Condescending sarcasm aside, I am of course talking about paper forms. But this article isn’t about paper forms, per se; it’s about how you can get rid of paper forms in your business with form automationsoftware.
Automation has been one of the key emerging trends of the late 2010s, and will likely be a defining characteristic of the 2020s.
It’s something we’ve covered extensively at Process Street, and something we’ve taken huge advantage of internally as well.
The move from companies only providing enterprise-level API access to their software over to commercially available Internet of Things style mass integration has been a dramatic shift in the marketplace. This has opened up huge potential for individuals and small businesses; you can integrate with thousands of services in just a few clicks.
Now, so many services, SaaS products in particular, provide a means to integrate with other platforms that there are very little restrictions on what you can and cannot automate.
Tools like Zapier, Flow, and IFTTT have made these integrations so easy that anyone can set them up.
But they’re not the only ones – new connectors and middlemen are cropping up all the time, helping people without tech skills connect with APIs or Webhooks of their choosing. The No-Code Movement has gone mainstream and it now has a full suite of tools at its disposal.
Even in 2015, according to Chui, Manyika, and Miremadi writing in the Harvard Business Review, not only could a marketing executive be automating activities which account for between 10-15% of their current time using existing technology, but for 60% of existing US jobs, 30% of their time could be reduced by automation.
For those interested in that kind of thing, you should check out Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation by McKinsey. An illuminating text which is already somewhat out of date!
Here at Process Street, we integrate with thousands of other apps and platforms via Zapier, we have large customers making use of our API, and we’ve now added webhooks to our array of automation options to try to cover the rest of the use cases our customers tell us about.
In short, it has already begun to establish itself as a key competitive battleground for years to come.
The intent of this post is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the purpose and use of workflow software, its application in various industries, the role of automation, methods for continuous improvement, and top tips for getting started in a fast, high-impact fashion.
It’s long, it’s heavy, it’s everything you need to know.
Ultimately, I am aiming to provide a practical guide to help you get the most out of the software you use for workflow management.
If you don’t currently use software to manage your workflows, then you must be at least considering it, otherwise you wouldn’t be spending valuable minutes of your day reading this.
In any case, skim through, extract any nuggets of information you find useful, think about your internal business processes and how getting started could improve your team’s productivity and forward strategic goals. It really is surprisingly easy (and affordable) to get the ball rolling.
The goal of this post is to provide you with clear information you need to:
Understand what workflow software is, how it works and key features
Evaluate whether or not you need workflow software right now
Understand the benefits of utilizing workflow software
Know how you can get started quickly and with minimal stress
Implement workflows effectively with a 5-step process
Have a solid understanding of how to set up automation for even greater efficiency
Set yourself up to achieve both short-term and long-term strategic goals
The real estate market is known to require a significant level of human interaction, but to what extent is the human touch really necessary for delivering a high-quality service for each and every customer?
The human-intensive nature of real estate creates a large margin for human error. Poor lead management, documentation, appointment coordination, tenant screening, and maintenance supervision are just a few examples of tasks/processes that are difficult to execute consistently without the assistance of automation software working in the background.
Some of you property managers out there may claim that diving headfirst into the automation craze sweeping the business world is not such a good idea, as it undermines the face-to-face interactions that play such an important role in the field.
This is not entirely wrong, but all things considered, deciding to ignore new ways of streamlining processes will leave you in the dust as your competitors continue to find new ways of being more efficient.
“One of the most effective ways to humanize the property management experience is by providing better communication. Figuring out what residents want in order to improve service can be a complicated and daunting task. But today, a company can easily leverage automated surveys and other forms of real-time communication to glean real, useful feedback from residents.” – Doug Brien – How Technology And Automation Humanize The Property Management Experience
Recently, it was reported that total investment in real estate tech has ballooned from $33 million in 2010 to more than $5 billion in 2017. That is nothing short of astounding, especially when you consider the market’s volatility over the past decade.
Technology is driving the evolution of real estate, and market players need to keep up if they want any hope of leading the charge.
When creating content, it’s easy to think you should just make it and publish it. Simple.
But your content will not be highly effective if that’s your outlook – even if the substance of your content is brilliant!
Creating content – blogs, infographics, videos, podcasts – creates an opportunity for you to connect with your audience and to engage with a new audience. There is significant value which can be unearthed through an effective content strategy.
One of the simplest ways to improve your approach is to implement a documented content creation workflow.
