Updated: October 2020
The humble intranet has matured in recent years and we often see discussion surrounding social and collaborative tools, employee engagement and company culture in relation to the intranet. The move towards the fabled ‘paperless’ office has been one that’s been surprisingly slow to take place. Most office environments still produce a huge amount of hard copy that has to be filed and stored in such a way that it’s accessible.
However, we’re seeing more and more organisations implement further measures to go digital. This is of course a positive step, not only for the environment, but also in terms of cutting costs associated with producing and managing a lot of documentation.
Adding workflows and forms to the intranet and portals allows organisations to save time, cut costs, free up resources and increase productivity. The ROI can be seen year in, year out too.
SmartSheet found employees are keen to automate repetitive tasks to reduce time wasted. With the three key productivity issues being:
- “Data Collection: Eliminate human error and manual data entry by automatically collecting, uploading, or syncing data into a system of record (55 percent)
- Approvals: Become more efficient by automating approvals, sign offs, and confirmation requests (36 percent)
- Updates: Reduce wasted time by automatically requesting status updates and other information (32 percent)”.
Whilst moving from paper-based forms and workflows will require some investment in terms of both time and money, it’s a one-off cost.
Once you have added online forms and workflow automation, you then have access to them forever on your content management system (CMS) platform which you will use to manage your intranet or portal, which can help you to further control, search, archive, and create reports from the resulting data.
Moving from paper to online forms
Online forms are created, shared, completed and managed digitally via a form software or tool.
Along with avoiding the cost of using paper forms, online forms offer the following benefits:
- Quick to create and customise via drag and drop fields
- Accessible anywhere via a central interface and digital, searchable database
- Can be auto filled with the user’s details for quicker submission
- Optimised for different devices (whereas forms in documents can be difficult to view on smaller screens)
- Immediately available for staff, eliminating the concern for staff using outdated and inaccurate forms
- Accessible only by staff who have the right security permission and access
- Additional capabilities such as processing online payments, capturing digital signatures and showing select fields to specific groups of users
- The ability to apply conditional if/then logic e.g. show fields only if a certain option within a previous field is selected
Automated workflows route form data to managers and other appropriate employees. These can be designed and set up to suit the organisation and its various departments. Workflows use rules to enable them to adapt according to form answers or user profile.
Workflows allow the organisation to save a lot of time on chasing up paper forms. Users can see at a glance if forms have been completed or are being processed. For the user, workflows and forms are presented in such a way that it’s simple to check the status of forms and what actions need to be applied next.
For example, routing rules that are implemented can define whether the workflow needs to be skipped, reassigned, ended or passed to another user. Workflows can also be approved or rejected via email and modules added that allow a manager to approve or reject forms.
When action is required from another user, notifications can easily be set up to alert them, with notifications sent periodically until the action is completed.
Fields can also be hidden or visible at different times of the workflow depending on who is approving the form.
And of course, all of this is fully trackable. Each and every form that’s processed can be kept for auditing and management purposes.
The beauty of forms and workflows is that they can be implemented in stages and can encompass the departments and managers of your choosing. These can be organised into groups and tasks can be added in for each group. Workflows and forms are highly flexible in that they can be customised to suit the organisation and the user. Thanks to the lack of paper involved, it’s also very scalable as an organisation can start with certain workflows and add in further at a later stage.
Workflows and forms work to streamline and automate paper processes in order to boost productivity. Another side effect that’s often seen with the implementation of forms and workflows is in engagement. For example, it’s always been a difficult matter to ensure that employees engage with the intranet, but as workflows and forms are often an integral part of their job, they force a certain amount of engagement. In turn this demonstrates to the employee that using the intranet is a more enjoyable and productive experience and hence engagement is heightened.
Workflow & Forms in the Elcom platform
Workflow is at the heart of the Elcom platform, enabling content to follow a process and be reviewed before it's published and in the latest version we've added two highly requested features:
- The ability to approve a workflow request directly from an email; and
- Advanced routing rules.
The routing rules enable you to define rules based on the submitted forms values. A set of rules can define if a particular basket should be skipped, if the approval should be reassigned or the workflow should terminate early. Rules can be built around the captured form fields in the submitted form and also the person who submitted the form, such as their role in the organisation and so on. This allows organisations to model more complex business rules using the Elcom workflow engine.
In our latest version, the forms module has received the most lavish attention with over 20 big enhancements introduced.
- The ability to register custom fields
- The ability to design your own field and use that within your forms.
- Panels, which are a great way for creating multi-step wizard-style forms and experiences.
- PDF generation which enables you to create a PDF document on a form submission and automatically save that into the document manager.
- You can also save forms in progress as a draft so that users can come back and pick up where they left off to complete at a later date.
- You can also opt to show specific fields if the user is a member of a particular group. This is great for those back-office-use-only style forms, where you want the form to be able to adapt to the user filling it out and show or hide more options in that form, depending on their role in the organisation.
- There are also four new field types, including a rich text editor and calculated fields plus a whole lot more.
Related reading: [Blog post] 8 Great Ways to Use Forms and Workflows to Automate Processes
Workflow and Forms are out of the box features with the Elcom platform, others may charge extra but seriously how can you implement a CMS without this functionality, it would be like selling a car with no engine!