Posted in Cloud

Cloud Security on your mind?

ds-explosionConcerned about Cloud Security? You’re not alone. A single breach can have a huge negative impact on your business. Even the Rebels destroyed the Death Star by exploiting a single security flaw.

cs-infoA staggering 90% of companies are very or moderately concerned about cloud security with the biggest worries being unauthorized access and malicious insiders.

Make frevvo your ally and you can rapidly take advantage of powerful, impactful cloud solutions today while minimizing security risks and decreasing your compliance costs. We know that data security is critical for your business. Check out this new infographic and see how our multi-layered approach can help you secure your information as we continuously monitor and improve your systems, processes and services.

Interested in learning more? Contact frevvo today to get a comprehensive overview of how you too can securely deploy everyday workflows on mobile devices using frevvo’s Cloud.

Posted in Product, Usability

Episode 2016: A New Hope

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Click the image to view the crawl video

It’s December. Star Wars Episode VII is almost here. At frevvo, we can’t wait (like most of the world) and we’ll be posting a few Star Wars themed articles here 🙂

We’ve done a lot of work in 2015 to improve frevvo and it’s been in a wide range of areas that are really important to customers from workflow enhancements to usability to security and adding more platforms (more on that in a separate article).

yoda

But we’re also super excited about a bunch of new stuff coming to frevvo soon. The biggest of these is the long-desired Business Insights. Many of our customers are already past the basic benefits of Cloud (hardware and data center cost savings) and have realized that the real payoff is in the productivity enhancements from automating everyday approvals on mobile devices. But, they want to go further and see how these workflows are performing, where the bottlenecks are and how they can reengineer and improve productivity even further. Escalations, notifications and other workflow features help for sure. The next step is insights.

We’re busy building this and expect to release capabilities throughout 2016 starting with the first release in Q2 in which you’ll be able to monitor your workflows to easily see what’s currently in-progress, what’s completed, how long they took on average, and where the bottlenecks are.

bis

Of course, just like our forms, you can expect great-looking dashboards that work automatically on mobile devices, can be added to frevvo spaces, support access control etc.

Contact us if you’d like to learn more and watch this space for continuing updates.

Posted in Cloud

Computing is going in one direction – towards the Cloud

arstechnicacloudsCame across this article in Ars Technica UK (Warning: it’s a bit of an Infomercial with content sponsored by HP Enterprise), the basic premise is valid. We see similar trends in our customers.

Every CIO is interested in the cloud. It simply makes sense. You cannot compete with the cost structure of the large Cloud providers when it comes to basic infrastructure (servers, network etc.). When it comes to software, employees are also consumers and are accustomed to awesome user experiences on their mobile devices and apps that are regularly refreshed. Corporate I.T. departments simply cannot keep up. So whether it’s SaaS applications like GMail and Salesforce (who are finally rolling out a refreshed UI) or a product like ours which you can use to create your own customized SaaS-like application, corporate I.T. cannot expend the time, money and effort to refresh UIs, support the vast array of mobile devices, ensure 24×7 uptime and so on.

The Achilles heel is, of course, security. It’s hard to entrust some data to Cloud providers and all the high-profile hacks don’t help (even though, in reality, almost none of them affect cloud-based systems). And legacy business systems aren’t going anywhere [certainly not to the cloud] for many many years. So, there’s plenty of interest in private and hybrid cloud setups and we think it’s likely to continue for years.

That’s why, much as we prefer our customers to choose public cloud, we continue to offer both and will do so for the foreseeable future. Luckily for us, it’s the exact same software and we’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to offer too many variants (i.e. optional add-on features). The resulting increase in complexity isn’t worth it.

Read the original article here. Warning: you’ll have to wade through the infomercial fluff to get to the gist. Or, it’s summarized above for you 🙂

Posted in Forms

frevvo 6 – Creating Accessible Forms

Accessibility-cartoonThis article discusses features added to frevvo 6 that enable creation of accessible forms and workflows.

What does accessibility mean?

