Author: Akhilesh Choudhary

Your 2020 Innovation Strategy? Three ways to embrace Digital Transformation.

alex-holyoake-334209-unsplash (1).jpgDigital Transformation is the greatest opportunity of the next 3 years. But, to win, you need to understand the urgency, take action and seize the opportunity.

We are clearly in the midst of a [second] wave of technological advances that are markedly different from the 1990s Internet-fueled wave. The stuff of sci-fi movies is here. Computers are winning at Jeopardy, diagnosing diseases and driving cars. Billions of smartphones are in the hands of people worldwide – connected, immensely powerful computers with the capabilities of countless sci-fi films. The majority of people are connected to each other and to the collective knowledge of the world and they’re engaging with you in this digital world in new and interesting ways.

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You have to be ready. This digital disruption is both a huge challenge and an enormous opportunity. Disruption is hardly new – it’s been happening for all of human history. The difference now is the speed. What used to take decades now takes years and even months.

What is Digital Transformation?

This Digital Transformation isn’t any one thing to address a specific problem but a combination of mindset, projects and initiatives designed to infuse “digital” into your entire business. It’s organizational change for the purpose of using technology to improve your business performance.

What should you do? Think about the following three things:

1. Out with the Old [so you can invest in the new]

At some point you simply cannot do more with less. You have to focus on work that matters. If you’re an organizational leader, one of the most important things you can do is create and write down a plan that clearly identifies the activities that you won’t be doing this time next year. Cut out chores that are not essential to your business, digitize them and outsource if necessary. Reinvest the cost savings into new digital initiatives.

2. Start by automating your process workflow

templatesTechnology can only do so much. Ultimately, it’s the people and business processes of an organization that truly drive change. Workflow automation is at the very foundation of digital transformation. With automation, you’ll reap incredible benefits. Our customers are seeing 50+% efficiency improvements. Their employees are happier since they can focus on work that matters – students, patients, customers.

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Remember those billions of people connected to each other and to you? Automation makes it far easier for them to work with you. With automated processes, you’re agile enough to react to their needs and take advantage of business opportunities whether that’s demand-based pricing changes, customized offerings or instant world-class customer service.

If you haven’t yet invested in software for workflow automation, I suggest you do so now.

3. Data is the new Oil

Your proprietary data is your most valuable asset. If your daily workflows are manual, you don’t even have access to your most valuable asset. With automation, you can collect data, analyze and refine it into useful, actionable information so you can do things like over-deliver on customer service, and rollout new business initiatives in response to changing business conditions. It’s one of the most crucial advantages in today’s business environment.

Looking to 2020 – prepare for the voyage

marc-wieland-52628-unsplash (1).jpgThe next few years will be the ride of a lifetime. Your success depends on whether your organization adopts and embraces the opportunity of digital transformation. Deploying technologies like business analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) relies on access to your proprietary data which itself depends on process automation. Your processes need to be ready.

If you want digital transformation, start with workflow.

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Embrace the opportunity and get started TODAY! Visit our website and contact us to learn more.

Photos by Alex Holyoake and Marc Wieland on Unsplash

Stop Taxing your own future

Digital technology is convenient and fun. Apps that let us hail a cab, sensors in your shoes and shiny websites are all fun and remind us that “Software is indeed eating the world”.

In today’s business world, digital has moved from toys of convenience to core business processes that are at the heart of every organization. In most cases, these processes hide in their own disjointed silos along with their data. But, as digital accelerates business speed, automating these processes, linking them and surfacing their data to customer-facing operations is the first crucial step towards digitally transforming your business.

A Digital Operating Model

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The same people who’re used to shiny digital apps are also your customers, patients, students and employees. They want to interact with you online, 24×7, on their mobile phones using a variety of channels. To be truly successful, you have to invest in observing your customers, students & patients and in really understanding how they interact with your services, and what frustrates or inspires them. This access to critical data allows employees to be responsive to their constituents. Business analytics help make sense of that data so the organization can react quickly and make informed business decisions.

Process Automation is the Foundation

La-Cite.pngOrganizations that insist on “business-as-usual” with siloed processes and data lingering in the analog (paper) world risk being relegated to irrelevance. Automated processes allow you to jettison outdated business practices, free up employees to focus on work that’s actually important and unlock your most valuable asset (proprietary data).

To make a real difference, you owe it to yourself to go through your processes one by one, automate and connect them across the disparate systems and silos in your organization so you can create amazing new digital experiences for your constituents.

