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The Consultant's Corner: Exploring Mobile Forms Processes

Welcome to the new Cities Digital Consultant's Corner! This section of the Cities Digital monthly update, in a question and answer type format, addresses frequently asked questions, interesting solution-oriented topics, use cases, and solution applications that are beneficial to our users.

As part of the Cities Digital’s Team of Consultants, Rob McCluskey, Systems Architect, has worked with many customers through various stages of solution implementation. Currently, a hot topic with many customers is the idea of form automation in a mobile environment. Several questions come to mind when considering mobile forms processes.

What is the most commonly automated business processes by Cities Digital customers using mobile forms processes?

Rob explained, “There really is isn’t a specific ‘most common’ processes, but generally speaking, every organization needs some sort of internal review process. These internal reviews can be for processing applications or submissions from outside the organization, or to process internal HR requests. He outlines a couple of examples of a simple and more complex process.

Example of a simple automation process

  1. Form submission

  2. Submission reviewed

  3. Submission stored in the repository

  4. Submitter emailed about review decision

Example of a complex automation process

  1. Form submission

  2. Submission reviewed

  3. Submission stored in the repository

  4. Submitter emailed about review decision

  5. Routing for multiple different departmental reviews

  6. Use Workflow to perform more advanced data management and storage actions

Rob shares, "another interesting way to leverage Forms is to quickly and cleanly implement static, data-driven web pages for manipulating and looking up information in various databases. This technique can be used to give end users secure, consistent access to relevant data sources.”

What is the primary consideration for making forms mobile?

Rob describes it as, “responsiveness, or how the form will look when loaded in a desktop browser vs a mobile browser. To this end, Laserfiche Forms provides a setting to optimize for layout on mobile devices.”

He also states a caveat, “users need to bear in mind that these optimizations work best on forms that employ a vertical design—that is, the form does not use custom CSS to position and align fields horizontally (which may be optimal or arguably more attractive for desktop browsers) but instead has fields laid out sequentially, from top to bottom. Although many clients enjoy customizing their forms using CSS and JavaScript, I’ve seen numerous examples of customized forms that end up negatively impacting mobile user experience.”

What benefits do customers experience when utilizing process automation for their mobile device?

"The two primary benefits of utilizing process automation on a mobile device," Rob says, "are increasing access for external users and providing a seamless platform for internal users in the field to submit forms and paperwork digitally."

How do these benefits positively impact a business?

He says the benefits positively impact businesses “by improving customer service and experience and saving employees time. If a customer has an easier time accessing and submitting a form or an employee can save time entering notes into the system after returning from the field, the organization will see an immediate positive impact on its bottom line.”

With the release of 10.3, are there any new features that will improve the customers experience using mobile forms?

"The new features on Forms 10.3 are of benefit to process designers and system administrators, not end users at this time," he says.

How do the Cities Digital Consultants work with customers to start, implement, and maintain mobile forms processes?

The Cities Digital Consultant Team is a great resource for customers. Rob states that, “if a client requires a smooth, effective mobile experience for a Forms process, the Consulting team will work with them to discuss best practices for configuring mobile forms similar to those previously mentioned and will include extra testing in the project plan to ensure that the mobile user interface is clean and working as designed.”

What best practices are key to implementing and maintaining process automation?

“Stakeholder buy-in and current process evaluation are always at the top of the list,” according to Rob.

Next, he explains, “any user or group of users that will be assigned tasks as part of the automated process, needs to be included in the planning phase. This helps minimize the need for large changes between the time requirements are gathered and when the process goes live. I’ve had to almost completely overhaul processes where input from key stakeholders was not considered until well after beginning process configuration.”

Lastly, “it’s very important to evaluate the current business process before attempting to automate it with Forms and/or Workflow. Since it is often the case that actions that made sense in the context of a manual, paper-driven process will not work well or even be able to be reasonably accommodated by an automated process. The planning phase of implementing process automation is the best time to explore the inefficiencies and snags associated with the current process in order to avoid introducing them in the automated process. As a colleague once said, ‘Automating a bad process is optimizing for failure’.”

Is it difficult to make modifications to an automated process once it is in place?

“The difficulty of modifying a process scales with its complexity,” he says. “That is, the fewer process steps and fewer forms, the easier it is to modify the process. Modifying processes in production is always fraught. Thankfully, processes can be copied in Forms, so the question boils down to how much time the client wants to spend on modifying a process.”

What are notification options for a mobile workforce?

There are several options for notifications according to Rob, “Out-of-the-box, Forms can send emails to process participants. However, in conjunction with Workflow (and assuming relevant web services are configured), notifications can be sent via SMS and other means. Some of these notification methods—like SMS—might be configurable with the ‘HTTP Form Post’ and/or the ‘HTTP Web Request’ Workflow activities. Others—like sending a tweet—might require custom scripting or Workflow activities. This all depends on the client’s requirements.”

If you are considering automating a forms process for a mobile environment, hopefully, some questions have been answered. The Cities Digital Consulting Team is always ready to help you streamline your business processes, improve efficiency and innovate new solutions. Contact us for help with your next project.

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