Everyone wants a smooth workflow. The word itself says it all. You want the work to flow as you focus intensely and produce results with minimal time wasted. Yet we all know that’s not how our workdays turn out.
Thankfully, there are tools you can use to get rid of distractions and time-consuming processes. Think of them as shortcuts that enable you to focus on your work rather than all the superfluous details.
A McKinsey report on social technologies found that simply by tapping into powerful applications, we can improve global productivity by 20 to 25%. The apps include those that can improve communication and collaboration between teams, saving time and improving performance.
Today’s workflow software market is filled with confusing myths. In reality, automation has become affordable, easy and fast. Let’s clear up some of the worst misconceptions.
A workflow is an activity that someone in your organization performs on a routine basis to achieve a well-defined goal. Workflows are characterized by (i) a series of repetitive tasks and (ii) flow of data.
Common workflow examples used everyday across every business include purchase order processing, time off request approvals, travel reimbursements, and new hire onboarding.
Today, almost every business understands the benefits of automating these everyday processes. They know that talent is their most valuable resource and they don’t want employees to waste time on paper- or email-based processes.
Workflow analysis is the process by which your business examines data about its workflows, determines trends and improves their efficiency. In turn, this improves customer satisfaction and the competitiveness of the business itself.
In most cases, if you ask people why a particular workflow is setup the way it is, they’ll tell you “That’s how we’ve always done it.” The design probably made sense years ago but as the business and its environment have changed, the workflow was probably never updated.
Workflow analysis is the first step towards these necessary updates. Apply it in the following ways:
In Part 3 of this series, we described how Anonymous tasks are vastly simplified in V8.0. Another enhancement that customers have requested is the ability to view a form that they had submitted earlier as part of a workflow.
For example, we automate our internal operations with frevvo. Let’s say I submit a Vacation Request or Expense Report for processing. A few days later I want to go back and look at what I submitted. Prior to V8, we setup an action that notifies me at every step along the way and emails me a PDF copy of the form that I submitted. Email is already hard enough to keep track of and this isn’t an ideal solution.
Now, you don’t have to email PDFs around for record-keeping. You can simply use Task Search to find your workflow and then use the Audit trail to view the information you submitted.
In the audit trail for any workflow, you will see a new View icon. The icon will only show up if you have permission to view the workflow at that step. However, you can always
see things that you submitted – by far, the most common scenario. Click the View button and frevvo will render a read-only view of the workflow using the data from that step.
You can expand/collapse Sections, navigate Tabs and view all the data. However, you cannot make changes.
Obviously, the audit trail also shows the progress of the workflow through various approval stages so you can always see where the workflow is currently sitting and the history as it was routed from person to person. Now, you can also see the data.
We hope you’ll like the improvements that we’ve made. Stay tuned for future articles and upcoming webinars on V8.0 – it will be released to frevvo Cloud this Fall. We’re also already working on features for the next release(s) that we’ll describe here as we go along.
In Part 2 of this series, we described the redesigned Flow Step Properties panel which makes it much easier easier to configure individual flow steps. Another oft-requested improvement is to anonymous steps.
What are Anonymous Steps?
Anonymous steps in a workflow are routed to an email address and do not require the recipient to authenticate before performing the step. They’re super common – for example, a purchase order may be started internally by a sales person, get approved by his/her manager and then get routed to the customer for signature. You probably want to make it as easy as possible for the customer to sign the PO and not require an account, remember passwords etc.
Prior to V8, you had to drag in a separate Email (Anonymous) Step and configure it separately in your workflow. It would send an email and advance the workflow to the following step which was the actual form that the recipient would see. Customers found it confusing and we ran into many situations where workflows were incorrectly designed as a result.
More Intuitive Anonymous Steps
V8 simplifies this significantly by simply removing the additional step in the flow. Now, you simply drop in the form you want the recipient to see or link to an existing one and configure its properties. Click on the cog icon to bring up the Flow Step Properties dialog and navigate to the Assignment tab.
On this tab, you can now assign the task to a user, role or email address in one place. At runtime, assignment is made in that priority order. If you want to route to an email address, simply type it in and leave the other two fields blank – the step will be routed via email and can be performed anonymously. There’s also no longer a requirement to make the entire workflow public.
