Business process automation or workflow automation is the next big thing in news right now. You have heard a lot about it, your peers may have even gone for one or the other automation option. You decide to go for it too, and decide on Google forms, or Google Surveys as they are now known. They are great for data collection, and easy to use. A pat on the back for you. But, are google forms a workflow automation solution, or just a step in it?.

Consider an example:

You decided to automate your office asset acquisition workflow. A quite simple workflow, as it turns out. You create a google form for this purpose, and it has some very nifty features too. Your form has data fields like date, time etc. and drop-down lists with types of asset needed. All this data goes automatically to a Google sheet, saving you from manual data transfer. After a user fills your form, the data is parsed according to data types, making it easier to process. You can even set access levels to your spreadsheet, making it editable only by some while others can only view it. It would seem you have got everything in hand, and your workflow is very much automated. However, that is not the case, not yet. This form would need approval from department head, finance department, administration department and some other people. This form will then be sent out to vendors for price quotes, which will then result in another form. There will be a flurry of email based communication, and eventually, a vendor will be selected. You see where we are going, right? While forms are great for gathering initial data, they fall short when it comes to automating workflows. After the data is gathered, all the following steps are manual, whether it is approval or vendor selection and so on, which takes away the essence of workflow automation.

What went wrong? The form was airtight, with correct data fields, access levels and everything else. However, one thing that most of us forget is that forms are only good for some cases, such as when the data to be entered is in specific, validated units. Also, forms are best suited to reduce manual effort in data transfer, or when many people are entering data that has to be reviewed by only one person. As soon as the scope of workflow or business process goes beyond these parameters, forms fail catastrophically.

Where forms fail how does workflow automation succeed.

With workflow automation software, you get more tools than in a form. Google forms has options for access control, but workflow automation grants you even more control. There is option for field level validation and access. This means that fields can be set as visible or editable to a set group of people, not everyone. One can also have section(s) of form set as hidden or read only. This gives you better control over data at the point of entry itself, as well as privacy. While forms are only the first building step in a business process, a workflow automation softwares offers better data management as well as streamlines the entire process. With our asset example, once a request is made, an automated workflow will send a notification to all the concerned people. This notification would be a simple ' Review and approve' one, with data displayed according to access level, and a button for approval. Also, each task has its own dedicated communication channel, bypassing the need for emails. Tracking the progress of request is also easy, thanks to real time analytics and dashboard interface with instant task updates.

So, forms or workflows? A simple option is to use forms when you need to collect data according to some specific conditions, and workflow automation for everything else. Most BPM softwares come with integrated forms, like IBISM. For any further query, or to know more about how workflow automation can transform your business, contact us.

Published on Mar 26, 2018