There’s “Hidden Treasure” in Process Automation

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The best part is there are huge cost-reduction benefits to automating your day-to-day workflows. We’re talking about driving 50% or greater cost reductions in parts of your back office operations. Smart organizations will invest those savings right back into digital innovation. Failure to do so is like imposing a tax on your own future. If you don’t take advantage of process automation to lower costs, how will you invest in the myriad technologies and innovations needed to win in a fully digital world? Software should be eating your back office too.

A Roadmap for Digital Transformation

Convinced that you need to dive into process automation? Where to start? I.T. is overloaded, mobility requirements are soaring, there’s a serious skills gap, security is a concern, and data integration and scalability are challenging. It’s enough to make ones head spin. Nevertheless, you must get started TODAY!

The good news is that it’s getting easier. New visual, low-code, drag-and-drop software platforms like frevvo are making it easier to automate routine processes and infuse “digital” into operations. A platform like frevvo dramatically increases productivity since it enables citizen developers not just coders-by-trade to automate processes. Included responsive design tools mean that the resulting web applications automatically work on all devices and are easy to update.

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frevvo’s platform also doesn’t require the same skill set as native app development does thereby addressing one of the most important barriers to mobility.

Point-and-click wizards enable processes to use data in a variety of systems from Cloud-based systems like Salesforce and box.com to Microsoft SharePoint and internal SQL databases. When automated workflows can connect to systems and use data, they’re simply far more useful.

Finally, frevvo is available in the Cloud enabling customers to add-on and remove capacity as needed. Cloud providers have years of experience scaling their systems and keeping them secure. In fact, the vast majority of Cloud systems are far more secure than their data- center counterparts.

A modern workflow automation platform like frevvo provides transformative benefits:

  • Streamlined, efficient workflows that allow employees to focus on customers.
  • Built-in mobility.
  • Business agility to react quickly to changing market conditions.
  • Dashboards that provide insights into your business and facilitate optimization of processes.
  • Data-driven decision making.

Download this white paper which discusses workflow automation, how your organization can benefit, and how you can evaluate and deploy a visual, low-code platform like frevvo for your automation needs.

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Visit our website to learn more and sign up for a free trial.

10 best practices for mobile form design

if_seo_web-46_1046182.pngUX Matters had this interesting article on mobile form design. At frevvo, we’ve created thousands of forms and workflows for mobile devicesand we’ve learned a lot along the way. One thing is absolutely true:

“As technology continues to go through metamorphoses and our understanding of users’ needs becomes more refined, good mobile form design is constantly evolving.”
– Quoted from above article

Getting your forms to be genuinely usable on mobile devices is hard but can have big benefits. Fortunately, with frevvo, you don’t have to worry too much about this. Let’s take a look at a few things mentioned in the above excellent article:

1. Use a single input field where possible

It’s all well and good to say create a single input field called Name but if the form integrates with your CRM or some other back end system, maybe a First and Last name are required. With frevvo, you have all the flexibility in the world. Display a single field on the form called Full Name and use a business rule to split it into First and Last name hidden fields if that’s what you need. There’s going to be some guesswork to split it accurately but you can automatically get it right most of the time. Serve the needs of your marketing team and your users at the same time.

2. Create a conversational flow

if_seo_web_2-43_1045323.pngAs Justin Mifsud pointed out back in 2011, “A form is a conversation, not an interrogation.” The flow of information in the form should have a conversational feel. Usually, this means split the form up into multiple pages that feel natural. But, you have to consider differences between mobile and desktop forms. What might be natural on a phone with its limited screen real estate doesn’t make sense on the desktop and could be irritating – why do I have to walk through so many steps?

Fortunately, frevvo makes it easy. Simply drag in Page Break controls and mark them smart phone only. On a desktop or tablet with lots of screen real estate, you’ll see the whole form (or Section or Tab). On the phone, it’s broken up into multiple pages with automatic Next and Previous buttons.

3. Automatically pre-fill values in fields

No explanation necessary – the less stuff users have to fill in the better off you are. This is one of frevvo’s strongest suits. You can pre-fill information from any number of sources. For example, check out this example that fills out Customer information from a SQL database. Another common example: if the user is logged in, you can automatically fill in their personal information. It eliminates errors, reduces typing and is far less frustrating for users.

For mobile users, frevvo supports functionality like GPS integration. You can use the GPS device on the phone to pre-fill an address field or figure out the location of the closest physical store and display it on the form.

4. Make forms accessible

From the UX Matters article: Of the people who have disabilities, 91% use a mobile device, according to a 2013 study (PDF) by the Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center. Wow! I had no idea. Technology, especially mobile technology is making the world more and more accessible to people with disabilities but only with accessible mobile design.