Accessibility is the ability for users with visual and/or motor impairments to interact with an application. More and more organizations require this and it is a must for any public facing application. Most importantly, it’s just the right thing to do.

For those with visual impairments, applications need to verbally communicate the content being displayed. At a high level this can be broken down into 2 requirements. First is providing a way for visually impaired users to quickly discover the general structure of what is displayed and navigate. In the web space, pages must be constructed in a manner that enables assistive technologies to present this overview and allow users to drill into areas as needed. Second is providing the right auditory cues when users interact with an application so they can grasp context (where they are) and how their actions have altered what is displayed. For example, if a user has changed a form field value to something invalid, visual cues are insufficient.

Accessibility is also about serving people with motor skill issues. For applications used on a laptop or desktop, this requirement distills down to supporting keyboard only interactions. These keyboard interactions should be standard and intuitive or clearly described if a more complex interaction is necessary.

Implementing Accessible Web Applications

Implementing accessible web applications typically requires pages to comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Document structure is key because screen readers like JAWS or Apple’s VoiceOver will rely on the markup to announce content as well as navigate. Javascript behaviors are needed to support standard keyboard shortcuts (e.g. pressing space to click a button that has focus) or announcing content changes triggered by a user action (like flagging an email field when an invalid address is entered). WCAG is large with multiple levels of compliance and various solutions. If you are using a custom application (or planning to build one) for your forms and workflows, your developers may have A LOT of extra work to make the interfaces accessible. With frevvo 6, that burden is removed.

Creating Accessible Forms with frevvo

The first order of business is to open the form or flow in the frevvo designer and check off the Accessible property:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 4.39.41 PM

Some existing user interface behaviors in frevvo needed to change to support accessibility. One example is the signature control. Accessible forms must not require mouse interaction so a signature control now includes a way for users to type their name in addition to writing with a trackpad, stylus or mouse. Rather than just globally change the signature control to include the typing option, we wanted to protect existing behavior and allow designers to explicitly enable accessibility.

Checking off the accessible property will accomplish most of the heavy lifting needed to make your forms accessible however the designer still must play a role in creating a fully accessible form. For example, WCAG requires images and videos to have an alternate text description that can be read to users with visual impairments. In frevvo, these controls have an Alt Text property that the designer can use for this purpose. Another example is specifying values for a table’s summary property and a link’s title property. Using the existing hint and help properties can also go a long way to making your form accessible.  Forms with lots of nested controls (like a table within a section within a tab) while WCAG compliant will create a more challenging experience for impaired users. Keep things simple and consider using workflows to break up one very large form into multiple steps. These are just some examples of what form designers must consider.

Testing

There are lots of tools for inspecting html and producing suggestions on what your markup should look like. But the only way to truly test is to get comfortable with assistive technology, close your eyes and test out your forms. frevvo forms were beta tested by users with visual impairments and their input was invaluable. It is very important that you test your forms for accessibility especially since the form designer must play a role.

Conclusion

Accessibility is a key requirement for modern web applications that is sometimes overlooked and can be difficult for organizations to achieve. With frevvo 6, forms and workflows can be designed to satisfy this important requirement.

Posted in Forms

frevvo 6 – Workflow Escalations (part 3)

Workflow stuck?

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This is the 3rd and final article describing the workflow escalations feature introduced in frevvo 6. In the previous articles (part 1 and part 2), we learned how to set a deadline for a step and employ notifications and reminders to help keep the process running smoothly. This article introduces another type of action to take when a deadline is reached: reassignment.

Automatic Reassignment

To illustrate reassignment we’ll refer to the expense report process from the previous articles on escalations. In this process an employee submits an expense report (step 1), the employee’s manager approves it (step 2) and the accounting department fulfills it (step 3). The accounting department has a mandate to process an expense report within 1 week after manager approval.

