere causes a tripping hazard.

Workflow “Recipes”

When people create workflows, they should document why they included the steps they did and what those steps accomplish. This can make it easier to create new workflows to automate or improve more business processes.

Documenting workflows is similar to creating recipes, in that the document describes each step taken toward creating the workflow, allowing others to do it too. But just as some cooks add more salt, while others take out some of the sugar, these workflow recipes can be modified to suit the needs of the end-user.

Sharing knowledge can save significant time when implemented throughout an organization. Automated workflows also save significant time. So it only makes sense that documenting workflow creation to help others develop their own workflows would bring widespread efficiency gains.

Having the right workflow software is the key to creating workflows that can be modified and adapted for other uses. PerfectForms has an intuitive user interface that allows workflow creators to simply drag and drop workflow elements into place, with no programming required. Modification of workflows is easy too. That means, when you want to take an existing workflow (such as one for requesting IT services) and modify it for another use (such as for requesting building management services), it can be done efficiently and rolled out quickly.

You can take PerfectForms for a free test drive by signing up for a trial. Once you create that first automated workflow, you’re sure to be inspired to think of others, and the ultimate result will be faster, more accurate business operations.

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Your Workflow Software Is the Key to Successful Digital Process Automation

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018 by PerfectForms Editors

Workflow software

Digital process automation builds upon the principles of business process management.

Business process management, or BPM, involves improving a business process by analyzing it, modeling how it might work under various conditions, and ultimately making it better from end to end. BPM may or may not involve automation or making a process “digital.”

Digital process automation, or DPA, is about taking business process management to another level, where technology can accelerate processes, and innovation can take hold. BPM and DPA are not the same thing, and they’re not at odds with each other. In fact, the two concepts are complementary.

Workflow software is a key foundational element for both BPM and DPA, so it’s essential to choose your workflow software with plenty of care and consideration. Here is what you should expect of your workflow software so your BPM and DPA initiatives fulfill their potential.

Workflow Software Should Allow Process Transparency for Users

Neither BPM nor DPA means much unless processes are transparent. People are naturally curious, and they want to know that what they do plays a role in something larger. The right workflow software allows authorized workflow users to assess the status of a process at any point in it. Learning whether a purchase order has been approved, or whether a product has been pulled from the warehouse is simple and straightforward if your workflow software is up to expectations. The reassurance from being able to find out the status of a process at any time can go a long way toward building trust among teams and ensuring workflows proceed as expected.

Automating Manual Tasks Takes Efficiency to a Higher Level

Digital process automation doesn’t necessarily mean implementing highly futuristic or experimental technology. It can mean something as simple as having people fill in online forms rather than completing paper forms with a pen. There are many levels of automation, and when automation is implemented strategically, it can cause efficiency to take a quantum leap.

Both BPM and DPA are oriented toward improving efficiency, rooting out waste, and putting technology to use to ensure consistency and high quality, and the automation possible with the right workflow software is where you’ll see significant efficiency gains.

Workflow software

Sleek, efficient workflows can move your processes into high gear.

Collaboration and Auditing Should Be Part of any DPA Initiative

Collaboration can be built into workflows, as long as your software has the flexibility to allow it. Much has been made of the importance of collaboration, and transparent workflows help with collaboration by facilitating the sharing of knowledge.

Additionally, DPA should be auditable so that key performance indicators can be monitored, and so that further improvements can be made. Auditing isn’t necessarily something done by governing bodies or industry officials. Internal auditing can be extremely valuable for gaining insights and planning future business process management initiatives.

Business process management (BPM) and digital process automation (DPA) are interrelated concepts that build upon each other. Having powerful workflow software makes both easier to implement. PerfectForms is workflow software that requires no programming, can be made to collect data and create an audit trail automatically, and can be implemented so that authorized user can monitor the workflows to know where a process stands at a given time.

With PerfectForms, your teams can automate manual processes and manage them easily. Because workflows are created through a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface, they can also be modified and tested easily, so when you deploy a new workflow, you can be confident it performs as expected.

Did you know you can try PerfectForms for free? Sign up for a trial and take it for a test drive. You’ll quickly see how the right workflow software can power your digital transformation and keep your company at the leading edge of efficiency, all while gathering the critical performance data you need to stay ahead.

Innovation of Form and Innovation of Substance: How Workflows Help

Thursday, November 15th, 2018 by PerfectForms Editors

Gears.

Even the smallest businesses depend on lots of intricate, “under the hood” processes to get things done.

