If a prospective WFA vendor can’t tick off a satisfying range of ways their platform delivers on that promise, it’s time to look elsewhere.
In an SaaS era, there’s no reason to settle for old-school rip-and-replace approaches, where architectures have to be junked wholesale for the sake of bringing on a new enterprise platform. Just like the rest of the business software ecology, workflow automation has evolved. Cloud-based WFA solutions are purposefully developed with ease of implementation as a core deliverable, not just a nice bonus.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at six key product features that make quick-and-easy WFA adoption and deployment possible. If a platform can’t provide all of them? Keep shopping!
1 • Drag-and-drop design tools
By using drag-and-drop user interfaces, a best-of-breed workflow automation system makes it extraordinarily simple and easy for even novice users to construct everything they need. A form builder interface should let them design forms with ease, but should have the flexibility to allow embedding of sophisticated functions, either pre-packaged or ones you create yourself. Uploading existing forms should be simple, too.
Its workflow design interface ought to work the same way, so even complex processes are simple to assemble and easy to edit if improvements are called for. Once designed, workflows should be storable in a central repository, so they can be re-used at will across the enterprise.
Buyer beware, though: Just because a vendor promises they’re “drag-and-drop” doesn’t mean they’ve got the feature set or flexibility you’re really looking for, so be sure to demo them thoroughly.
2 • Ease of training
The drag-and-drop UI doesn’t just make it easier to launch forms or workflows. It and other user-oriented design features make training faster, and employee buy-in a breeze (in our experience), because you’ve added creativity, efficiency and agility to what could otherwise be a dreary or daunting process.
Moreover, users should be able to become power users in a fairly short time. That, in turn, allows them to become internal evangelists and mentors for WFA adoption by others, even across other departments and offices.
Training tip: Make sure your platform provider has an extensive video training library and readily available customer support to help newbies jump in quickly and experts expand their skills.
3 • Non-disruptive integration
See “rip-and-replace,” above: Today, there should be practically no need to toss aside legacy systems, databases, or even the desktop or mobile hardware you’re using, to get a SaaS WFA solution up and running. There’s an obvious cost advantage to this, but it also slashes the amount of time it takes for implementation – from months (or quarters) to weeks or even days.
A Cloud-based system should be able to leverage a whole catalog of connectors and APIs to integrate with your existing platforms and third-party tools. It also shouldn’t require you to enlist IT support, especially over the long haul, since it’s a vendor-managed platform with headache-free regular upgrades.
4 • Allows access anytime, anywhere
If it’s an SaaS platform, it should be accessible from nearly anyplace, via tablets or smartphones (either via browser or app). Remote employees, external vendors or stakeholders can straightforwardly participate in workflows, which are centralized and updating in real time so everyone has access to common, consistent tasks, assets and materials.
Accessibility removes one of the primary drags on team collaboration and efficiency, and makes adoption by everyone a quicker, practically painless affair.
5 • Offers templates galore, but also deep customization
A quality WFA solution will have an abundance of form templates and pre-built workflows to help users get to work quickly. But it’ll also leverage those design tools we mentioned to allow them to build processes precisely tailored to the enterprise’s exact needs.
Even in SaaS, there are workflow automation platforms so rigidly configured and templated that you’re forced to adjust your operations to fit the software, not vice-versa. Again, the best way to find this out is to get a full extended demo of the software.
6 • Enables immediate e-signature use
It’s advisable to have electronic signature capabilities from top providers integrated into your WFA platform right from launch. So look for one that offers those integrations. How’s that help with easing implementation?
For one thing, you won’t need to spend time searching for a compatible e-signature tool to add to your platform. Plus, your solution of choice will be providing a higher measure of security from the start by including an attractive feature everyone will be happy to take advantage of, from the C-suite on down. Getting management to proselytize on behalf of a new platform is never a bad thing.
7 • Shortens T2V
Implementing a new software platform goes even easier if you’re able to track how quickly it delivers significant ROI – what you could call “Time To Value,” or T2V.
The benefits of a workflow automation platform scale wonderfully, remember.
The more processes an enterprise automates, the greater the efficiency and cost savings it realizes. By measuring both the ROI and how fast it’s accrued, you’ll be able to make a case for broader implementation of a good WFA solution, so everybody can enjoy fast payback.