Even in the corners of the most modern schools you still find highly inefficient processes that could be improved.
At the heart of these outdated processes are forms in a spreadsheet, word document or PDF that need to be printed and filled in with a pen or emailed through. Then administrative employees need to spend countless hours processing forms and inputting the data into relevant systems.
While these processes were manual and cumbersome, they were tolerated as part of business-as-usual tasks.
However, the frequent and long lockdowns due to COVID-19 have highlighted just how inefficient and ineffective these processes are.
Staff, students, and parents are no longer able to pass around or fill in a physical paper. Forms emailed to staff clog up inboxes before being approved by the appropriate person - processed days, sometimes weeks or months later.
We've been hearing similar anecdotes coming from schools around Australia. For example, despite lockdowns and working from home, a Business Manager at one of the schools we work with needs to head into the office every two weeks to physically approve invoices.
It's clear schools need to go paperless, collect information automatically, process forms fast and ultimately meet the needs of staff, students and parents better and more efficiently.
The Power of Online Forms
Not sold on the benefits of online forms?
Online forms improve productivity and operations through several ways:
- Automatically collecting, uploading, and/or syncing data into a database, eliminating human error, repetitive manual data entry and the need to track information via spreadsheets.
- Speeding up processes by automating approvals and sign-offs, ensuring forms are processed quickly by the right people and in the right order.
- Automating actions after form approval, such as sending staff information to an external travel agent after a travel form is approved by relevant departments.
- Reducing wasted time by automatically requesting status updates and other information, as well as cutting down on paperwork and reducing pressure on email inboxes.
- Saving thousands on the cost of printing forms and having administrative staff process these forms.
- Enabling easy scheduled reporting to gather insights to improve operations and increase visibility where needed.
What Forms Should You Set Up?
The beauty of online forms is they are quick to set up and easy to update if you need to add or remove fields down the track.
You can setup any online form the school may need including:
- Business process forms such as Expense Forms, Purchase Orders, Staff Annual Leave, Incident Forms, New Employee Onboarding, Travel Forms, Function and Excursion booking Forms etc.
- School operations forms such as Online Enrolment, School Application, Book a tour, school contact forms etc.
- Parent and Student forms including Absentee, Medical Details Update, Address Update Forms, Permission Forms, School events, Excursion Forms, Subject Selection, Sport Selection, IT Support or Request Forms etc.
Add on Workflow Automation
While online forms are a powerful tool, adding them to workflows takes efficiency to a whole new level.
It’s safe to say, we’ve all dealt with the nightmare of chasing paper trails, whether it’s gaining approval from a busy Principal or figuring out who is currently in possession of a paper form.
Form automation software, also known as form workflow software, streamlines and automates the process of sharing, managing and getting approval for online forms.
Often times this process involves form approval workflows, whereby a form is submitted, and the appropriate people are notified to provide approval. Workflows can be approved or rejected via email or the form dashboard interface. These speed up approvals and removes the need for an administrator to manage the flow of forms.
Workflows can be as simple or complex as needed. You could have one or more paths depending on the form field selected by the user, one or more people who need to approve the form, a form leaving the workflow early if a certain action occurs, and much more.
For example, we’re seeing more schools automating the online enrolment process. This saves countless hours for your admissions and enrolments team, as schools need to capture several pages worth of information from parents and then go on to process these online enrolment and application forms.
As with other forms, the accompanying workflows can also notify the appropriate people who handle enrolments and admissions, once online forms are submitted. Moreover, it can automatically go through a workflow process – once it is approved by one person or team, it can keep flowing onto another person or multiple people to perform the required action on their part. it can also prompt parents to provide and submit payments online via a secure payment gateway.
For more insights, check out the related post on 'Guide to Creating Online Forms With an Intranet'.
Elcom Forms and Workflows
Elcom is an Australian founded provider that has been working with schools for over a decade to build engaging staff intranets, parent and student portals, mobile apps and public websites.
We’re pleased to offer our easy-to-use Forms & Workflow Platform, that can be implemented as a standalone product or as part of one of the above solutions.
Here are a few key benefits schools we work with are experiencing:
Unlimited forms and workflows
Schools often have hundreds of forms floating around different departments for different groups to fill in. There is no limit to how many forms and workflows you create, nor is there a limit or additional cost on the number of times a form is filled in, the Elcom Platform is completely scalable to your needs.
Our forms are mobile friendly, making it easy for users to fill in forms on the go from any device and any location. You can deliver a better experience for mobile users by specifying input types in form fields so they render better on mobile devices. For example, numeric fields automatically bring up a numeric keyboard on mobile devices, making it much more intuitive for users to select and input numbers.
Easy form creation
Reduce reliance on IT. Our drag-and-drop and point-and-click Forms and Workflow creation and management user experience means your staff can setup your forms in a matter of minutes without any technical knowledge.
No one likes entering the same information repeatedly. Forms can be pre-populated with data such as student or staff IDs, from your identity provider and the user profile. This makes it fast and efficient for users to fill in forms and ensures data entered is consistent.
Remembering multiple passwords to use different applications can be challenging. With Elcom, users can use single sign-on (SSO) to automatically log into other systems you have. This means users don't have to login multiple times, providing a seamless digital experience from one platform to another.
Advanced form fields
Go beyond the basics. Get consent or an agreement from parents more quickly by adding an electronic signature field to school forms such as permission slips. Minimise the length of forms and add panels, which show additional fields and information based on a field option users select. Create a form with fields that are only visible to a group of users, enabling you to create one form personalised to different groups.
API’s for integration
No system is an island. Our forms can be built to integrate to your existing system to reduce manual input errors, while saving several hours for administration staff to enter the information. For example, a medical form can be pre-populated with information pulled from student management systems. When updated, a workflow is triggered and a notification is sent to staff for approval. Once approved, it is updated in the system.
Data stored locally
As a school, the privacy and protection of student data is vital. Unlike other providers, such as Google Forms, which is stored in America, all data collected in Elcom forms is stored here in Australia. Storing your data within Australia can help to prevent a breach from occurring and will enable you to comply with privacy laws and Australian Privacy Principles obligations.
Schedule and automated reporting is easy with Elcom. A range of publishing, as well as security and user reports are available. Our platform can automate the process of generating and distributing reports; creating scheduled reports automatically sent to other users as email attachments. It can also provide a granular view of your site’s users and their security permissions and access levels.
We hope today will help you start your journey of automating manual paper based business processes.
Interested in seeing what a sophisticated form automation and workflow software could do for your organisation? Check out Elcom Forms and Workflows.