Electronic Checklist: A Great Starting Point for Workflow Software

Thursday, March 21st, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Few tools help more people maintain more motivation to reach goals than the simple checklist.

Mechanic with checklist

The humble checklist is responsible for accomplishment of many goals.
Electronic checklists do away with the need for pen and paper, and keep records automatically.

While big goals are necessary, they can feel overwhelming at times. Checklists help us break down the tasks that get us closer to our big goals and check off our progress as we go. In fact, the simple act of checking things off a checklist activates the “reward” system in the brain, causing a quick burst of dopamine. In other words, it feels good to check things off a checklist. Psychologists recommend people use them in daily life partly for this reason.

Paper checklists have served people for ages, but electronic checklists are better, especially now that we carry mobile devices around all the time. In fact, the electronic checklist can be an excellent first use of workflow software.

Checklists Customized to Different Business Roles

Rare is the business role that isn’t improved by the electronic checklist. Some of the most common types of checklists used in businesses include:

  • To-do lists, which can be customized to each individual
  • Task checklists that break down a process step by step
  • Troubleshooting checklists
  • Coordination checklists (that are used by multiple people)
  • “Discipline” checklists that help people avoid making decisions before due consideration

Having electronic checklists on a phone or tablet is ideal, because it’s paper- and pencil-free, so fewer physical resources are needed, and the lists won’t be lost. And electronic checklists can have features built in that enhance productivity.

Checklist Features that Aid Productivity

With the right workflow software, you can create custom, mobile-friendly electronic checklists with productivity-enhancing features. For example, if steps on a checklist should be done in a particular order (as is often the case with a troubleshooting checklist), if a user skips a step, the checklist can instantly deliver a pop-up notification stating that a “prerequisite” step was not checked off.

Bicycle messenger with table

Notifications and alerts make electronic checklists more useful and ensure processes are completed in full.

If completion of one person’s checklist indicates that some other person’s action or input is needed, the electronic checklist can send a notification to that person that the process is ready for their input. And electronic checklists can be made to collect data for later perusal or reporting. Someone could see, for example, that a troubleshooting checklist was completed ten times in a month for a particular piece of equipment, and decide whether it’s time to dig deeper or consider replacing the equipment.

An Excellent Introduction to Learning Workflow Software

Another great thing about the electronic checklist is that it can be an excellent introduction to workflow software. Workflow software can be put to countless uses, and at first, the endless possibilities can seem daunting. However, when people go through training on workflow software, developing an electronic checklist complete with data collection and notifications can be an outstanding first project for software users to try.

The great thing about good workflow software is that once a user successfully creates a workflow, they’re likely to think of other great workflows that can be developed. Creating an electronic checklist can be the perfect springboard to development of other useful workflows.

The quality of electronic checklists depends in part on the quality of the workflow software you use. PerfectForms is workflow software with a user-friendly interface and no programming. Users simply drag and drop form or workflow elements into place, so it’s easy to experiment and go from idea to execution quickly.

Electronic checklists can be amazingly useful, but you will soon want to use PerfectForms for countless other types of workflows, such as workflows for onboarding new employees and workflows for submitting expenses for reimbursement. We encourage you to browse some of our many case studies to see how flexible and powerful PerfectForms is. You’re sure to use it for electronic checklists and innumerable other important business processes. 

Does Your Workflow Software Support Outstanding Workflow Management?

Friday, March 15th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

A workflow is a sequence of steps through which work passes as it goes from initiation to conclusion. Automated workflows are those where some or all of those steps are automated. 

Woman viewing a flowchart

Going from concept to well-executed business process requires outstanding workflow software.

If the purpose of a workflow is to achieve a result or complete some process, then the purpose of workflow management is to achieve better results, often by managing the “people” part of the workflow. For example, in a complex workflow, some people’s tasks may be done in parallel rather than in sequence, because they don’t affect each other. This can accelerate completion of the overall workflow. Excellent workflow management depends upon excellent workflow software.

Workflow Software Should Allow Visualization of Workflows

In the early days of automated workflows, the only way to visualize a workflow was through a flowchart or other diagram, or by reading through computer code if you could understand it. Today, you should expect a clean, intuitive interface from workflow software, so that you can visualize a workflow in its entirety and component by component.