It doesn’t matter how simple your business is. There are a lot of moving parts involved in delivering something to the customer.

Not only must you produce the product or service, you have to keep track of supplies and expenses, often maintain a complex supply chain, and listen to both individual customers and the overall marketplace so you can adapt your business and continue growing.

What goes on behind the scenes is just as important as what you deliver to your customers. Both of these things affect each other, and problems with one will often result in problems with the other. But with the right workflow software, you can manage both the behind-the-scenes work and the customer-facing work with skill, precision, and professionalism.

Innovation of Form

Maybe your business bakes bread, or maybe it draws up legal contracts. Whatever it is that your business does, there’s a metaphorical “assembly line” of all the tasks involved in getting it done. And when any part of that “assembly line” is inefficient or broken down, you have a harder time delivering that amazing product or service.

It’s no mystery why businesses invest in consultants to evaluate how they take care of the countless processes that go into running a business. Being able to see bottlenecks and cumbersome processes is the first step to changing them so they’re more efficient.

Innovation of Substance

Few businesses get away with selling the exact same product year after year. Coca-Cola may not have changed its formula (except for the one disastrous time in 1985), but it has certainly changed the ways the product is delivered, in terms of can design, bottle shape, and new offerings incorporating additional flavors or diet-friendly sweeteners.

Most businesses know they must continually evolve to meet the needs of customers, and today, listening to customers through social media and web analytics is crucial to continuing to provide what consumers want. It’s too expensive for businesses to operate on hunches concerning consumer wants, and that’s why big data and data analytics have become so important in a world where businesses are expected to be responsive.

Laptop displaying web analytics.

Using online analytics is standard business practice today.

How Automated Workflows Bring Them Together

Both the form and the substance of your business can be improved through the use of automated workflows. Inefficient back-office processes cost money by slowing things down and frustrating employees, which is why automated workflows are constantly being designed and fine-tuned. Order numbers copied down by hand gave way to order numbers being entered into computers, and many of those have given way to order numbers entered by quickly scanning a barcode. Paper processes have largely given way to automated, electronic processes that save resources and time while cutting down on error rates.

On the customer-facing side of things, automated workflows can step customer service reps through consistent processes for taking care of customer needs, while other automated workflows gather analytics data for the generation of actionable insights. Last month’s Facebook analytics can be used to tailor this month’s social media campaign, and last quarter’s website analytics can show the web development team exactly how to improve the user experience for site visitors.

Can the choice of workflow software address both innovation of form and innovation of substance? Yes! PerfectForms is workflow software that allows for creation of fully-customized workflows with no programming required. Whether you want to set up a workflow for timekeeping, order processing, or collection of online analytics, PerfectForms lets you do so by dragging and dropping workflow elements into place.

PerfectForms interfaces with web forms as well as databases, spreadsheets, and Salesforce CRM, so you can gather data and direct it to exactly where you need it with minimum hassle. The bottom-line result is a business where back-office processes are smooth and efficient and customer-facing processes adapt quickly to customer needs. Best of all, you can try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. Don’t let inefficiencies in your business keep you from wowing the world with your outstanding products and services when you can create the workflows that will ensure everything runs optimally.

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Quality Over Quantity: Getting the Most from Your Online Forms

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 by PerfectForms Editors

Woman sitting on a couch filling out an online form.

You don’t have to operate an e-commerce business or a B2B business to use online forms.

Online forms are a fact of life for real estate businesses, law firms, consultancies, and countless other types of businesses. It’s probably safe to say that most types of businesses with any type of online presence can benefit from online forms.

With the right form software, integrating these online forms with your in-office systems (such as spreadsheets, databases, and CRM systems) is easy, eliminating duplication of effort and generally accelerating the pace of work.

But just because you can implement an online form doesn’t mean you should. With online forms (as with old-fashioned paper forms), quality should take precedence over quantity.

Online Forms Represent a Transaction

Think of every form you put on your website as the catalyst of a transaction. Your site visitor sees the form, does a split-second evaluation of it, and then asks the universal question, “What’s in it for me?” Often the answer is well worthwhile. They fill out a form and gain access to gated content, or can then download an e-book.

The key is that transactions have to make sense for both parties. If even your site’s non-exclusive content is kept behind a virtual “gate,” then visitors will quickly conclude that the transaction of providing their information to gain access to something they can easily find elsewhere is not worth their effort. You have to use online forms judiciously to make each of those potential transactions worthwhile.

