Virtual reality (VR) represents a “slow burn” disruption happening in the workplace.
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 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 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.
The two main ways companies fill vacant job positions are partnering with a recruiting agency and doing recruiting in-house.
In-house recruiting makes sense for many businesses. Automated workflows make it efficient.
In-house recruiting teams act as an extension of the HR department and may include people from multiple departments, including the departments with unfilled positions and often the company’s marketing department as well. Doing in-house recruiting effectively requires strong coordination, and automated workflows help this coordination take place.
Advantages: United, Consistent Employer Branding Throughout
One of the main advantages of recruiting in-house rather than using an agency is control over the process. While agencies may be necessary for filling highly specialized positions (where candidates can be hard to find), in-house recruiting often works well for the majority of front-line employees.
Another advantage of in-house recruiting is that the entire process can be imbued with employer branding elements. In other words, from the first time a potential applicant learns of the open position, they are also learning about the company itself, as well as its values and goals.
Sourcing and Selecting Candidates
Automated workflows for sourcing and selecting candidates must incorporate necessary advertising of open positions, as well as gathering information from interested parties, and receiving completed job applications.
Coordinating these activities is more complex than many people expect. Posting job ads, for example, can change as the team discovers which job boards are most effective at reaching qualified candidates. Later, candidates who express interest can be funneled into the application system, and ones who actually fill out applications can be separated from those who don’t. Keeping key recruiting team members apprised of these developments is done more accurately and efficiently with automated workflows.
Applicant Tracking and Interview Scheduling
Once an applicant submits their application and other necessary materials, like their resumé, tracking them is critical. “Lost” applications can let great candidates slip through the cracks! Automated workflows can ensure that applications are processed, and can issue alerts when recruiting team members fail to act on a submitted application in a timely manner.
Recruiting workflows can send out automated notifications
when nobody acts on submitted applications within a set time period.
Likewise, interview scheduling must be coordinated. Automated workflows can gather necessary information from both the applicant and the recruiting team to schedule interviews that work with both the interviewee’s and the recruiting team’s schedules.
Delivering Offers and Coordinating Onboarding Especially Important
It is the latter stages of the recruiting process that are perhaps most important: delivering offers and completing the onboarding process. Both of these can be accomplished through automated workflows that ensure that no steps are missed and no time is wasted.
Once a workflow creates an offer based on input from the recruiting team, it can either deliver the offer via email or compose a formal offer letter that the leader of the recruiting team can deliver. Once a candidate accepts a job offer, the automated onboarding workflow can begin.
Excellence in the onboarding process is essential to keeping new employee turnover to a minimum. New employees, who are already anxious about their new job working out, can easily become disillusioned with a new employer if the onboarding process is disorganized or needlessly outdated. Automated onboarding is one key to getting new employees up to speed and part of the group as quickly as possible.
Doing recruiting in-house requires a strong recruiting team and workflows that support both the team and the job candidates. There is no place for disorganization or for processes that are needlessly cumbersome or manual when they can be automated.
PerfectForms is workflow software that makes it easy to create the online forms and automated workflows you need to inspire and empower your in-house recruiting team to find, interview, and hire the best candidates for your open positions.
With its no-programming interface, PerfectForms allows users to drag and drop elements in place, creating perfectly customized online forms and automated workflows that are uniquely tailored to their needs, and that incorporate their company branding elements at every step. Take a look at the PerfectForms demo video and learn how it can help you create the perfect in-house recruiting workflows, as well as workflows that streamline and accelerate a range of other business processes.
Workplace policies are about making sure everyone in the workforce is safe and understands their responsibilities and obligations. They are also about ensuring fairness in the workplace.
Many businesses are bound by laws and regulations, and it is mandatory that employees know about, read, and understand the policies that ensure all regulatory requirements are met. One way and the other, businesses must have a system in place to create and distribute their policies effectively and efficiently. Automated workflows can help.
Ensuring Everyone Is Notified of Policies in a Timely Manner
Thankfully, the days of placing a paper memo into each person’s departmental mailbox are over. Distributing policies and policy changes electronically makes infinitely more sense in terms of resources saved and errors prevented.
Automated workflows can be created to email policy documents to affected workers all at once. They may even be able to interface with the email program to determine if and when the sent emails have been opened so that there is a record of each employee having received the document.
Ensuring Everyone Has Read Policies
It’s not that hard to ensure everyone receives policy documents, but how can you be confident everyone has read them and understands them? One way is to include in policy emails a link for people to follow if they have a question or don’t understand something about a new policy. The link can go to an FAQ page, or open an online form in which employees can ask their questions and ensure they are sent to the right person to answer them.