Being able to visualize a workflow lets you see where things may be done better in another order, or where steps that don’t affect each other can be done in parallel rather than in sequence. It’s hard to manage a workflow that you can’t envision.

Conveniences in Automated Workflows Can Improve Workflow Management

Workflow software includes form builders, because forms are a critical part of most workflows. The right workflow software will allow you to build conveniences right into the forms to promote better workflow management. For example, pre-filling of certain form fields can save considerable time. Suppose the workflow created for the hiring process includes numerous forms that require the job candidate’s name and contact information. Once the first form of the process is completed, subsequent forms can pre-fill name and contact information fields automatically, so there’s no duplication of effort. 

Other conveniences in automated workflows include automatic notifications to personnel whose input is required, automatically date- and time-stamping steps as they are completed, and saving data from the workflow for future reporting purposes. 

Reporting viewed on a laptop

Reports using data collected by a workflow help with continuous workflow improvement.

Reporting Is an Underappreciated Component of Good Workflow Management

To improve a workflow, you have to know how well each workflow component performs, and reporting features allow you to do this with ease. You could, for example, record time to completion for a workflow and examine how that data trends over time. Then, should you choose to modify the workflow, you could compare time to completion for the modified workflow to that of the original workflow. 

Workflow software should include powerful, easy-to-use reporting features so you can collect and analyze workflow data. The reports generated can help you envision ways to improve the workflow, and can guide you when you create new workflows. It’s an excellent method for keeping good workflow management high on the priority list.

Workflow management requires understanding automated workflows inside and out, and you can’t do this without the right workflow software. PerfectForms is workflow software with an intuitive, drag-and-drop user interface that allows workflow creators to drag and drop elements into place. Visualizing the entire workflow, and different components of the workflow is a snap.

Additionally, the form-building tools PerfectForms offers allow users to include workflow accelerators like pre-filled form fields, and checks and balances that ensure that the correct data is always entered into forms before they are submitted. And PerfectForms offers powerful reporting features that let you track and manage workflows so you can improve them in ways that make a real difference. Why not test drive PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial? Workflow management is a strong competitive differentiator, and PerfectForms equips you to manage workflows with skill and ease.

Proof-of-Concept to Everyday Use: How Workflows Make the Transition

Thursday, March 7th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Rarely do workflows go seamlessly from concept to everyday use, because it’s impossible to foresee all possible problems at the beginning.

Staging deployment of automated workflows helps address skepticism and assure good results.

Making the transition from idea to regular use can go more smoothly if workflow design is done in stages, starting with proof of concept, proceeding to a small pilot project, followed by training, practice, and deployment. Here’s how to ensure those stages of workflow development happen with minimal problems and backtracking.

Proof of Concept

This is where you come up with a solution to a problem and determine if it’s feasible. Suppose you head a local government department and have determined that citizen requests for oversize trash pickup should be made online rather than in person, on paper, or over the phone.

During proof of concept, you should ask important questions like:

  • Can we afford the workflow software to do this?
  • How will we let people know this is the new way to make requests?
  • How much will we ultimately save in terms of time and physical resources?
  • What objections might people raise to this new way of doing things? 

Pilot Project

A pilot project for your new workflow requires that you know how to use the workflow software and have created the forms people will use online to request services. People in the office have tested out the forms to make sure they work. The people who will eventually process the forms have seen what it’s like receiving completed forms and ensuring they collect all necessary information.

At this point, your pilot project can deploy on a limited basis. Perhaps you can start with a single neighborhood, to gauge reaction and willingness of people to use it. When people in the pilot project neighborhood start actually using the new process, you can collect feedback from them on what they liked and didn’t like, and what problems, if any, they experienced. 

Information collected during the pilot project can be used to fine-tune forms and workflow to prevent bottlenecks, and to determine the best way to prioritize requests. Your pilot project gives you the opportunity to course-correct and make changes before taking the project citywide.

Pilot projects are great for listening to feedback and fine-tuning workflows.

Training and Practice

Once your pilot project has collected the data necessary to correct and fine-tune forms and the workflow itself, you still need to test the final workflow thoroughly before deploying it. Each person involved in the workflow, from clerks to dispatchers to truck drivers, must be trained in how to use it. Ideally, you can have a few practice runs to make sure everything clicks into place as it is supposed to. Only after everyone who will use the workflow has been trained are you ready to deploy your workflow for real.