Fortunately, with frevvo, accessible design is just built-in. Our forms and workflows have been accessible (satisfying WCAG guidelines) for years. Government organizations worldwide have legal requirements to provide accessible forms and many are already using frevvo for their constituents.

5. Break up lengthy forms into steps or stages

if_seo_web-48_1046184.pngThis is very connected to #2 above. With frevvo, breaking up lengthy forms into steps is a piece of cake. What’s best is that you can design your form once and set it up so that it’s broken up into steps on a phone with automatically generated Next and Back buttons. On the desktop with its abundant real estate, you can simply show the entire form or break it up into fewer steps. Again, satisfy the needs of your users with a natural user experience no matter where you are.

You can also create multi-step flows in frevvo (we call them screen flows) that explicitly walk you through multiple steps on all devices with a progress bar / nav bar at the top etc. It’s totally up to you.

6. Create minimal forms, but ask the essential questions.

rb-03This is a particularly crucial aspect of form design. Obviously, in frevvo, you can create as minimal a form as you want. One of the most effective things we’ve found is context-sensitive show/hide. It’s easy with frevvo using simple, visually-built business rules. In any form that’s displayed, hide away unnecessary fields until they’re actually “essential”. For example, on an Employment Eligibility Verification form, some questions may only be applicable to non-citizens. Hide them away until the user selects the “I’m not a citizen” option.

You’ll find that users are less confused and more likely to complete and submit your form if the screen is less cluttered. It seems obvious and fortunately, with frevvo, it’s also a piece of cake.

7. Display mobile-friendly error messages.

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This is yet another crucial aspects of good UX. IMHO, this is applicable on all devices not just mobile. We’ve seen so many instances of forms where you fill it out, submit, the server thinks for a while and reloads the page with errors. The errors may be displayed at the top far away from the fields. It’s a nightmare.

With frevvo, user-friendly error handling has always been a priority. Validation of controls is instant and usually automatic. If there’s an error, the user will know immediately. The control visibly changes (color/icon) and an error message appears right below the control. You can customize this message to be meaningful to the user and it can even be configured dynamically so that it tells the user precisely what went wrong.

With frevvo, you also cannot submit invalid forms. If required controls aren’t filled in or there are errors and a user still clicks Submit, the form will automatically highlight the errors/missing data. If you want, you can also display one or more custom messages right above the Submit button that was clicked so the user knows that something went wrong.

The thing you want to avoid is “Oops! An error occurred. Please try later.” Nothing’s more frustrating for users. Fortunately, with frevvo mobile [and other] user friendly error handling is automatic and built-in.

8. Avoid using drop-down menus and lists.

It’s true. Long drop down menus/lists are not very user friendly on mobile. Where they can’t be avoided, frevvo does provide a natural mobile friendly experience. For shorter lists, we definitely prefer radio buttons. With frevvo, it’s easy to lay them out so that if two or more fit on a single row, they’ll be laid out side by side and consume less real estate.

frevvo also offers an auto-complete Combo box though we’ve found that it’s not necessarily a better experience on mobile than a pick list. The good news is you can choose whichever control makes sense for your needs.

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9. Bigger buttons, radios etc.

One of the other things we’ve learned is that it’s genuinely harder to click things with your fingers on mobile. Therefore, in spite of the reduced real estate, frevvo’s controls are subtly larger, buttons are just a bit bigger, radios are easier to click on etc.

10. Responsive forms

LandscapeWhen fonts are too small to read or the screen looks cramped, what will many users do? Rotate the device to landscape mode so there’s more horizontal real estate. Nothing’s more frustrating and annoying than to see the same size form with the same fonts displayed on the landscape screen – even Google and Amazon do it.

With frevvo, all this is just automatic. From big wide desktop screens to small smart phones, your forms will automatically adjust. Rotate your device – the form will expand to take up all available space. Zero CSS3 or HTML5 or any code. It just works.

11. BONUS – Good looks

Let’s face it. People are more likely to use UIs that look good. Forms aren’t the world’s sexiest user interface but they are ubiquitous. Might as well make them look great. With frevvo, that’s also automatic 🙂 Do nothing and your forms will just look good on all devices. And there are many little bits of eye candy such as decorators – add little meaningful icons to your controls e.g. an envelope for an Email field or a map marker for a Zip Code. Styles let you customize colors so your forms fit into your brand and website. These are little things but they can make a huge difference.

Mobile is everywhere and forms are everywhere. You probably have mobile users filling out forms and participating in workflows in your organization. With frevvo, make them mobile friendly without the need to spend significant resources and money.