Too Many Forms Will Drive Customers Away

We have all been there. We’re on a site promising a white paper or other piece of content that will answer some of our key questions, and we need to fill out a form to gain access to that content. Fair enough.

But sometimes those forms offering access are either too numerous or too involved. Why does this company need to know my annual income, or my birthdate to let me see the paper about how to save money on transportation costs?

Online forms

Make sure your forms’ length and complexity offer a fair trade for what you offer site visitors in return.

You only need to complete one form that takes longer to fill out than it takes to read the promised white paper to be skeptical of all similar forms in the future.

Pare your forms down to only those that are necessary, and only ask for information that you really need, and you’ll have higher conversion rates and be held in higher esteem by form-weary online customers.

Use Only Necessary Forms and Make Those Forms Work Hard

With the right form software, you can take just the essential information with your online forms and make it work harder for you. For example, if you have the right form software, the contact data collected in front of a piece of gated content can be automatically routed into your CRM and customer service databases, and the email address can automatically be added to your email newsletter mailing list. Customers and potential customers need never be bothered again with submitting this information.

Create workflows around those online forms to do things like flag duplicate database entries, and you’ll waste less company time (and less customer time). When a potential customer wants to take it to the next level, information from previous forms can be used to pre-populate more in-depth forms, so they don’t waste time entering information you already have.

In other words, using online forms wisely is all about reducing the “friction” between your online visitors and what they want, and reducing friction goes a long way with customers. PerfectForms is online form software that integrates seamlessly with web forms as well as Google Sheets, Salesforce, and other office systems, so you can collect data once and use it to its fullest with minimal extra effort.

Moreover, PerfectForms allows you to create workflows that automatically route data, send notifications, and otherwise automatically advance work processes, whether they have to do with online website visitors or non-customer-facing processes that most businesses deal with, like HR operations or IT help desk functions. Watch the PerfectForms demo and see for yourself why it is the ideal solution for both customer-facing and back-office forms and workflows.

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Online Forms vs. Paper Forms: There’s Simply No Contest

Thursday, November 8th, 2018 by PerfectForms Editors

Online forms

Cleaner desks are one nice side effect of switching to electronic forms.

Business and forms go together and have done so for a century or more.

It’s easy for businesses, particularly those that have been around for a long time, to stick with tried and true ways of doing things. This may unfortunately mean using paper forms even after significantly better alternatives exist.

If your business or organization is still using paper forms, and you’ve considered switching to online forms, what are you waiting for? The benefits of online forms are there for the taking, right now. Here’s why there’s simply no contest between paper forms and online forms.

Faster Data Gathering with Fewer Errors

Even people who have not been trained in typing often find it faster to complete online forms than they do paper forms. Filling out a paper form neatly and legibly can be a big challenge to some people, especially if the form fields in which they are supposed to enter information are small. People with average typing skills can complete electronic forms quickly, and if they make a mistake, they don’t have to cross it out, because they can go back and fix it before submitting the form.

Online forms can also be designed to ensure a minimum of errors and consistency of format. For example, if someone attempts to enter text into a field that requires a number, online forms can be triggered to pop up a flag indicating that the data should be re-entered in the proper format. And auto-populate features can ensure that when someone enters information needed elsewhere, or on other, related forms, it is entered automatically as soon as the user enters the information the first time.

Archival Doesn’t Require Filing Cabinets

Some forms need to be archived, and while filing cabinets can be models of organization, they’re still harder to navigate than online archives. It’s a lot faster to bring up an archived form by entering a keyword or key piece of form information than it is to go through physical cabinets full of paper forms – which may or may not have been filed in proper order.

Getting rid of paper archives can be tremendously freeing for businesses and other organizations. It frees up space for other purposes, and makes file retrieval instantaneous, so the pace of business can proceed faster.

Computer keyboard.

Electronic archives are faster, more secure, and simply better all around than paper archives.

Online Forms Can Be the Foundation for Automated Workflows

One of the best things about online forms (assuming you use capable online form software) is that they can create the foundation for sleek, automated workflows. Instead of someone returning from a business trip and submitting a paper form with a bunch of receipts stapled to it, they can submit an electronic form with either electronic receipts or phone photos of actual receipts. Once submitted, the form can be automatically routed to the exact personnel responsible for reviewing the claim and approving reimbursement. It’s faster, and it doesn’t result in piles of paper that have to be filed or disposed of.