It may increase the time you spend on a single piece of content or decrease it depending on your current process, but it could also prove to boost the effectiveness of your content by huge margins.
A blog post which is optimized for Google can bring you hundreds or thousands of hits every month. A post which is not optimized may be read by 10% of your email list and then disappear into the void.
Beyond the very real benefit of a good workflow improving the content, a solid team workflow can boost your overall output and practically run your content team itself.
Since implementing our new content creation workflow we jumped from 20k weekly visits from Google to 75k. In the space of 1 year. The new workflow has given us the consistency to keep breaking those numbers.
Have you ever wished you could get some of those pesky work tasks done more easily while on the move, or out-and-about? Those routine tasks and emails that take so much time out of your day, that you would give an arm and a leg to be able to automate?
Or, picture this: you easily send a quick follow-up email, record meeting notes in real time, create new projects, send surveys, schedule meetings, and much more by simply talking to Siri.
You can do all of this and more with Shortcuts for iOS 12 in combination with Siri and Process Street, using the power of Zapier integrations.
Shortcuts, formerly known as Workflow, puts Siri in the control seat of your business workflows, with more power and usefulness than ever before. Using custom phrases recorded and added to Siri’s library of voice gestures, you can trigger a series of actions across multiple apps.
There are two ways to use Shortcuts. The best option is the Shortcuts app itself, which is where you can create your own workflows from scratch. The app also comes with a gallery of suggested shortcuts curated by Apple. Separate from this, Siri will recommend shortcuts based on your daily iPhone activity. You can see these in Settings under Siri & Search.
Here’s a quick list of all of the ideas I’ll be covering in this post, before we dive in:
1. Dictate meeting notes straight to your CRM
2. Send an electronic contract when timing is crucial
3. Master your calendar in an instant
4. Kickstart your client onboarding process
5. Get paid faster by sending your invoices ASAP
6. Assign your team members on the go
7. Grab and archive snapshots of your working screen-space during a technical audit
8. Jump straight back into your drafts, anywhere, any time
Think of the productivity gains available if you could implement that company-wide.
More startling: that report is probably out of date.
Automation technologies are moving at such an incredible rate that new opportunities are appearing all the time. In this article, I’ll run you through a number of our real-life use cases for simple things in our business which we automate to either save time or improve processes.
Part of the reality of trying to manage operations in organizations of any size, is understanding that sometimes things go wrong.
In an ideal world, we don’t want anything to go wrong. We want our processes to run smoothly and all tasks to be easily completed.
But that isn’t just something which happens. It is, however, something we can work towards.
The first step is to create a critical culture where people can identify when and why a process has had a problem. From there, you can track problems, investigate them, and improve processes to stop those problems occuring.
But you need that first step.
That first step needs to be done each and every time, it needs to be done with the right amount of detail, and it needs to be quick and painless to take.
This is the art of an exception report.
Done well, this can illuminate your problems and be a crucial linchpin in a broader effort to improve processes and, in turn, outcomes.
Gone are the days where signing contracts involved figuring out how to connect to a printer, scanner, or photocopier.
And don’t get me started on fax machines.
Now we live in a glorious new world of rapid digital signature workflows.
There are many kinds of digital signatures. Some may think of the high-tech encrypted keys people like Julian Assange have used to prove whether messages came from them or not.
But let’s be honest, outside of our international secret agent daydreaming we’re not likely to need to use those. What we need is the simple act of being able to add our signature on to digital documents with the fewest number of clicks possible.
Those interested in soccer may remember the high profile signing of David de Gea by Spanish giant Real Madrid from Manchester United. Or, actually, you won’t remember it. Because it didn’t happen. The documents were to be sent in the last moments of the transfer window, and the whole multi-multi-million dollar deal fell through due to a broken fax machine.
Digital solutions to contract workflows are important.
Those of us in the workflow game know Nintex is one of the big tools available on the market.
Their advanced software is great for plotting out complex workflows, running intricate automations, and integrating tightly and natively with other large corporate tools.
But that’s what it is: corporate.
It’s heavy and less agile than many of its competitors, with a restrictive price tag which puts it squarely into the enterprise market.
The Nintex light-version, which comes in at a more reasonable price point, simply doesn’t compete with the other tools that target the small-to-medium business space. It has less features and less functionality than many of the newer and more innovative up-and-comers.
In this Process Street article, we’re going to tackle that niche. What are better examples of workflow software for a small to medium sized enterprise, without missing out on complex functionality?