Some companies ensure that employees have read policies by having them complete a short, simple quiz as proof. These, too, can be administered through a link in a policy email that goes to an electronic form. Once the user passes the quiz, they are marked as having received, read, and understood the policy.
But what about the people who ignore emails? Workflows can also be triggered to deal with those people. For important policies, your workflow could, for example, trigger a login action opening the reminder and form upon login and preventing them from continuing with their normal work until they demonstrate that they have read the policy.
“Triage” System for Policies and Policy Changes
With policies, you must be careful not to inundate employees. Obviously, some are more critical than others, and the most important ones are the ones that can be integrated with automated workflows ensuring employees read and understand them. The use of short quizzes can be reserved for these critical policy documents so as not to take up more employee time than necessary.
The problem with deluging employees with policy documents, and considering them equally critical, is that eventually employees will acknowledge them without reading or understanding them, just to get on with their day. Therefore, it’s important that you know when to use your policy distribution workflow and equally as important, when not to.
The right workflow software will help you create policy workflows that make sense and that can be customized so that the right people receive the right policy documents at the right time. It will also automatically keep records of policies distributed, acknowledgements, and policy quiz results so they can be called up at any time, should a conflict, policy violation, or misunderstanding arise.
PerfectForms is the ideal workflow software for this and countless other business workflows. By allowing users to drag and drop workflow elements into place, PerfectForms eliminates the need for programming while helping users deploy useful, value-adding workflows as quickly as possible. We invite you to watch the PerfectForms demo video. It only takes a minute, and you’re sure to come away with ideas and inspiration about how you can put automated workflows into service to make your business run better.
Every business has processes, whether or not they call them that.
If you operate a florist service, you have processes for getting inventory in, processes for creating flower arrangements, and processes for delivering them to people. If you run a medical clinic, you have processes for registering new patients, performing and documenting exams, and for prescribing medications.
And while workflows are highly beneficial in just about every type of business, you don’t necessarily need workflows to carry out processes. You could tell your new floral arranger to create an arrangement using carnations, baby’s breath, and roses and leave them to their own devices. It may turn out well, or it may not.
But if you have a workflow designed just for creating such an arrangement, you can be far more confident that the end product will look as it is supposed to and meet your quality criteria.
Processes Are Strategic
Processes are things you do in support of a business goal. Some examples of processes include
- Onboarding a new employee
- Delivering products to customers
- Preparing and selling tacos
- Designing electric motors
- Providing custom clothing alterations
In other words, the processes you do are what your business is all about. Processes may be simple or complex, and they may be done well and consistently, or badly and inconsistently.
Workflows Are Tactical
Workflows are about how you get processes accomplished. Without a defined workflow, providing IT services may be a process based on phone calls and sticky notes with scribbled instructions. With an automated workflow, it is an orderly process based on an online request form, automated notifications, and electronic checklists documenting exactly what steps were taken, when, and why.
Workflows define the sequences of steps that take place in a process, lay them out logically, and make the processes better, faster, and more consistent. They often involve automation of key steps in the process. Processes don’t have to have workflows (though most should), but workflows are always developed in support of a process.
One Workflow May Be Adapted to Address Multiple Processes
Workflows can also be adapted to multiple processes with only small changes. For example, a workflow designed for the process of delivering IT services can be modified slightly to work wonderfully when used for managing building maintenance services. Or a workflow for ensuring new company policies are read and understood can be modified to ensure that people complete mandatory training.
Workflows are tools, in other words. The same tool (a hammer, say) can be used to drive in nails, or it can be used to pry quarter-round trim from baseboard. And every worker knows that having the right tools makes all the difference between work that is efficient and consistent and work that is haphazard and harder than it has to be.
The following table summarizes differences between workflows and processes.
|Designed for efficiently finishing tasks||Designed to meet business goals|
|Can apply to multiple processes||A process typically has one associated workflow|
|Planned step by step||May or may not be planned|
|Typically automated, at least in part||May or may not be automated|
|Workflows require processes||Processes don’t require workflows|
Designing workflows to make processes faster, more efficient, and less wasteful does not have to be arduous. The right workflow software makes it easy and straightforward.
PerfectForms is workflow software that allows creation of automated workflows, complete with automatic routing, alerts, and built-in mobile-friendliness, all without programming. Workflow creators can drag and drop workflow elements into place, so it’s easy to create workflows, test them out, and then fine-tune them as needed before deployment.
The power of good workflows is evident in terms of efficiency, productivity, and savings of time and money. PerfectForms invites you to read through some of our many case studies that show exactly how workflows can take processes and make them better, helping businesses be more competitive, less wasteful, and more profitable.