When the manager approves the expense report, a task will show up on the task list for all users in the accounting department. Once a user starts working on a task, it is now “claimed” which means it will appear only on that user’s task list. The expense report will disappear from the rest of the accounting department’s task list which prevents multiple users from attempting to work on the same task at the same time. However, what happens if Joe from accounting starts working on a task but can’t complete it for some reason? The workflow is now stuck in Joe’s queue.

Prior to frevvo 6, the only option was to have an administrator find the task, unlock it and reassign it back to the accounting role. Notifications and reminders raise awareness that our process is in jeopardy of missing a deadline but still requires a manual process for resolution when sitting in one person’s list.

Reassignment was introduced specifically to address these scenarios automatically and efficiently. With reassignment we can ensure nothing gets stuck by assigning anything that hasn’t been completed in a certain amount of time back to the accounting department.  Since accounting doesn’t want to miss their 7 day commitment, we’ll trigger reassignment on day 6.

Once again in the frevvo flow designer, select the accounting step and click Setup Escalations:

esc-designer1

Now on the Setup Escalations page we’ll start by specifying the timeframe (complete within 6 days):

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.32.47 AM

The actions we configure will trigger 6 days after the manager completes the previous step.  Next we need to select the assignee type which determines how to do the assignment.  There are three options: user, role and potential owners.  If user or role is selected, the flow designer must specify a comma delimited list of users or roles.  If the user or role needs to vary based on data in the workflow, a template string can be used instead of an explicit user or role. This means a business rule can be used to dynamically determine the assignment.

The 3rd option is Potential Owners which will refers to the users and/or roles that area already configured for the step.  In our case the step was assigned to the Accounting role so we’d pick potential owners. It is better to select potential owners in this case rather than specify accounting again.  This way if the configuration of roles and users that can perform a step changes, the escalation won’t need to be modified and will automatically pick up that change.  Our final reassignment configuration looks like:

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.42.13 AM

Any tasks locked by a user after 6 days will automatically be reassigned to the accounting role where someone else can complete the process.

Conclusion

Workflows in frevvo can now be configured with multiple deadlines for any step. A deadline can be configured to trigger based on when a task must be started or completed and each deadline can be configured to trigger notifications, reminders and/or automatic reassignment. Escalations is a powerful new feature that can greatly enhance any business process backed by a frevvo workflow. To learn more please check out the user documentation that describes these features in depth.

Posted in Forms

frevvo 6 – Workflow Escalations (part 2)

This article is the second in a series about the workflow escalations feature included with version 6 of the frevvo platform.

Reminders

In Workflow Escalations (part 1), we explored using notifications as a way to raise awareness about workflows that have been stuck on a step for too long.  To recap the use case we had an expense report filled out by an employee in step 1, approved by the employee’s manager in step 2 and finally sent to accounting for processing in step 3.  The accounting department is obligated to complete their step within 7 days.  In the previous article notifications were used to email relevant parties when the deadline was missed.  That’s a vast improvement but wouldn’t it be better if we could warn the accounting department before the 7 days has passed?  Creating escalation reminders can accomplish this.

Here’s a snapshot of our workflow as seen in the frevvo designer:

esc-designer1

Clicking on Setup Escalations will bring us the escalation configuration page for the accounting step:

escalations-reminder

We can see the previous configuration from the first article that sets up notifications but we’ve also configured reminders. This reminder will send a notification to all the potential owners (i.e. the accounting department) 1 day before the deadline.  The subject and message used in the email is auto generated when you enable reminders but can be changed to display whatever text you want.  Once again note the use of frevvo template (e.g. {flow.name}) in the subject and message so that each message is custom for each flow instance.

If we feel the accounting department needs even more reminding we could send 3 reminders in 8 hour intervals on the day before the deadline:

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.23.51 AM

You can set up reminder frequencies in days, hours and minutes and configure as many as you want using the limit reminder options.  Since you can set up multiple multiple deadlines for a step, you can be extension create multiple reminder configurations.  Frevvo reminders are highly configurable and can handle simple and complex business requirements with ease.