Deployment

The day a new workflow goes live, make sure all lines of communication are open. That day is not a good day for the workflow designer to be out of the office. It’s wise to have a handful of people designated to switch back to the old way of doing things if there’s a major problem, but hopefully it won’t come to that. 

Once the workflow goes live, the workflow designer and key personnel should take stock after the first day, after a week, and after a month to find out if unforeseen problems or bottlenecks have emerged. This way, they can be handled before they cause major problems. When the workflow is in daily use and doing what it’s supposed to do, it’s smart to write up a report detailing project phases, problems solved, and lessons learned. This will make it easier when new automated workflows are created later on. 

The right workflow software will help you not only design automated workflows, but also take them through every stage from concept to everyday use with ease. PerfectForms, with its intuitive drag-and-drop interface, makes creation of customized online forms and automated workflows straightforward, so you can create, test, train, and deploy on an accelerated schedule. We encourage you to read through some of the many PerfectForms case studies and see the results of automated workflows in a variety of real-world scenarios.

Banish Workflow Inefficiencies by Taking These 4 Steps

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Business inefficiencies can slow growth and cost money.

Concerned mature businesswoman

Tiny inefficiencies add up over time, costing businesses money.

Many businesses turn to automated workflows to increase efficiency and help prevent errors that can more easily enter into old-fashioned, manual workflows. While automated workflows are more efficient and accurate than manual ones, they sometimes have their own inefficiencies that prevent them from operating faster, which can needlessly slow down the pace of business.

Before you start using your workflow software to create workflows, take time up front to predict where inefficiencies can creep in, and design your workflows to avoid such inefficiencies. You won’t always get it right the first time, but good planning can help workflows run as efficiently as possible, right out of the gate. Here are four steps you can take to banish inefficiencies from your automated workflows.

1. Sketch Out Workflows with Help from End-Users

Automating workflows begins with understanding them from end to end. Sketching out workflows with help from the people who use them most can highlight inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Divide each workflow into its most elemental steps, and ask end-users where they tend to experience problems and why they think that is. Knowing where inefficiencies lie in wait is like knowing where the best fishing spots are: it makes catching them easier. 

2. Capture and Route Information Efficiently

HR processes are prime candidates for workflow automation, because so many of them involve repetitive data entry. Imagine logging into an HR workflow (to schedule paid time off, for example) with just your employee ID number and having the right forms pop up with your name and other relevant employee information already filled in. 

Automated workflows are great for capturing data one time and routing it to other necessary places in the workflow without further data entry. With the right workflow software, workflow data can be captured from any number of sources, including existing databases, emails, mobile apps, and websites. 

Data integration concept

Can your workflow software integrate with spreadsheets, databases, and other office systems?

3. Validate Data Right in Their Form Fields

Online forms magnify efficiency on their own. And when online form fields are “smart,” they improve efficiency further. The right workflow software will allow you to specify which type of information goes into specific form fields, so that errors are caught before the form is even submitted. 

Suppose you have a quick workflow for purchase orders under $500. You can use your workflow software to ensure that if someone enters a value into the purchase amount field for more than $500, it is flagged immediately, so the user can correct it or switch to a workflow for larger purchase orders. Validating form data upon entry saves time, reduces errors, and helps you maintain strong workflow efficiency.

4. Choose the Right Workflow Software

If your workflow software is mind-boggling, limited, or requires that you hire a programmer to use it, you’ll have a much harder time creating efficient workflows. Today you can choose workflow software that requires no programming and that allows you to draft, test, and perfect automated workflows before deploying them.

PerfectForms offers you an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface that you can use to create both customized online forms, and the workflows that handle them. It can draw data from sources like spreadsheets and databases, and use input data to auto-populate forms, to minimize or eliminate repetitive data entry. You can also design form fields to accept specific types of data, and to flag errors when wrong data is entered. 

With PerfectForms, you can use automatic alerts to signal other workflow users that their input is needed, and you can collect workflow data for easy reporting later on. Best of all, you can test drive PerfectForms by signing up for a free trial . Workflow inefficiencies can cost your company money and time. PerfectForms offers you the tools you need to banish those inefficiencies.

How Virtual Reality Is Emerging as an Element of Automated Workflows

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Virtual reality (VR) represents a “slow burn” disruption happening in the workplace. 

