With more and more staff members working across different locations including from home, the ability to streamline and automate processes is not just a luxury, but a necessity.
Intranet forms and workflows are revolutionising data collection and workflow management in organisations.
These forms, integral to modern intranet systems and the wider digital workplace, offer unmatched efficiency and flexibility compared to traditional methods. They can be customised for various business needs, from simple leave applications to complex project management tasks.
This guide delves into the mechanics of intranet forms, their benefits, and practical tips for creating top company intranet forms, providing valuable insights for both newcomers and those looking to enhance their existing forms.
As you explore the concept of intranet forms and how they can be tailored to your organisation's needs, remember that these tools are not just about technology; they are about empowering your team to work smarter, not harder.
How do Intranet Forms Work?
The power of forms and workflows for intranets (and even portals) are an integral part of an organisation's internal network, facilitating seamless data collection and workflow automation.
So what is intranet forms?
The process begins with the creation of a form using an intranet form builder. This tool allows you to design custom forms tailored to specific business processes. You can add various field types, such as text boxes, dropdown menus, date pickers, and file uploads, to collect the required information.
Once a form is created, it can be published on the intranet where employees can access and fill it out. The data entered into these forms is then stored securely within the intranet system, making it easily accessible for processing and analysis.
This is where the intranet workflow and forms come into play. Workflows automate the movement of these forms between different stakeholders for approval, review, or further action, streamlining what would otherwise be a manual and time-consuming process.
For instance, consider a leave request form. When an employee submits this form, it automatically gets routed to their manager for approval. Upon approval, the HR department is notified, and the employee's leave records are updated—all without a single piece of paper being exchanged.
Another critical aspect of intranet forms is their ability to integrate with other systems. For example, a school intranet with online forms and workflow software might introduce a new employee form that can be designed to integrate with their school management system, automatically populating the database with new hire information. This integration capability significantly reduces manual data entry and the potential for errors, enhancing overall efficiency.
For more insights, check out the blog post on '8 Great Ways to Use Forms & Workflows to Automate Processes'.
Benefits of Digital Forms and Workflows
There are many benefits of integrating digital forms and workflows into your company's intranet, focusing on increased efficiency, improved accuracy, enhanced collaboration, and better data visibility. We'll also provide examples to illustrate just a few ways in which digital forms and workflows can revolutionise your business processes.
One of the most significant advantages of using digital forms within your intranet is the remarkable increase in efficiency. Traditional paper-based processes are not only time-consuming but also prone to delays.
By implementing top company intranet forms, organisations can automate routine tasks, leading to a more streamlined workflow. This automation reduces the time spent on manual data entry and processing, allowing employees to focus on more strategic tasks. It also means less, if any, input from the IT and Dev Ops team, as forms and workflows are completely automated and easy to implement for non-technical users.
- Leave Request Forms: Traditionally, leave requests involve multiple steps – filling out a paper form, submitting it to a manager, and waiting for approval. With digital leave request forms on your intranet, employees can submit their requests online. Managers receive instant notifications, can review requests quickly, and approve them with a click. This process significantly cuts down the time for both submission and approval.
- Expense Reimbursement Forms: Processing expense claims can be a cumbersome task. Digital expense forms on the intranet allow employees to submit their claims along with digital receipts. Automated workflows can route these forms to the appropriate department for verification and processing, reducing the turnaround time from submission to reimbursement.
Accuracy in data collection and processing is crucial for any business. The best intranet forms minimise the risk of human error that often accompanies manual data entry. With predefined fields and automatic data validation, intranet forms ensure that the information collected is accurate and consistent.
This level of precision is particularly vital in areas such as finance and human resources, where errors can have significant repercussions.
- New Employee Onboarding Forms: Onboarding involves collecting accurate information from new hires. Digital onboarding forms ensure that all necessary details are captured correctly the first time, reducing the likelihood of errors that can occur with manual data entry.
- Inventory Management Forms: Managing inventory with paper-based forms is prone to errors. Digital inventory forms on the intranet can be designed to include validation checks and dropdown menus to ensure accurate data entry, reducing mistakes in inventory tracking and ordering.
Intranet workflow and forms foster a collaborative environment by enabling teams to work together seamlessly.
These digital tools allow for real-time updates and notifications, ensuring that everyone involved in a process is on the same page.
Whether it's project management, document approval, or any other collaborative task, intranet forms streamline communication and coordination among team members, irrespective of their physical location.
- Project Initiation Forms: When starting a new project, a digital form can be used to gather all necessary information and gain approvals. This form can be accessed and edited by various team members, ensuring everyone is aligned from the project's inception.
- Feedback and Survey Forms: Gathering feedback is essential for continuous improvement. Digital feedback forms on the intranet can be shared across departments, allowing for easy collection and analysis of responses. This collaborative approach ensures that all voices are heard and considered in decision-making processes.
Better Data Visibility
An often-overlooked benefit of digital forms is the enhanced visibility they provide into organisational data.