Add Mobile-Friendliness for Even Greater Benefits

Here’s a novel use for mobile-friendly electronic forms. Researchers in the African nation of Sudan replaced paper-based questionnaires used with people living with chronic obstructive lung disease with mobile-friendly surveys. Participants used the forms to report health issues like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

The researchers found that error rates were drastically reduced when compared to error rates for paper forms, and that the mobile forms were far likelier to be complete and consistent. In other words, the mobile-friendly electronic forms allowed health officials to collect better data more comprehensively concerning serious public health issues.

If you’re still using paper forms, there is no time like the present to make the transition to online forms, and PerfectForms makes it easy. There is no programming, so you can use an intuitive drag-and-drop interface to create customized online forms that meet your needs exactly. And PerfectForms allows you to easily share data from forms with spreadsheets and other office software, eliminating duplication of effort when data must be shared. We invite you to watch our demo video, because we’re sure you’ll be inspired to move beyond paper forms once and for all, with a solution that is straightforward, powerful, and customizable for any business.

How Automated Workflows Build Institutional Archives and Repositories

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 by PerfectForms Editors

Open book on top of a laptop.

Most businesses have plenty of knowledge stored, some of it digital, some of it non-digital. Automated workflows can help you digitize and organize all of it.

Over time, businesses and other organizations build up a “knowledge base” from the experiences of the people who work there.

This so-called institutional knowledge is apart from the knowledge required to operate the business, and may include things like technical presentations at conferences, help documents created by long-time employees for new people, and publications about the organization.

These knowledge documents should be considered a valuable business asset and treated as such. Many businesses deliberately create repositories of important documents as an institutional knowledge archive, and these repositories can be particularly valuable during times of change, like when a new CEO is appointed, or when key employees retire. The best way to build such a repository is by creating automated workflows to help.

Why Automated Workflows Are the Key

Imagine your company has file cabinets full of technical papers delivered by employees over the years. If the company is old enough, some of these documents may not exist in digital form. Should there be a fire, burglary, or other disaster, the documents, and the knowledge contained within them could disappear forever.

Automated workflows are the key to digitizing non-digital documents and then working with the collection of digital documents to organize and store them in ways that make them useful to the maximum number of people. Making the archival workflow available to all appropriate staff members, and making it simple and straightforward to enter publication data like title, author, and date, and then copy and paste the contents of digital documents distributes the workload, helping you build your archive faster.

Work could be distributed in numerous ways. For example, each engineer who presented a technical paper on behalf of the company could be responsible for adding their documents to the archive. A summer intern could be assigned to add documents to the archive in cases where the document’s author has left or retired.

Best Practices: Approval and Validation

Person looking at their mobile phone in front of a laptop.

Approval and validation should be built into the archival process for quality assurance purposes.

One best practice that is particularly valuable when building institutional archives is inclusion of approval and validation processes within the workflow. Someone – or more likely, several someones – should check each new entry into the archive to make sure that all key fields are completed, and that the digital document matches up to the title. The approval and validation step may also involve assignment of a document to one or more document categories, e.g. technical papers, instruction manuals, machine specifications, etc.

Benefits of Digital Institutional Archives

Having an extensive, accessible institutional archive or knowledge base benefits an organization in countless ways. For one thing, creating digital copies of non-digital documents provides backup without requiring more physical storage space. Providing access to the company knowledge base helps employees solve problems more easily, because they can check to see if solutions already exist rather than “re-inventing the wheel” when a problem arises.

A strong institutional knowledge base can and should be considered a strong business asset, and this can help when raising capital or entertaining buy-out offers. And it can help in unusual situations, such as when an old or rarely-used piece of equipment must be used again, especially if the former operators of the machinery have retired.

Creating an institutional knowledge base is a big undertaking, but the benefits are real, measurable, and long-term. Creating an automated workflow and distributing the work involved ensure that the process goes as quickly as possible, and that the fewest mistakes are made. In the end, you’ll have made information more valuable by making it more accessible and usable.

PerfectForms is automated workflow software that allows businesses and organizations to create customized workflows. PerfectForms lets you begin with customized online forms that make data entry straightforward, and then link forms and other documents together into powerful workflows that make sense to end-users. And the forms and workflows you create are mobile-friendly, making them even more useful.

No programming is required to use PerfectForms, because it has an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface. Therefore, the end-users of a workflow can have input into how the workflows are designed. Whether you want to create a digitized institutional knowledge base, or simply need to automate business processes with ease, we invite you to try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial.

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