Signatures are an integral part of everyday processes. Purchase orders, travel authorizations, time off forms, patient intake, student permissions, new hire forms are all examples of routine everyday activities that … Continue reading Speed up your processes with electronic signatures
What is Digital Transformation?
By now, everyone’s heard of Digital Transformation. Digital Transformation is the process of using technology to radically change your business to pursue new revenue streams & business models and to avoid disruption. But, what exactly does that mean?
Digital Transformation is not a single IT project. It’s the combination of numerous projects that infuse “digital” into everything within your organization – from evolving the underlying technology to servicing your constituents increasingly on mobile to digitizing your processes to create efficiencies to integrating with third parties to create better customer experiences.
Ultimately, though, DBT is about organizational change to improve performance through the use of digital technologies.
Start with your Workflow
Technology itself makes a difference and creates innovation but at the end of the day it’s the people and the business processes in an organization that can truly drive change, disruption and transformation.
Automating your day-to-day workflows is at the very foundation of digital transformation. If your organization does not already have a workflow automation platform, I strongly suggest looking into one now. Using a platform, you can digitize forms for employees and customers and automate your routine processes. Once they’re automated, you can measure the effectiveness of those processes and optimize choke points to drive genuine change. You can collect and analyze your proprietary data in myriad ways to improve business performance.
Without workflow automation you’re still dealing with manual processes. You’ll probably need to worry about being disrupted and becoming irrelevant.
5 ways Workflow Automation can change your business
1. Increased Efficiency
What might the transformed, modern business application look like? It will undoubtedly:
- Automate forms and workflows so there’s no need to print, sign and scan.
- Integrate with data and systems to reduce tedious manual data entry.
- Intelligently route documents to the right person at the right time to ensure that business constraints are satisfied.
- Automatically support all mobile devices and speed up the approval process by providing 24×7 access from anywhere.
2. World Class Customer Service
Over-delivering on customer service is the single most important thing you can do to increase revenue. Otherwise, today’s consumers will quickly move on to the competition.
Today, customers are used to interacting with your organization online at any time. If they need some information from your company and it’s only available during business hours, they’ll be frustrated and feel inconvenienced. Automation ensures that your customers have a smooth experience by enabling them to access information when they need it.
When employees are wasting time chasing down internal approvals, they have less time to focus on customer service. Automated approvals free up their time so it can be invested into what’s important: customers, students and patients.
3. Enable Mobility
75% of U.S. information workers rely on mobile. In response, businesses are prioritizing mobility with 88% of them saying that mobile functionality is either very important or an outright requirement.
But, one-off mobile apps are hard and barriers abound. Time, budget and skills are all in short supply. In addition, mobility nowadays is about reaching users through all channels, especially mobile web browsers, as users often don’t bother to install a native app.
Workflow automation systems offer visual and low-code approaches that let you provide business functionality in web-apps and spread that development out among more people – the “citizen” developers in your organization. That in turn eases pressure on I.T. teams, freeing them up to meet business needs.
4. Business Agility
Automation taking advantage of cloud (+ mobile) is a critical driver of business agility – roughly speaking, the ability of your business to react rapidly to changing business conditions. Think of two main aspects:
- Responsiveness – Enable employees to do the right thing at the right time. That means reducing business complexity (stop wasting time on paperwork, errors, missing signatures etc.), employee efficiency (let them work anytime, anywhere and using any device) and collaboration (access to people and information from anywhere as needed).
- New Opportunities – Faster rollout of new business initiatives as business conditions change e.g. introduce a new product offering or modify internal processes to quickly satisfy changed customer demands even something as simple as letting people buy on their mobile phone.
Both are sources of significant competitive advantage. According to Harvard Business Review’s recent survey on Business Agility in the Cloud, companies are already seeing business value and benefits from simplification, collaboration, and faster reactions to new opportunities.
This business agility appears to lead to some very tangible and measurable outcomes: 49% are more likely to have entered a new market in the past three years i.e. rolled out business initiatives quickly to take advantage of a new business opportunity. Significant majorities believe cloud (+ mobile) reduces business complexity (71%), increases employee productivity (69%) and responsiveness to customers (53%).