With intranet form builder tools, businesses can create customised forms that capture essential data in a structured format. This data can then be easily analysed to gain insights into various aspects of the organisation.
From tracking employee performance to monitoring project progress, better data visibility aids in more informed decision-making.
- Sales Report Forms: Sales teams can use digital forms to submit weekly or monthly sales data. This data is then automatically compiled into a central system, providing real-time visibility into sales performance and trends.
- Customer Support Forms: Digital forms for logging customer support queries can offer insights into common issues and customer satisfaction levels. By analysing this data, companies can identify areas for improvement in their products or services.
Best Practices for Creating Digital Forms with an Intranet
Digital forms have become a cornerstone for efficient and effective internal processes. But how do you ensure they’re adding real value to your organisation? Here are some best practices to help you.
These strategies not only improve the user experience but also contribute to the overall efficiency and accuracy of data collection and processing within your organisation.
1. Choose the Right Intranet with a Form Builder
Selecting an intranet that comes equipped with a robust intranet form builder is crucial. The best intranet forms are created on platforms that offer flexibility, customisation options, and user-friendly interfaces. Look for an intranet solution that allows you to create forms tailored to your specific needs without requiring extensive technical knowledge.
- Assess Your Needs: Begin by evaluating your organisation's specific needs. Consider the types of forms you'll be creating, the complexity of the workflows, and the level of customisation required. For instance, if you frequently handle complex project approvals, look for an intranet with advanced workflow capabilities.
- Look for Customisation and Scalability: The intranet should not only meet your current needs but also be scalable to accommodate future growth. Customisation is key; the platform should allow you to tailor forms to various purposes, from simple leave requests to intricate customer feedback forms.
- Evaluate User-Friendliness: A good intranet form builder should be user-friendly, allowing non-technical staff to create and manage forms easily. This feature is crucial for ensuring widespread adoption across your organisation.
- Integration Capabilities: Ensure the intranet can integrate seamlessly with other tools and systems used in your organisation, such as CRM software or HR systems. This integration enhances data consistency and streamlines processes.
Example: Imagine an intranet platform that allows HR managers to create custom onboarding forms that integrate with the existing HR system, automatically populating employee records with new hire information.
2. Use Intuitive Form Design
The design of your forms should be intuitive and user-friendly. Remember, the goal is to make the process as straightforward as possible for the end user, enhancing the overall user experience.
- Keep It Simple: Design forms with simplicity in mind. Use clear, concise language and avoid unnecessary fields. A leave application form, for example, should straightforwardly request essential information like dates and leave type.
- Logical Flow: Ensure the form follows a logical sequence, making it intuitive for users to complete. Group related fields and use conditional logic where appropriate, so users are only presented with relevant questions.
- Visual Clarity: Utilise design elements like spacing, headers, and bullet points to make the form visually appealing and easy to navigate. Consistent use of these elements can significantly enhance the user experience.
- Provide Guidance: Include tooltips or help text for complex or unfamiliar fields. This guidance can be crucial in ensuring that forms are filled out correctly and efficiently.
Example: A well-designed expense claim form might include categorised sections for different types of expenses, with tooltips explaining what can be claimed under each category.
3. Make Forms Responsive
In today’s mobile-first world, ensuring your intranet forms are responsive is non-negotiable. This adaptability ensures that employees can complete tasks on-the-go, increasing overall efficiency.
- Mobile-First Design: Given the increasing use of mobile devices, design your forms with a mobile-first approach. Ensure that forms are easily navigable and fully functional on smaller screens.
- Test Across Devices: Regularly test your forms on various devices and browsers to ensure consistent performance. This testing should include not just viewing the form but also completing and submitting it on different devices.
- Optimise Load Times: Ensure that your forms load quickly on all devices, especially on mobile. This might involve optimising images and other media used in the form for faster loading.
- Accessible Design: Make sure your forms are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This includes using proper contrast ratios, alt text for images, and ensuring that forms can be navigated using keyboard shortcuts.
Example: A responsive job application form would rearrange its layout to fit a mobile screen, with larger form fields and buttons for easy interaction on touchscreens.
4. Test Forms Thoroughly
Before rolling out any form, thorough testing is essential. This process helps identify and rectify any issues, such as bugs or user experience problems.
- Develop a Testing Plan: Create a comprehensive testing plan that covers all aspects of the form. This includes testing for functionality, user experience, and compatibility across different browsers and devices.
- Involve End Users: Engage a group of end users in the testing process. Their feedback is invaluable as they will provide insights into real-world usage and potential issues that may not be immediately apparent to the development team.
- Test for Edge Cases: Don’t just test for the most common use cases. Ensure you also test for less common scenarios or 'edge cases'. For instance, how does your form handle unusually large file uploads or unexpected input formats?
- Iterative Testing: Adopt an iterative approach to testing. Make adjustments based on feedback and test again. This process helps in refining the form to perfection.
Example: For a travel request form, you would test not only the basic submission process but also scenarios like requests spanning multiple destinations or amendments to existing requests.