This has been an example of triggering reminders for workflow steps using the new escalations feature.  In the final article we will discuss auto reassignment. To learn more about the escalations feature, please check out our user documentation.

Posted in Forms

frevvo 6 – Workflow Escalations (part 1)

This article is the first in a series about the workflow escalations feature included with version 6.1 of the frevvo platform.

Notifications

Workflows in frevvo are a simple solution for automating business processes that require multiple steps performed by different people. A common example would be an expense report that is be filled out by an employee (step 1), routed to the employee’s manager for approval and signature (step 2), and finally to the accounting department for processing (step 3). When all the responsible parties are available and diligently watching their “inboxes”, everything flows smoothly. However, at times a workflow could be held up at a given step for various reasons. In this example, the manager could be out sick or the accounting department is overwhelmed with other requests and doesn’t have bandwidth to monitor their inboxes. With the latest release of frevvo, the workflow designer has a new set of tools to help deal with these scenarios.

Workflow designers can define escalations for any step of the flow. Escalations are a set of deadlines that consist of 2 components: a condition and a set of actions to take if the condition is met. Let’s take the expense report example and assume that the accounting department must process expense reports within 7 days from the time the manager approves it. With frevvo escalations, a work flow can be created that will notify the accounting department when they have missed this deadline.

Below is an image of the expense report process in the frevvo workflow designer:

esc-designer1

Users can configure escalation behavior by selecting a step and clicking Setup Escalations. In this case the Accounting step is configured to show up in the task list for anyone with the Accounting role. The screenshot below shows how an escalation can be set up to notify these “potential owners” when the task has not be completed within 7 days:

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 2.33.24 PM

If the accounting step is not complete within 7 days, an email will be sent to all the users with the accounting role. Note that the subject and message use templatized strings (e.g. {flow.activity.escalation.duedate}) to provide context for each workflow (or expense report in this case).

You can set up as many escalations as you want. For example, let’s say John Smith manages the accounting role and needs to know if 8 days passes:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 11.10.30 AM

The first deadline is collapsed and hidden but a second one for Mr. Smith has been added.

This has been an example of triggering notifications in frevvo workflows.  In the upcoming articles, reassignment and reminders will be discussed.  To learn more about the escalations feature, please check out our user documentation.

Posted in Forms

frevvo 6.1 Features – Rule Editor Improvements

A new version of frevvo is now available and includes some significant improvements for writing business rules including:

  • syntax highlighting
  • autocomplete
  • full page editing

In this article, I’ll quickly highlight these features and provide examples of how they can assist in writing rules.

Syntax Highlighting

Previous versions of frevvo used a bare bones textarea control for keying in the rules:

oldruleeditor

Here’s the same rule in 6.1:

newruleeditor

In this rule, javascript keywords, native type values (like string and booleans) and block braces are highlighted with different colors.  Line numbers have been added as well.  Based on the cursor position, brackets and parentheses will be highlighted in green so it’s easy to find matching pairs. This is particularly useful when you have multiple levels of nesting and you are trying to figure out which pair of parenthesis is part of the the same expression:

highlightparens

Autocomplete

Autocomplete has been added which means you don’t need to remember or lookup an item’s properties.  For example, when you type a control followed by a dot, all of the control’s properties are presented immediately in a dropdown:

autocomplete

You can see all the EmployeeID control’s properties and select the one you want without having to type the entire property name.

Maximize Editor & Code Collapse

Finally one of my favorite features in this release: the maximize editor! If you have a larger complex rule you can click the maximize icon maximizeruleeditor and the rule editor will use the full real estate of the page:

bigruleexpanded

Of course if you’ve got really large rules consider breaking them up into smaller more manageable rules but nevertheless it is great to have the option to view rules full screen.

Finally, you’ll notice the arrows to the right of the numbers.  These can be used to collapse and expand entire blocks of code.  For example, clicking the arrow in line 6, will hide lines 7 thru 34 in the example above:

bigrulecollapsed

Summary

Business rule authoring is one of the most powerful features in frevvo and with these enhancements, designers can build their rules more easily than ever.