The benefits of transitioning from using paper forms filled out by hand to using electronic forms can be revolutionary for business.
Beyond this transition, however, lie many additional benefits that come from integrating online forms with other business systems and processes. Moving away from paper-based forms is one of the most important first steps in implementing office automation.
When you invest in form software, don’t just think about the immediate benefits of doing away with paper and its limitations. Think ahead to ways in which online forms can integrate with other office processes. If you select the right form software, this is easy to do.
The Scourge of Duplication of Effort
If you’re old enough to remember a time without office networks, you’re undoubtedly familiar with duplication (or triplication) of effort. Someone completes a paper form by hand. Then someone else types that information into another form or enters it into a spreadsheet or database.
Or, you start a new job and your first day is spent filling out forms by hand, most of which require variations on the same information, like your name, address, and social security number. Then someone else is responsible for ensuring that the data you wrote down is accurately entered into the forms used by the business and by the government. It’s easy to see how much room for error there is when effort is duplicated. Online forms can do away with a significant amount of duplication of effort.
Integrating Online Forms with Spreadsheets
Online forms that are easy to integrate with other office systems save time and reduce the number of points where errors can creep in. When someone completes an online form that is handled with powerful form software, the data entered can then be automatically used in many different ways. It can be used to auto-populate similar fields in other forms. Or it can be fed directly into spreadsheets for processing there, without someone having to re-enter the data by hand. Everything is faster, and human error has a much smaller window of entry into the process.
Integrating Online Forms with Customer Relationship Management
Online forms that integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce can save time and effort across multiple departments. Suppose someone fills in a brief form on your company’s landing page. That information can not only be sent to the person who is best-equipped to act on it, it can also be sent directly into Salesforce, helping build up your lead lists. Depending on how you have permissions set up, the information can then be made available to any number of people, who can retrieve it and act on it as necessary, without the potential customer having to do anything else.
Integrating Online Forms with Other Systems
When you can integrate the information from online forms with important assets like databases, you not only save money and time, you build up a valuable collection of data from which you can gain key insights. Information from product order forms, for example, could be sent to a database automatically. Later on, you could retrieve that data to find out about sales trends over time, how sales are doing in various geographic regions, and which customers are your highest-value ones. The insights you gain can be used for more accurate forecasting and better customer response times.
PerfectForms is form software that lets you do away with paper forms, but it also empowers you to do much more. PerfectForms integrates with both Google Sheets and Salesforce, and it can be made to integrate with your other systems without having to program. In other words, it is a powerful tool against duplication of effort, streamlining your operations and cutting error rates.
If it’s time for your business to cut out slow, manual processes, integrate systems, and reduce errors, you should learn more about PerfectForms. We encourage you to watch the demo video and maybe browse through some of our case studies. See for yourself how PerfectForms reduces duplication of effort and accelerates processes, saving time and money and freeing you up to pursue your most important business goals.
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 workflows are ideal for this task.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Online forms and automated workflows are standard business practice today, but that doesn’t mean that everyone uses them.
Particularly with smaller businesses, it can be hard to see why the effort to overhaul how business processes are completed would be worthwhile. But rest assured: automating processes and converting paper forms to online forms offers benefits that are hard to envision until you’ve tried it.
Myths about workflow automation still abound, and that’s too bad because it’s hard to think of a business that wouldn’t benefit from it. Here are several lingering myths about online forms and automated workflows, along with exactly why you shouldn’t believe them.
Automating Workflows Is Too Expensive
There was a time when this was true. Before cloud computing became normal, companies that wanted to automate workflows had no choice but to install workflow software on their own IT infrastructure. This was both time-consuming and expensive – particularly if IT upgrades were necessary.
Today, however, the cloud makes it easy for businesses of every size to access workflow software without the need for on-premises servers and their upkeep. The cloud also makes it easy to scale workflow software up as a business grows, minimizing disruption.
Only Big Businesses Need to Automate Workflows
On the contrary, smaller businesses probably have the most to gain from online forms and automated workflows. Smaller businesses find it easier to be agile and respond to market and customer needs quickly, and automated workflows help them do this. Customers generally like working with smaller businesses because there are fewer layers of management and bureaucracy to penetrate to get the services they want. And when those smaller businesses operate efficiently and quickly, they can command the kind of loyalty that huge enterprises can’t always match.
We’ll Lose Visibility Over Processes if We Automate Them
Automated workflows shouldn’t be regarded as black boxes. Workflows designed so that authorized users can assess status at any time actually increase workflow visibility. In the old days, finding out the status of a workflow involved tracking people down, playing phone tag, asking questions, and hoping for a timely answer. With automated workflows, however, assessing workflow status is largely a matter of logging into the process and checking instantly. Rather than spending most of an afternoon finding out whether a purchase order has been approved, an authorized workflow user can pinpoint the exact status of a workflow in an instant.