You can also use control templates in the email field so that it’s dynamic. Start typing and a pick list will appear with matching controls. At runtime, the value of the control is evaluated and if it’s a valid email address, the step will be routed via email and can be performed anonymously.
We’re looking forward to this release and hope you’ll like all the improvements. Stay tuned for future articles and upcoming webinars on V8.0 – it will be released to frevvo Cloud this Fall.
In Part 1, we described improvements to the Flow Designer to make it easier to understand routing for a workflow.
Flow Steps have lots of settings
Another area that we’ve improved significantly in V8 based on customer feedback is the property settings for a flow step. The V7 and earlier properties panel (figure at left) had simply become too large and complex as we’ve added more and more features to frevvo workflows and customers were finding it a bit confusing and hard to use.
We’ve reorganized the properties and moved them into a new modal dialog accessed by clicking the desired flow step and then clicking the properties edit icon (the cog icon). Properties have been reorganized and the names changed to be more intuitive in some cases, but the requirements are generally unchanged for all properties.
Flow Step Properties Wizard
The properties are organized on tabs (screenshot above) and nothing is saved to the editing flow instance until the dialog is submitted. Many properties also have explanatory text so it’s easier to understand what each property means.
If you Submit your changes with any invalid property setting, the dialog will not close and an error message will display. The wizard will automatically take you to the first Tab with an error. Tabs with errors and invalid properties will also display in red so there’s an immediate visual indication.
The wizard also guides the designer to prevent errors. A great example is Step Assignment (screenshot below). It was always possible to assign steps to a user, a role or an email address (no login required). If it’s assigned to a specific user, it does not make sense to also enter a role since it will always go that user. The wizard will grey out the irrelevant fields to prevent errors. The user and role fields also auto-complete with a list of valid users and roles.
The Flow Step Properties Wizard has many more features and we’ll describe some of them in detail in subsequent articles. Suffice it to say that frevvo designers will find it much much easier to configure steps in their workflows using V8 compared to prior versions.
We’re excited about this release and think you’ll like the changes. Stay tuned for future articles and upcoming webinars on V8.0 – it will be released to frevvo Cloud this Fall. Exact date TBD and we’ll announce it here when firmed up.
We’ve been hard at work on some big updates to the workflow designer and we’re excited to share some of what’s coming soon. The main goal of v8.0 is Phase 1 of simplifying flow design and improvements are based on extensive feedback from customers and our own Client Services team. We’ve also added a few oft-requested features that we’ll describe below and in future articles.
The improvements fall into multiple areas:
A redesigned Flow Design Canvas that makes the flow routing clearer.
Much easier configuration of flow step properties via a new Flow Step Properties Wizard.
At-a-glance view of properties for any flow step via a new Flow Step Navigator.
Vastly simplified routing – you can route to users, roles or an email address in a single unified Assignments UI that checks for and prevents errors.
Get a read-only view of any task that you completed while the workflow is waiting for downstream approval.
On-demand refresh of searchable fields for a particular form or workflow without requiring admin privileges.
We’ll preview these changes in this and future articles.
Flow Designer Canvas
The canvas is redesigned to be more intuitive and familiar and to display the flow routing more clearly.
It now represents the flow in a flow chart like format with process flow clearly marked with arrows. The arrows are drawn automatically as the step is dropped on the canvas as shown in the figure.
As a designer adds a precondition to a step, the system automatically draws a precondition as a decision box (yellow diamond). The precondition is part of the step that immediately follows it. For example, it is not separately selectable. The designer can specify a user-friendly description of the precondition which is displayed in the decision box.
As before, when a step is selected, the relevant action icons become visible e.g. create a linked step, edit the form associated with a form step etc.
Linked steps display a double box indicating clearly that the step is a copy of a prior step in the flow.
When dragging and dropping either new steps from the palette or existing canvas steps as part of a move operation, the UI will provide clear feedback regarding the drop target. When hovering over a step, the cursor will be modified as usual with the up or down green arrow indicating if the drop will be either above or below. In addition to this, the step that is the drop target will show a flashing green “bulls eye” to indicate the exact place where the step is to be placed. This is intended to head off any confusion about exactly where the designer is dropping and to make it clear that they cannot drop between a step and its precondition diamond.
Stay tuned for future articles and upcoming webinars on V8.0 – it will be released to frevvo Cloud this Fall. Exact date TBD and we’ll announce it here when firmed up.
Digital 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.
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.