Despite the highly digitized workplace that we all inhabit nowadays, many businesses are still using paper-based processes and email to achieve basic tasks. All companies could benefit from automating forms and processes and reducing email traffic. The office intranet is a great tool to achieve this using forms workflow and unlike workflow management software, the office intranet has additional business benefits, representing a better return on the investment made.
What Is Forms Workflow?
In simple terms, a workflow is the series of activities that are necessary to complete a task. And forms relates to the paperwork associated with those tasks. So in the context of the office environment, forms workflow relates to all the tasks and the paperwork that are completed on a day-to-day basis.
Disadvantages Of Paper-based Systems
Imagine for a moment that Ben in Accounts wants to book a day’s leave. He can’t find the relevant form in the team filing system, and so he asks his colleague Julie to email him one. Julie duly emails the form, Ben fills it in, scans it and then emails it on to his manager for approval. The manager doesn’t get back to Ben for a few days because the email gets lost in the manager’s overflowing in-box. When he does finally get back to Ben, it’s to tell him that he can’t authorize the leave request because the form he completed was two years out of date!
This scenario may be a bit exaggerated, but it does highlight very clearly the shortcomings of paper and email-based business processes in terms of duplication of effort and the wastage of time. And there are thousands of very similar scenarios taking place in businesses every day. Think about your own organization and the forms workflow involved in sales orders, human resources (annual leave, sickness), employee appraisals, training, induction, expenses – the list is almost endless. And you will begin to appreciate the impact this duplication of effort and wastage of time and resources is having on your bottom line and ultimately on company profits.
The advantages to be had for organizations in automating business processes, forms and systems are obvious. But which is the best system to adopt? There is a range of choices out there in terms of workflow management software that promise to automate and streamline the forms workflow in your organization. Have you, though, considered a cloud-hosted intranet as a solution? Not only will a cloud intranet meet the brief regarding forms workflow, it will also deliver a host of other business benefits.
Let’s look at the two options of workflow management software versus cloud intranet and see how they compare.
Forms Workflow Management Software
Most forms workflow software will deliver in terms of providing secure ways to exchange and track forms and documents as well as automating request and approval processes.
There are, however, some disadvantages to typical forms workflow management software. The most important disadvantage is that not all of the software options allow for remote or mobile access. Nowadays, the inability to access information remotely for employees that are working flexibly either from home, on the road or outside standard office hours is a distinct weakness. Software that is capable of being accessed on mobile devices is not necessarily optimized for the smaller screen sizes. The text can be too small to read comfortably, and the links are too hard to click without a mouse.
In addition, forms workflow software often tends to be directed at larger corporate-type organizations with complex needs and requirements. It may indeed work well for these types of organization, but small to medium-sized enterprises in particular, with less sophisticated requirements, may find the software unwieldy and difficult to use.
The other disadvantage is that forms workflow software tend to be standalone systems that may not necessarily integrate well with your other office systems. Also, it is yet another system that will need to be updated and managed.
Cloud Office Intranet
A cloud intranet is an alternative solution that offers all the advantages of forms workflow software with none of the disadvantages. In addition, a cloud system is a single integrated platform that offers a number of other business tools such as corporate calendars, forums, surveys, news blogs and newsletters. The cloud intranet, therefore, provides an all-encompassing solution to a range of business needs.
Cloud intranets typically will include modules for customizable business forms. Often there will be built-in templates that you can choose from and modify, or you can create new ones with easy to use drag and drop fields. Taking the example we used earlier of Ben from Sales booking his annual leave, how much easier will it be for him to do this over the intranet? He will no longer need to worry about locating the form or making sure that it’s the most up-to-date version as it will be easily available on the intranet with a just few clicks of the mouse. It will also be much easier for his manager to manage the process as they will be able to view, download and sort leave data through the intranet.
Another important offering from the intranet is a sophisticated and secure document management system. Features include permissions, indexing, tagging, full content searching, external and internal file sharing, and bulk upload and download of documents. All the features come in a user-friendly, easy to setup and manage format.
The cloud intranet has the additional advantage of the ability to be accessed remotely. All a staff member needs is a smartphone, tablet or PC with an internet connection and they can access documents and workflows anytime and anywhere. Furthermore, cloud intranets tend to be mobile optimized.
Most offer the very latest in intranet security with two-way SSL encrypted connections with multiple layers of embedded security. This means that your sensitive and confidential company data is as secure as it possibly can be.
Additional Cloud Intranet Business Tools
As well as a comprehensive document management and forms workflow system, cloud intranets usually come with additional business tools. These tools can:
- enhance the flow of information in the organization
- improve communication
- provide opportunities for collaborative work
- reduce the amount of time spent on sourcing and updating corporate information.
Features such as a corporate calendar including all corporate events and deadlines; the latest company news via a news blog or news feed; the ability to work collaboratively with colleagues across different teams or geographical areas in project spaces, as well as many other features, will enhance productivity and efficiency across the whole business.
These enhanced benefits will ensure that you receive more return on your investment than can be achieved with a standalone forms workflow system.
If you are looking to improve your forms workflow, then talk to the team at MyHub about how a cloud intranet can assist with that and many other business processes.