Headsets in office

Expect this to be a more common sight in the offices of the future.

While some companies regularly use VR technology now, it will probably be another three to five years before it becomes commonplace. We’re just now figuring out how to put VR to work, and new applications for it will undoubtedly emerge as everyone gets the hang of the technology. 

It is likely that VR will become elemental to many types of automated workflows as the technology matures. Some current VR applications make sense as part of automated workflows, particularly in the areas of training, 3-D viewing, and collaboration. 

VR in Training Programs

Perhaps the most obvious use for VR in automated workflows is in training. The very first flight simulator (an early form of VR) became available for sale back in 1929! These early designs gave way to more elaborate simulators costing millions of dollars that were used to train airline pilots as well as military pilots. And today, VR can make the experience more immersive than ever.

The range of application for VR in training workflows is potentially huge. Automated VR workflows could step trainees through processes like handling hazardous chemicals, learning how to use equipment, or even “practicing” surgical techniques. Safety training is predicted to be a major user of VR technology as well.

Using VR to Gain 3-D Views of Designs and Plans

Imagine designing a workshop, home interior, or store layout and being able to “walk” through it using a VR headset. This is fast becoming reality as virtual technology advances to where it can turn two-dimensional plans or blueprints into 3-D virtual spaces that can be visited with the aid of a headset. As the technology becomes more common and affordable, such 3-D “step-throughs” may become a part of automated workflows in architecture, interior design, and other professions concerned with the arrangement of space in three dimensions. 

Collaborative Spaces with VR

VR headset guy with globe

VR allows people from all over the world to meet in a single, virtual “room.”

Most companies already use video conferencing as a way to bring geographically dispersed teams together for meetings. Seeing everyone’s face and body language makes such remote meetings more informative and engaging than traditional conference calls. Virtual reality may take it a step further, creating virtual 3-D spaces that could take video conferencing into another dimension, bringing people together in a single virtual room from all over the world. 

Workflows Involving Customers and Consumer Testing

VR technology exists on some level in high-end clothing retailers’ dressing rooms, allowing people to virtually try on clothing. Consumer choice data from virtual dressing rooms could help retailers learn quickly which trends are catching on, and which are not worth investing in, potentially reducing waste while still giving consumers what they want. 

Potential applications for consumer testing are practically endless. Imagine designing a car and allowing consumers to virtually test drive it before the design is finalized. Or having customers customize their own bicycle design and then virtually “ride” it before placing an order to have it built. 

There are already a handful of companies offering VR solutions for the workplace, and you can expect many more to emerge in the coming five years or so. While inserting VR won’t be appropriate for all automated workflows, it is likely to be a smart addition to many of them.

Automated workflows, like those you can create with PerfectForms, power businesses in every industry, allowing consistency, efficiency, and collection of valuable data every day. With PerfectForms, you can create customized online forms and automated workflows for an endless range of applications, from HR to building maintenance to IT and more. 

Even without VR, automated workflows save businesses considerable time and money, raising revenues and streamlining operations. We invite you to look through some of the many PerfectForms case studies and see for yourself how automated workflows transform business operations. 

Why You Don’t Have to Rely on Your IT Team to Automate Workflows

Thursday, February 14th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Your IT team is perpetually busy.

Team of programmers

The typical IT department today can’t spare a programmer to help design and deploy automated workflows.

Today’s IT professionals in the enterprise spend their time and mental energy dealing with cloud infrastructure, big data, virtualization, energy efficiency, and interoperability. Or else they’re dealing with a server that has broken or a network that has inexplicably slowed down. Or perhaps they are preparing for a software license audit. One way and another, IT work and maintenance never stop and hardly ever slow down.

Rare is the IT team, even in the wealthiest of companies, that has the time and expertise to design, program, and deploy automated workflows. The good news is that this is no longer necessary for most businesses.

How It Used to Be Done

In the old days, automating a process, or automating steps of a workflow was a major undertaking. While the people involved in using the workflow may have helped sketch it out on paper and make suggestions, there was always some question as to whether the type and level of automation was possible for a given workflow.

Companies that had their own IT departments may have commandeered a programmer to work on the workflow automation project, while others would hire a programmer from outside on a contract basis. Only after programmers learned about the workflow could they determine if automation was possible, how practical or impractical it was, and how big and expensive an undertaking it would be. The end product may or may not have matched what workflow users envisioned. 

