Author: Leandro da Costa

8 reasons to avoid email for managing your business process

emails.pngOctober 24, 2017 @ 1533 UTC. At this instant in time, my inbox has 9401 emails. I’ve tried everything to efficiently find and manage emails in my inbox – Starring emails, labeling them as TODOS, leaving important emails unread, tried Boomerang to make emails come back to the top at a later time, the works!! Here’s the reality:

Email is simply not an efficient workflow tool or document management system or really any sort of systematic task management system.

And yet, so many everyday processes are still managed by email. Customers routinely appreciate the advantages of managing their day-to-day activities like Purchase Orders, Employee On-Boarding and Travel Authorization with a workflow management system like frevvo instead of email. Some of the things we hear:

1. Improved Visibility

Probably the most common issue. I need my authorization; where is it currently stuck? Did my manager approve it? Is it now waiting for the VP or the CFO? Time spent chasing down signatures is 100% wasted. It’s incredibly inefficient and frustrating. What’s worse, your business is slowed down because an employee cannot purchase the much-needed item since it’s pending approval.

2. Pre-fill data to avoid repetitive work

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The second most common thing we hear. Many times e.g. Employee On-Boarding the process involves multiple forms. But, there’s common data across these forms. It’s incredibly tedious to fill the same thing in over and over. Electronic forms remove this unnecessary work – common fields will be copied automatically. In addition, integration with SQL databases and other back end business systems implies that forms and workflows can be pre-populated with business data so users don’t have to type it in.

3. Who’s next? Accurate Routing

Business processes within organizations are complicated. I can’t tell you how many Excel spreadsheets I’ve seen with lengthy instructions on how to route for approval. If the Department is Sales and the Amount is over $5,000, you must get approval from your

Manager and VP unless it’s coming from Canada in which case you need to also get Regulatory approval and on and on … This stuff doesn’t belong in a spreadsheet; with an automated workflow, you can properly encode it and use business rules to ensure that the approval is automatically routed to the right person at the right time.

4. Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device

I need my Travel authorized but my manager is traveling on business. We’ve experienced this ourselves when a customer decides to go ahead and buy a frevvo license but has to wait 2 weeks until their manager returns from a trip. In today’s world, it’s inexcusable. Electronic notifications can be delivered instantly and managers should be able to pull up an approval, review it and sign using their smartphone at anytime from anywhere in the world. There’s no reason to slow your business down.

5. Timely Reminders

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Sometimes, people simply don’t take action in a timely manner. They’re busy or distracted with other priorities or simply forget. Employees must then send a follow-up email as a reminder and chase down the signature. An electronic workflow can be configured to automatically send reminder notifications as required without wasted manual work.

6. Handle Vacations & Escalations

Of course, we don’t expect people to be at their smartphone 24×7, especially when they’re on vacation. That’s what escalations are for. If the manager doesn’t approve within 48hours due to vacation, maybe the VP can step in. But, employees don’t know that and don’t necessarily take the right action. They might decide to just wait for their manager to return. Electronic workflows can delegate to others for vacation or escalate automatically to a peer or supervisor when a time limit expires.

7. Eliminate Errors

Customers frequently talk about how people do the wrong thing and fail to follow the desired process. The routing might be wrong, there’s missing data, there could be calculation errors or the email gets put into the wrong folder. With electronic forms and workflows, that’s a thing of the past. The routing is automatic, data validation and completeness can be enforced and there’s no question of losing emails since you can find pending items on your built-in task list.

8. Go Green: don’t Print, Sign & Scan

go-greenEmail-based processes typically mean a PDF or Excel sent around. In most cases, an actual signature is required so customers find themselves printing the document(s), signing them by hand and scanning the signed document so that they can attach it to an email. It’s tedious and antiquated. After all, we don’t print boarding passes or driving directions anymore. With electronic signatures, a manager can simply bring up documents on their computer or mobile device and sign using the mouse or a touchscreen device. It’s fast, instantaneous and there’s nothing to print.

frevvo provides point-and-click software to easily design any form and automate any workflow in a matter of days & weeks. It includes an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop form designer, connectors, workflows, visual business rules, built-in mobile, PDF generation, electronic signatures and a host of capabilities for real-world business problems.

And now, better get back to my inbox – it’s already up to 9427 emails.