Automating Workflows Is Too Hard
Automating workflows used to be hard, because it used to require programming, and extensive back-and-forth between programmers and workflow users. That is no longer the case, however. Today you can access cloud-hosted workflow software that does not require programming due to advanced user-interface design.
One of the main benefits of today’s workflow software is not only that it’s easy to use, but that the ease of use makes it more practical for workflow users to assist with design. When the end-users of a workflow have input into how a workflow is designed, it can address needs far better.
One other great benefit of easy-to-use workflow software is that getting workflows designed, tested, and in use is a much faster process than it used to be. The result is less disruption in the workplace, along with a swift, positive return on investment.
PerfectForms is workflow software that has been used by very small businesses, big enterprises, and everything in between. It can be either cloud-hosted or run on-premises, and it allows creation of custom online forms and automated workflows without the need for programming.
PerfectForms’ drag-and-drop interface means that workflow end-users can have more influence over workflow design, and that the time from concept to daily use can be far shorter than it used to be. Did you know you can try PerfectForms for free? Simply sign up for a trial and you can see for yourself why the old myths surrounding online forms and automated workflows no longer apply.
Make no mistake: automated workflows can revolutionize business efficiency. But we have all experienced situations where a workflow comes to a halt because specific human input is needed.
Sometimes a workflow can’t proceed until you have human, face-to-face interaction to clear something up.
By analyzing and pinpointing exactly where work tends to come to a halt in a process, teams can preemptively insert process steps that address the situation. One popular way of doing so is by adding videoconferencing to automated workflows. This can prevent the type of workflow stoppage that happens because a key team member is out of town, or because everyone’s waiting on a scheduled meeting to happen.
Videoconferencing is no longer expensive and no longer requires sophisticated equipment, and in many organizations, it is beginning to overtake voice-only communication.
Videoconferencing as a Workflow Element
Videoconferencing doesn’t have to be a mandatory element of a workflow. It can be inserted at key points in a workflow as an option. Sometimes a brief videoconference can bypass the roadblocks and obstacles in a workflow far more efficiently than a series of phone calls or emails can. Ideally, the videoconferencing technologies used as part of workflows is simple to use, and allows people to participate using their mobile devices. This is becoming easier even with consumer-level technology, with one example being Apple’s release of an update that will allow up to 32 people on a FaceTime call.
The “Huddle Room”
Many organizations have had success in designating a small, private meeting area (capable of accommodating around half-a-dozen people) as a “huddle room.” In such a room, small groups can participate in quickly scheduled, brief video conferences for the purpose of moving a workflow along.
Suppose a new client wants to offer input into a piece of content or marketing collateral. A huddle room is an ideal place to schedule a brief videoconference where stakeholders can get direct feedback on a draft copy, sharing screens and talking face to face. All this can take place in far less time than it would take for draft copies to be routed to individuals, evaluated, and sent back with suggestions.
“Huddle rooms” dedicated to brief, small-group videoconferencing, can be designated specifically for meetings that move workflows forward.
Set Goals, Benchmark, and Reevaluate
The keys to succeeding with videoconferencing as a workflow element are the same as they are for workflows in general. Step one is to set goals. What specifically do you want to be able to accomplish using videoconferencing, and in which workflows? Next, it’s important to benchmark current procedures. How much time does a typical workflow take from initiation to completion? How might videoconferencing shorten that time?
Finally, after videoconferencing has been introduced as a workflow element, it’s important to reassess: does it save time? How much time does it save? How much productivity does it add? This measure should be done only after videoconferencing has been used as a workflow element several times, to control for potential tech-related issues that will almost inevitably crop up the first couple of times you try it.
Online forms and automated workflows can tackle an almost limitless number of business processes. Yet business is still a human endeavor, and real-life, human input sometimes can’t be captured on a form. By introducing videoconferencing as an optional workflow element, organizations provide a convenient, efficient way of surmounting workflow obstacles and maintaining the many benefits of workflow automation.
PerfectForms is workflow software that allows creation of customized online forms and workflows without programming. Adding an optional element for temporarily stepping out of the workflow to consult with clients or other stakeholders by videoconference is easy, and helps keep workflows on track. If workflow automation (or better workflow automation) is a goal for your organization, we encourage you to watch the PerfectForms demo video. It only takes a minute, and you’re sure to be inspired for ways your organization can put automated workflows into service and reap the efficiency and cost-saving benefits.