Why End-Users Are the Key to Great Automated Workflows

One of the best starting points for improving efficiency and productivity is asking the people who do the work what would make their work easier. Maybe they don’t want to type the same data into multiple spreadsheets or databases. Maybe they resent having to track down superiors to find out the status of a process. What if you could ask workflow end-users what would make their work easier, and then could implement those things without having to hire a programmer?

Hands drawing a flowchart

Workflow software should make it easy to translate ideas into solid, automated processes.

The closer workflow end-users are to the design and creation of automated workflows, the more closely the final workflow will live up to their expectations. Without the layer of opacity that even the most highly skilled programmer brings to the workflow automation process, end-users can gain control over how they do their work, and eliminate many inefficiencies and work-arounds.

The Right Workflow Software Makes It Possible

The key to creating workflows that deliver what end-users expect is having the right workflow software. Today you can use on-site or cloud hosted workflow software that does not require the services of a programmer.

User interface designs have evolved to where workflow elements can be created on a screen, dragged and dropped into place, and then connected into sleek, functional workflows. Practically, this allows workflow end-users to put their ideas into practice more quickly and easily. Workflows can be designed, created, tested, and deployed on a much tighter time scale, so ROI can be realized sooner.

PerfectForms is the workflow software you have been looking for if you want a powerful, flexible way to create automated workflows without having to hire a programmer. PerfectForms’ user interface is intuitive and easy to learn, allowing users to drag and drop workflow elements into place. Anything from the simplest form-completion workflow to the most complex workflow going across multiple departments is possible, and end-users can have a greater say in how those workflows are designed. The learning curve is easy, deployment is fast, and ROI shows up in record time.

PerfectForms invites you to browse through some of our many case studies, which cover a range of industries. Learn how taking the power of automated workflow design into your own hands can improve efficiency, boost productivity, save resources, and increase revenues.

Manage Office Safety with Online Forms and Automated Workflows

Friday, January 25th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Welder working.

Your business may not involve dangerous equipment, but safety hazards exist in every work environment.

In some work environments, it’s obvious why safety training and procedures must be extensive and frequently updated. 

Heavy equipment, potentially hazardous chemicals, and tools that operate at high temperatures necessitate extensive and constant attention to worker safety.

But even if your business takes place in an air-conditioned office where the only “heavy equipment” is a copy machine and the only “high temperature tool” is a coffee pot, it’s important for everyone to be mindful of safety. Creating specific online forms and workflows for ensuring safety and documenting safety-related incidents can help ensure your workplace remains injury-free.

Examples of Potential Safety Issues in Offices

Fire danger exists to some degree everywhere electricity is used. Frayed electrical cords, the use of space heaters, and clutter that impedes access to fire doors can turn the most innocuous office dangerous. 

Slip and fall hazards can be created by something as minor as a spill on the floor of the office kitchen that nobody bothers to clean up (or block off while they go get cleaning supplies). It may be faster to stand on a rolling office chair rather than fetching a stepladder to reach something on a high shelf, but the dangers are obvious.

And if your office has marble or tile floors, they can become surprisingly slippery in the few minutes it takes your commuters to come inside on a rainy morning. Think about it: there are many potential safety hazards in the typical office environment.

Why You Should Create a Safety Workflow

If someone is injured at work, the first priority is assessing the situation and getting help if necessary. Beyond that, however, it’s important to document what happened, determine what caused the accident, and take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Online forms and safety workflows are ideal for this task.

Broken cup on the floor with liquid.

Documenting minor safety incidents helps put safety at the front of everyone’s mind and helps prevent future incidents.

Documenting office accidents right away not only helps you take steps to prevent future problems, it gets everything recorded while everyone’s memories of the incident are fresh. Should the incident need to be recalled (say, by a doctor treating the person injured), documentation can show clearly what happened. 

A Workflow for Monitoring Potential Safety Issues Is a Good Idea

In addition to creating online forms and workflows for documenting safety incidents, it’s wise to create a workflow specifically for checking the workplace for potential safety issues on a regular basis. With a mobile-friendly safety checklist form, a designated person can go through the workplace in an orderly fashion, check for potential hazards, and document issues that should be addressed, like a stack of boxes that impedes visibility. That way, some problems can be prevented altogether. 