5. Astounding ROI
It’s often hard to see how much those paper- and email-based workflows are really costing you. Let’s do a quick analysis. Consider a 3-step workflow:
- Performed by an Employee – a Travel Authorization or Purchase Requisition. Let’s say this employee costs $80,000/year including benefits, vacation, taxes and other costs (equivalent to a salary of about $60,000).
- Performed by a Manager who essentially checks the request, approves it if it is valid or sends it back for corrections. Let’s say the manager costs $100,000/year inclusive of all costs.
- Performed by an HR or Finance person who essentially updates an internal system and does the equivalent of filing the request. Say, this is a part-time person costing $60,000/year.
Now, assume that the time savings are 10 min, 3 min and 3 min respectively in each step. That’s pretty conservative given there’s no printing, signing, scanning etc. involved. Finally, assume that there are 400 approvals per month of all kinds (Vacation requests, Sales Orders, Timesheets, Travel Authorizations etc.)
How much do you think you will save in costs? You might be shocked:
You’ll save ~$50,000 every single year or 57% of your costs and see net positive ROI in just a bit over 2 months.
That paper/email process actually costs you close to $85K per year. And that doesn’t even take into account the time spent trying to track down emails, chasing down managers for signatures or, perhaps of greater importance, the Opportunity Cost of delayed approvals.
Analytics and Artificial intelligence (AI) will play a major role in the future of business transformation powered by digital technologies. But deploying these technologies relies on access to your proprietary data making it your most valuable asset. Workflow automation is the foundation. Think about it!
Paper- and email-based processes deny you access to your single most valuable asset – your business data.
Eventually, AI engines powered by data analysis will end up automating the optimization of your workflows. But, your processes need to be ready.
If you want digital transformation, start with workflow.
Interested in finding out more? Visit our website to and see how customers are already using frevvo’s public and private cloud solutions to transform everyday business processes.
UX 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
As 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
This 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.
This 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.
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.
More from frevvo
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
When 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.
In previous articles, we’ve talked about the contributions being made by citizen developers in may organizations. They’re using low-code platforms like frevvo to create mobile web apps in record time for day-to-day business problems.
Last week, I came across this nice new infographic from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business. As they say, “the skills gap is the difference between the technology available and the workforce’s ability to use it.”
Highlights of the infographic are:
Almost 40% of companies have a moderate to major skills gap. The resulting digital inefficiency can be deadly – costing you as much as 20% in lost productivity. Simple things like automating routine, everyday processes like Purchase Orders and Leave Approvals can go a long way.
We think citizen developers can make a huge difference, especially when they’re given access to and training on low-code platforms like frevvo. We see it in our customers all the time – citizen developers at many frevvo customers have helped to create incredibly effective, high-quality apps quickly and at reasonable cost.
In fact, Central Wyoming College recently created a fully digital Purchase Order approval that looks great, works on mobile devices and meets business requirements in less than 10 days of work. It’s hard to imagine anyone coding an app that quickly.
Among pacesetters, who believe technology is essential to development and blaze the way forward, almost 80% use citizen developers.
You have little choice. You simply cannot afford to take months to create a web portal or mobile app. Mobile developers are extremely expensive if you can find them. There’s huge benefit and tremendous ROI to be gained from using a low-code approach for an increasing array of projects.
With every release of frevvo, there’s a little less code to write – whether through new and upgraded wizards or the Visual Rule Builder or a new connector.
frevvo’s forms and workflows already work well on mobile devices. They’ll automatically resize to fit your phone or tablet, the icons and controls will be slightly larger, long forms can be broken up into multiple pages etc. They just work without much tinkering if any.
But, customers want to embed them in their mobile web pages. Since the web page and form are usually served up from different hosts, we have to use an iframe. And iframes are notoriously difficult on mobile devices. It’s doubly tricky for us since the size of the form can change e.g. when the user selects a different Tab or expands/collapses a Section or clicks + to add a repeating item.