Posted in Forms

Designing Highly Usable Forms That Can Collect LOTS of Information

When designing forms, designers must always consider the usability of the form. Usability refers to a person’s ability to intuitively understand what is expected of them and easily perform the task. Achieving a high level of usability for small forms is not too challenging but what about when a lot of information must be collected such as when on-boarding a new hire?

One solution is to create a large single form with everything on it.  There are several problems with this. First, you may overwhelm the user by presenting every single field all at once. If a field has an error, the employee has to scan the entire form to find it. Also gigantic forms make for a particularly poor experience on phones and tablets where real estate is limited. Another solution is to group related fields together and put them in sections or tabs.  Sections are definitely useful to a point.  However, experience shows that tabs in general are harder to use (see Form Usability: The Pitfall of Inline Accordion and Tab Designs). Tabs particularly suffer on mobile devices with their smaller screens.

With frevvo, you can easily create highly usable forms that collect lots of information by using screen flows.  Screen flows create a wizard-like experience that presents the form in a series of small easily digestible steps.  By breaking the form up this way, users aren’t overwhelmed and will have a great experience regardless of the end user’s device (laptop, phone, tablet, whatever).  In our employee on-boarding form, the information has been broken into 3 steps:

1) demographics 2) health plan enrollment 3) direct deposit.  The images below show how the steps are displayed to someone using the form on an iPad:

Demographics

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 1.11.48 PM

Health Plan

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 1.13.48 PM

Direct Deposit

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 1.16.02 PM

Large forms that collect LOTS of information are very common. With frevvo, you can easily make them usable on any device so your customers are more likely to have an enjoyable user experience and submit complete, accurate data.

Posted in Forms

How To Conditionally Trigger An Approval Step

Approval workflows typically are not just a fixed set of steps that get repeated every single time the flow is performed. Workflows need to be dynamic and route to specific steps based on data provided earlier in the process. For example, employees submitting expense reports for reimbursement usually require an approval from their direct manager but managers often have a limit on the dollar amount they can approve. An expense over a certain amount may need an additional approval by a supervisor.

With frevvo, this requirement is easily accomplished using preconditions. Preconditions are expressions that evaluate to true or false and can be defined for any step in a workflow. If the supervisor must also approve an expense report when the grand total is more than 1,000, the workflow can meet this requirement by attaching a precondition to the step:

PreconditionforSupervisorstep

When the first two steps (“Expenses” and “Reviewer”) are complete, frevvo will evaluate the precondition on the “Supervisor” step.  If the grand total is not greater than 1,000, the step is skipped and the flow advances directly to the “Accounting” step.

You can also use “ands” and “ors” to create more complex expressions. For example, let’s say the supervisor needs to approve anything over 1,000 but the president needs to approve anything larger than 10,000. You could change the precondition on the supervisor step to:

GrandTotal.value > 1000 && GrandTotal.value < 10000

What if you need an even more complex precondition? Let’s say supervisor approval is required if the total amount is over 1,000 or at least 1 line item is greater than 500. This problem can be solved by using a hidden calculated field and frevvo’s powerful but simple business rules.

Users can express more complex business rules in javascript: an incredibly powerful but easy language to start using. To solve this problem, a workflow designer could create a hidden field on the form called ‘ItemOver500’ and write a rule like:

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 5.52.08 PM

This rule will execute as the expense report is filled out. The rule initially sets the ItemOver500 value to “false” but then loops through all the amounts in the line items. As soon as an amount is found that is greater than or equal to 500, the ItemOver500 value will be set to “true”. Now with the rule in place, I simply change the precondition to:

GrantTotal.value > 1000 || ItemOver500.value = “true”

Double pipes (||) are used to indicate an “or” condition.

To summarize frevvo makes it easy to conditionally skip workflow steps even when the flow requires complex business logic to make the decisions.

Click here to view a short video about the expense report referenced in this article and here to read a full tutorial.