Raise your hand if you enjoy paperwork. No takers? Regardless of what kind of company you work for and what industry it plays in, you’re going to have multiple processes that require one or multiple approvals. And none of them are fun.
They can be generic, like a time-off request or expenses reimbursement, or specific to your role, department or field, like a continuing education credit request in healthcare or a grade change in higher education. Typically, such workflows are paper-based and involve filling in a form, signing it and physically sending it to another person. They then need to review it, and if everything is in order, sign and send it onto the next person in the chain.
Or if more information’s needed, maybe you get the form back in a manila envelope and have to clip supporting documentation to the document and return it. This back-and-forth exercise is time-consuming for requestors and approvers alike, and you run the risk of the form getting lost or buried under a pile of paper on someone’s desk.
There’s also the physical limitation of paper, which means it can’t be sent to more than one person at once and is almost impossible to track—well, unless you enjoy placing calls and sending emails to find out who has your form, what they’re doing with it and when you might have the approval you need.
Organizations like Prairie Hills Elementary School District No. 144 in Illinois have found a better way.
They’ve started using a web-based forms solution (full disclosure: it’s our solution) that removes the hassle, wasted time and redundant effort that’s unavoidable with the hard copy paper chase and replaced it with a fast, effortless and fully trackable process.
With Access electronic forms and electronic signature software in place, the paper-intensive professional development request process has been transformed into a fast, streamlined and fully electronic one. Now, a staff member seeking professional development fills in an online form, which already has some of their information prefilled. Once they’ve completed the form and electronically signed it, the document is automatically routed to their supervisor, whose approval triggers the next stage in the workflow.
“Before, the professional development request process could’ve taken days or even weeks, but with Access it can be completed in just a few minutes,” said Juanita McWilliams, technology department manager at Prairie Hills ESD 144.
In addition to speeding up the workflow, transitioning to eForms and eSignatures also saves time for those who submit professional development requests.
“If somebody's wondering where they are in the process, we have a status button that they can click and see where the form is at any point,” McWilliams said. “Then, if necessary, they can call the next person in the chain and let them know the request is waiting for their signature.”
Electronic workflow automation also has made things easier on approvers. Staff is notified when they receive a new eForm for review, and they can easily apply their secure electronic signature from a web browser on any device—rather than having to handle a paper form that then needs to be sent on to someone else.
“Approvers like Access because it means they don’t have to keep up with paper forms,” McWilliams said. “They also can easily look to see which forms they’ve approved and which require their attention.”