If you invest in additional safety training, such as CPR training for your employees, you can create online forms for them to sign up and to verify that they have completed training. And if your workflow software has the capabilities, you can create quarterly or annual reports on safety inspections, safety incidents, and safety training with ease.

PerfectForms is online form and workflow software that makes it easy to create the online forms and automated workflows you need, whether for documenting office safety procedures or just about any other business process. From onboarding new employees to equipping field workers necessary forms on their tablets to ensuring expense accounts are always up to date, PerfectForms allows you to do it all, with a user-friendly interface that requires no programming. 

We encourage you to watch the PerfectForms demo video. It only takes a minute, and you’re sure to come away with many great ideas for ways you can use online forms and automated workflows to streamline and improve your business processes.

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Automated Workflows Help You Maximize Preventive Maintenance Benefits

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Person working on fixing a copier.

Maintaining the equipment your business uses is an excellent way to reduce waste and extract the most value from your equipment.

Yet we can come up for any number of excuses not to practice preventive maintenance – excuses mostly related to “not having the time.” But in reality, practicing preventive maintenance frees up time over the long run, because there will be fewer emergency repairs disrupting work. 

For many businesses, automated workflows are the answer to the excuses for neglecting preventive maintenance, because they can be set up to follow schedules, send notifications, and collect valuable data.

Sometimes a Cultural Shift Is Needed

Investing in workflow software and creating maintenance workflows is a key step, of course, but sometimes organizations have to educate everyone on the importance of preventive maintenance. It’s not always easy. Strong leadership and commitment to accountability from every team member in every department are necessary to building a culture in which making the most of resources is ingrained.

The workflow software is there to help you “walk the talk” by reminding key personnel when it is time to examine equipment, perform routine maintenance, and document equipment condition. This also allows budgets to be more accurately projected when it appears that old equipment will have to be replaced. 

Preventive Workflows for IT Equipment

Many preventive maintenance tasks are built into IT equipment, as you are aware if you use Windows and are occasionally reminded of an automatic operating system update. But there are many other preventive steps that keep IT equipment in sound working order, such as routine verification that server backups work, checking disk usage versus disk capacity, and assessing system security regularly. These tasks can often be scheduled outside of normal business hours so that disruption of operations is kept to a minimum.

Preventive Workflows for Other Business Equipment

As paperless as we like to believe our offices are, most businesses still have copiers that get regular use. Simple tasks like cleaning the glass platen can be scheduled frequently, while more complex tasks like cleaning dust and toner residue from paper rollers can be scheduled on a less-frequent basis. It’s not easy to know when to replace toner cartridges, but keeping records can help you predict how long a cartridge usually lasts. Inspecting drum units for wear quarterly or semi-annually can ensure worn ones are replaced before they break. 

And all of this can be scheduled and documented with automated workflows. The same can be done for other office equipment like laminators, scanners, and cash registers.

Even if your “fleet” is only two or three vehicles, devoting time to regular maintenance pays off impressively.

Preventive Workflows for Your Transportation Fleet

Even the smallest transportation fleet benefits from automated workflows for routine maintenance. Workflows can schedule regular oil changes, tire rotations, fluid level checks and other preventive steps, ensuring you’re ready to roll at any time and minimizing the chances that a team member will experience vehicle breakdown while working off site. Taking preventive maintenance steps may require an investment of time and money now, but it can prevent much bigger expenses and time waste later on.

Another great thing about automated workflows for preventive maintenance is that they can document and record steps taken and repairs made. Over time, you’ll learn which products tend to last and which don’t, so you can make wiser replacement purchases when the time comes. The old aphorism “A stitch in time saves nine” is remarkably apt in the twenty-first century office environment, and the right workflow software helps you get those “stitches” in and save time and money.

PerfectForms is workflow software that requires no programming. Hence, you and your team can create preventive maintenance workflows that are perfectly tailored to your equipment mix and their recommended service schedules. PerfectForms also has outstanding reporting capabilities, so at the end of the year you can see how much you have spent on preventive maintenance and compare it to the costs of neglecting and replacing equipment. 

Preventive maintenance workflows are just one way that PerfectForms saves organizations time and money. We encourage you to read through our case studies and discover the huge variety of ways businesses, nonprofits, and governmental organizations use PerfectForms to streamline procedures, keep processes on track, and save significant amounts of time and money.

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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.