Fortunately, mobile browsers & devices have now evolved to where we can provide this to customers. As you can see from the slideshow above, frevvo’s own Contact form is embedded in our website and renders perfectly in an iframe on tablets and phones. The forms will resize automatically to the device width, they height will automatically increase if the form height changes (switch Tab, expand Section etc.) and device rotation will also work automatically. We’ll be rolling this out in the next few weeks and customers won’t have to do anything.
We’re also working on rolling out truly responsive forms on desktop browsers since we finally have no customers still using [the much-hated] IE8 and almost no one using IE9 either. But, that’s for another article.
In today’s business world, mobility has become synonymous with productivity in the workplace. The use of mobile technology has become a core aspect of everyday life, both at home and in the workplace.
70+% of the U.S. workforce will soon consist of mobile workers and mobile access has redefined how your employees work. They expect instant access to connected applications and information and this access has redefined how your employees work. They expect on-the-go access to their day-to-day business applications. The apps must fully work on all mobile devices and they also need to look good and be user-friendly. Otherwise, 60% of your employees will abandon your mobile app and revert to e-mailing PDFs around.
How will you deliver? Mobile apps that work on multiple platforms take forever, are absurdly expensive and require skills that are extremely difficult to find. If you don’t get it right, employees won’t use them.
That’s where a low-code platform like frevvo comes in. Check out this new infographic on how a platform like frevvo can help you overcome the barriers and get on a path to successful mobile apps.
Right now, our customers are creating customized apps for routine day-to-day approvals in days and weeks using existing [citizen] developers.
They don’t need HTML5 or CSS3 or Android app development skills and it doesn’t take 6 months and $100K to roll out a first beta version of the mobile app only to find out that employees hate the user experience and won’t even use it.
With frevvo, you too can easily start with a pre-built template and modify it to meet your business requirements. It’s easy and hundreds of customers are already doing it. We can help.
I came across this article about an IDC forecast on the U.S. mobile workforce. It links to an older version of the article but a newer one is here (payment required). IDC suggests that by 2020, the number of U.S. mobile workers will grow to 105.4 million and will make up an astounding 72.3 percent of the total U.S. workforce.
“Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology in the United States has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work” – Bryan Bassett, Research Analyst, Mobile Enterprise: Device Solutions at IDC
Your employees expect to work on-the-go using their mobile devices – everything from responding to customers to routine day-to-day collaboration with colleagues. Yet, it’s practically impossible to find skilled native app developers and building mobile apps is absurdly expensive.
What’s a CIO to do? Turn to a platform like frevvo. Apps built using frevvo are wow-code, citizen-developer friendly, fast, effective and incredibly affordable. And, they just work automatically on all devices: desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
At frevvo, we just digitized a completely customized Purchase Order approval workflow for a University customer in 45 man-hours.
You too can effectively support those 3 in 4 workers who are rapidly transitioning to working on their mobile devices. They can fill out forms, sign documents, approve expenses, attach receipts and everything else in their daily work routine anytime, anywhere and from any device.
They’re turning to low-code platforms including frevvo. Images in this article are from the OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report (opt-in required) – a provider of low-code mobile app development tools.
Low-code platforms dramatically increase productivity since they enable citizen developers not just coders-by-trade to develop applications. Citizen developers at many frevvo customers have helped to create incredibly effective, high-quality apps quickly and at reasonable cost.
At frevvo, we recently created a fully digital Purchase Order approval for a University customer that looks great, works on mobile devices and meets business requirements in just 45 hours. It’s hard to imagine anyone coding an app that quickly.
Companies have little choice. In today’s business world, they must respond quickly to a rapid changing environment. Taking months to create a web portal or mobile app is simply not an option for most. Mobile developers are extremely expensive if you can find them.
As the various underlying technologies mature and platforms like frevvo get better and better at taking advantage of these advances, there’s huge benefit and tremendous ROI to be gained from using a low-code approach for an increasing array of projects.
With every release of frevvo, there’s a little less code to write – whether through new and upgraded wizards or the Visual Rule Builder or a new connector (SharePoint is coming soon, major upgrades to the Database Connector are in the works) or an ever-increasing variety of pre-built templates. I’m sure other platforms like OutSystems are no different.