Custom Themes Deprecated in frevvo 5.3 – That is good for you

In the upcoming frevvo 5.3, designers will be able create and save color schemes using a new Styles editor. The ability of uploading custom CSS themes will be deprecated in the new version. Why is that ? Why remove a useful and flexible feature ?

We found out, through experience, that custom CSS files are quite hard to maintain in the long run. Forms relying on custom themes would normally fall into difficult situations primarily when upgrading frevvo versions. It is a riskier and more complicated upgrade process when custom themes are used.

Another strong reason to remove custom CSS themes is that more and more people are accessing forms and flows from several devices: desktops, tablets, phones etc. Each of those devices probably running different operating systems and browsers. We take care of a smooth rendering on all of those devices so you don’t have to worry about that. On the other hand, this task can become quite complex, if not impossible, when custom themes are involved.

At first, it may appear to be better to have tons of styling flexibility by using custom themes but, in reality, this approach is setting up your environment for difficult times down the road.

Pixel Perfect and Digital Signatures Webinar

Did you have a chance to attend our PDF and Wet Signatures Webinar ? If not or if you want to watch it again you can go here.

Our session on September 19th saw an attendance that surpassed our expectations and it was quite interactive with lots of questions. I think it is a good idea to discuss the most common questions from the audience and here they are:

Do I need a paid version of Adobe Reader to create the mappings ?

No. Adobe reader, mac preview, pdfescape.com are all known to work well for filling out the AcroForm during the mapping stage.

How can I create fillable PDFs ?

The PDFs used in the Webinar were downloaded from the IRS website with fields already fillable. You can use commercially available PDF authoring tools to produce your own AcroForms.

Are PDF repeating elements supported ? 

Yes, they are. Each repeating frevvo field is uniquely identified with an index and with the mapper you can map to the corresponding PDF repeat field.

In the Webinar you can clearly hear me saying that PDFs don’t have repeating elements. Well, maybe its good to clarify that statement before my opponents have a chance to use it during my eventual presidential bid. It is a matter of semantics.

Repeats in frevvo allow for the number of repeating elements to be defined at run time. You click the plus sign, a new element shows up, click the minus and it is gone. PDFs have repeating elements but they are statically defined and, as I said, we have it covered.

What I meant to say was that PDFs don’t have dynamic repeating elements like frevvo does.

What is the data format of  the wet signature ? 

It is a PNG.

Is it possible to conditionally generate some forms and not others ? 

Yes, using pre-conditions you can define which PDFs will be created based on form data.

Is it possible for the frevvo digital signature security to somehow be passed along to the PDF signature security?

frevvo does not support the setting of digital signatures on PDF AcroForms. Also, frevvo “flattens out” generated PDFs and while the data is maintained we actually remove the fillable fields.  This is not a guarantee of authenticity, but is probably sufficient for a wide range of cases.

Would you like to add to the list ? Comment ? Please do.

Sharepoint Integration

Nothing like persistent and numerous customer requests to validate a market need for a feature.

It is not that we have not seen this before but, at the end of the day, there are several features in the road map fighting for attention and believe me, the road map is huge! In any case, we are finally committed to provide an easy integration between frevvo and Sharepoint.

Current frevvo customers and prospects are already using or testing frevvo integrated with other back end systems (databases for instance) and would love to bring their Sharepoint instances into the picture. We already provide an Active Directory (LDAP) connector which handles authentication and Single Sign-on and combining that with Sharepoint seems like a great win for users. A sophisticated forms solution that leverages the existing Sharepoint infrastructure and does not dry up the budget is, we believe, highly desirable.

Just as an example, some common use cases we find: create a survey form in minutes using frevvo and share it in the company website. The submissions will update a Sharepoint List and someone internally can generate a report of the answers. A vacation request form can be created in frevvo and when submitted triggers a Sharepoint workflow enabling a manager to approve or deny the request. You get the picture, the possibilities are endless.

The initial version will address what seems to be the most common scenario: create a frevvo form and configure it to post to a Sharepoint List. Frevvo will add a new row to the list when the form is submitted and possibly also save a PDF representation of the form.We will also add the ability to load information back from the list, based on some id, populate the form and update the List entry back. The connector will be able to update resources in any Sharepoint Site or Subsite provided that it has enough permissions to do so.

At this point we are moving full speed with the development and an alpha release is scheduled for the end of Q2/11.

Of course, there are some technical challenges along the way (making sure everything is secure for one) but overall the progress has been great and we are excited about the possibilities.