5. Make Saving and Submitting Easy
The process of saving and submitting forms should be as seamless as possible. This not only improves user experience but also reduces the likelihood of data loss or incomplete submissions.
- Auto-Save Feature: Implement an auto-save feature to prevent data loss. This is particularly important for longer forms where users might take time to complete all fields.
- Clear Submission Indicators: Ensure that the submission button is prominently displayed and clearly indicates the action (e.g., ‘Submit’, ‘Send’, ‘Complete’). Avoid vague or generic labels.
- Confirmation Upon Submission: Provide users with a clear confirmation message or email once they have successfully submitted the form. This reassures them that their data has been received.
- Save and Resume Functionality: For more complex forms, include a 'save and resume later' option. This allows users to complete the form at their convenience without starting over.
Example: In an employee performance review form, the ability to save progress is essential as users may need time to reflect and return to complete their inputs.
6. Use Data Validation
Data validation is key to maintaining the quality and accuracy of the information collected.
- Field Validation: Implement field-specific validation rules. For example, ensure that email fields validate for proper email format, and numeric fields don’t accept alphabetic input.
- Mandatory Fields: Clearly mark mandatory fields and provide an immediate prompt if a user tries to submit the form without completing them.
- Error Messaging: Provide clear, helpful error messages. Instead of a generic 'Invalid input', specify what is expected (e.g., 'Please enter a valid date in DD/MM/YYYY format').
- Prevent Duplicate Submissions: Implement checks to prevent duplicate submissions, which can be particularly important in forms related to orders or bookings.
Example: A procurement request form could validate each item’s quantity and cost, ensuring that entries are within permissible ranges and formats.
7. Integrate Forms with Other Systems
To truly harness the power of intranet workflow and forms, integration with other business systems is essential. This integration allows for seamless data flow between systems, improving process efficiency and reducing manual data entry.
- Identify Integration Points: Determine which systems and processes can benefit from integration with your digital forms. Common integration points include CRM systems, HR databases, and project management tools.
- Use APIs for Seamless Integration: Utilise Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to connect your digital forms with other software systems. This allows for the automatic transfer of data, reducing manual entry and the potential for errors.
- Automate Workflows: Where possible, automate workflows between systems. For instance, when a new employee form is submitted, it could automatically update the HR system and trigger an onboarding process.
- Regularly Review and Update Integrations: As your systems and processes evolve, regularly review and update integrations to ensure they remain effective and relevant.
Example: An integrated leave request form could automatically check the availability in the HR system, update the team’s calendar, and adjust payroll accordingly.
8. Ensure Forms are Secure
Security is paramount, especially when dealing with sensitive information. Ensure that your intranet forms are secure, with features like encryption, secure data storage, and access controls. This not only protects your data but also builds trust among users.
- Implement Robust Authentication: Ensure that access to forms is controlled through strong authentication methods. This might include multi-factor authentication (MFA) for sensitive forms.
- Data Encryption: Encrypt data both in transit and at rest. This ensures that sensitive information, such as personal details or financial information, is protected from unauthorised access.
- Regular Security Audits: Conduct regular security audits of your forms and associated data storage. This helps identify and rectify potential vulnerabilities.
- Compliance with Regulations: Ensure that your form creation and data handling practices comply with relevant data protection regulations, such as the GDPR or the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).
Example: A financial reimbursement form should encrypt user-submitted data and require employee authentication to access and submit the form.
9. Provide Training to Users
Lastly, providing adequate training and support to users is crucial for the successful adoption of digital forms. Users should be comfortable with the intranet form builder and understand best practices for form creation and submission.
- Develop Comprehensive Training Materials: Create user guides, FAQs, and tutorial videos that cover how to use the form builder and best practices for form creation.
- Offer Hands-On Training Sessions: Conduct training sessions where users can practice creating and managing forms. These sessions can be in-person or virtual, depending on your organisation’s setup.
- Create a Support Community: Establish a forum or community where users can share tips, ask questions, and learn from each other. This peer-to-peer support can be invaluable.
- Gather Feedback and Continuously Improve Training: Regularly solicit feedback from users about the training provided and use this feedback to improve future training sessions.
Example: For a complex project management form, provide a step-by-step video tutorial demonstrating how to fill out each section and whom to contact for assistance.
Intranet forms are a powerful tool for any organisation looking to streamline its processes and improve efficiency.
By understanding how these forms work and implementing best practices in their creation and management, businesses can reap significant benefits. These include improved data accuracy, enhanced workflow efficiency, and better resource management.
At Elcom, we are committed to helping you unlock the full potential of digital forms and workflows. Our forms and workflow solutions are designed to be intuitive and responsive, ensuring that you have the best intranet forms at your disposal.
To learn more about how you can transform your business processes with our advanced intranet solutions, check out the on-demand webinar on fixing inefficient business processes using online forms and workflows.
In this 30-minute webinar, we share insights on quick and easy wins you can implement with online forms and automated workflows, so you can start your journey towards improving key business processes and increasing efficiency.