In Part 1 and Part 2, we talked about how demand for mobile apps is exploding but there are many barriers to overcome. Companies are looking for new ways to tackle the mobility challenge by choosing the right technology to fit the problem and spreading development among more people.
Alternatives to Native App Development
Everything needs to work on mobile. But it doesn’t have to be a native app. As technology has matured, companies have discovered that they no longer need to take a native-only approach to app development. Progressive web and responsive web have rapidly become mainstream as companies realize that these apps meet their business needs but they’re also much faster and cheaper to build. They also don’t require the same skill set that native app development does addressing one of the most important barriers to mobility.
Nowadays, mobility is about reaching users through all channels, especially mobile web browsers, as users often don’t bother to install an app.
As a result, I.T. professionals preference for native app development has steadily declined to where just 17% prefer it in 2017 down from almost 30% 2 years ago.
User expectations are exceedingly high and they want apps that not only deliver function, but that also look and feel amazing and alternative approaches are increasingly able to deliver.
Citizen Developers offer a viable alternative
Two-fifths (43%) are already supporting or planning to support citizen developers and it’s a trend that’s on the rise. Gartner predicts that 70% of large enterprises will empower citizen developers in the next 3 years.
These citizen developers can genuinely help companies get things done without the need to hire people with hard-to-find and expensive skill sets.
In companies that support citizen developers, over 50% are already prototyping and building departmental applications and almost a third (30%) are building employee-facing applications. Customer-facing and enterprise applications remain the province of professional coders by and large but citizen developers are making strides there as well.
Low-Code, Great UX and Citizen Developers
At frevvo, we see these trends converging in our customers. They’re often using frevvo for employee-facing applications like Purchase Approvals or Travel Authorizations.They definitely want to digitize these on mobile devices and they need to look great otherwise employees won’t use them. But, of course, spending $500K on a native mobile app each time is a non-starter.
Technologies like frevvo allow app development to be spread out among more people. That in turn eases pressure on IT teams, freeing them up to meet business needs.
Automating these applications can deliver tremendous ROI with customers saving over 50% of the cost and seeing positive returns in under 3 months. And we’re working every day to further reduce the required skill sets e.g. with our upcoming Visual Business Rule Builder (more on that in a future article).We’ll write more about it in upcoming articles. In the meantime, check out our website for some examples and this short (4.5m) video on creating beautiful, responsive mobile web forms with frevvo.
Graphs and many of the insights in this series of articles can be found in the OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report (opt-in required). Credit: the afore-mentioned OutSystems report for all images in this article.
In a previous article, I discussed how demand for mobile apps is soaring but backlogs are large. This again, from the OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report (opt-in required). Credit: this report for images in this article.
Demand is exploding – nearly half of all I.T. professionals (44%) said they plan to build more than 10 apps. Not surprisingly, large organizations plan to build even more apps. At the top of the list are reporting & analytics, process automation and customer portals. Again, this is not surprising given the rising importance of the customer user experience (UX).
Barriers are everywhere
I.T. organizations have discovered that creating effective mobile apps that people will actually use is very difficult.
Time is a major challenge because applications simply take too long to build: more than 3/4ths of respondents say that it takes them > 3 months to build apps and, in many cases, it takes over a year. Real business applications are complex, they need to integrate with a variety of business systems to be really useful and these systems vary in age from modern to decades old.
Budgets are an obvious problem since app development is a very expensive proposition. According to Forrester, 62% of companies report spending more than $500,000 to create just 1-3 apps with several spending over $5 million.
There’s a serious skills gap – 44% of companies cannot find people with the highly sought after skills they need and they’re very expensive to hire.
New Approaches can Yield Results
Put it all together and it’s obvious that new approaches are needed.
Organizations, including many frevvo customers are turning to alternate approaches that yield results. A growing number are migrating to Low/No-code systems because they meet business needs but are faster and cheaper. They can be effectively used by citizen developers and don’t require the same sort of hard-to-find specialized skill sets that native app development requires. Regardless of company size, industry, geography or any other factor, alternative approaches to mobility are increasingly taking hold.
We’ll discuss these approaches in more detail next time (see Part 3).