In my experience, adapting your business operations to fit software isn’t as effective as building your software around your business. People will see the software as a shortcut to speed up the work vs. something that keeps getting in their way of “how we used to do things”. An organization with clear processes will have an easier time adapting those processes into automated workflows, so if you don’t have a set way of doing things, I suggest starting there. Write it down and map it out until it makes sense. WordPress is so flexible that if you’re not clear on what you want people to do, the automation will only amplify your shortcomings, make your disorganization worse and ultimately make your users, employees and customers unhappy.
To an extent the previous sections have been about managing the bigger picture workflow. This section is workflows for automating the steps within the larger process that are always the same, such as onboarding new employees, terminations, vacation requests, processing an order, etc. The more you can build these into your natural business operations, the more your employees will use it. If you business has highly customized products and the overall workflow is different each time, make sure your system is flexible enough to handle all the unique situations that may arise.
Before Gravity Flow, I would create workflows using tabs in Piklist or train employees extensively so they would know what steps to take in what order and what to do in all kinds of scenarios. This was ok, but since we only sold a couple products and our process was pretty much the same every time, I wanted to create a stricter workflow so we could get consistent quality without me having to micromanage everyone and so I would spend less time training and more time optimizing. I also needed to send notifications as the work was being completed. With Gravity Flow, you can automate all of the micro processes and neglected steps that employees tend to forget or skip because they don’t seem significant to them. It’s a real game changer.
There are four major types of steps you can use out of the box, plus one for Zapier and two premium steps that I’ll explain below; however, Gravity Flow has built-in integration with 30 official Gravity Forms Add-Ons and the list continues to grow. For each of the feed-based add-ons (all except the Signature Add-On) you’ll see a step type option in the step settings.
Approval steps are the most basic and require the person the task is assigned to, to either approve or deny a submission. I use approve loosely and use this step to confirm a task has been completed by an employee.
Gravity Forms allows you to send a notification when the form is submitted. If you want to send an automatic notification at a later time, you can tie it to a workflow step.
With Gravity Forms, once you submit an entry you can’t edit it in WordPress. This is why I suggest creating custom post types and custom fields above; however, if you run a paperless operation and you don’t need to generate printable formatted documents out of your system, then you can use Gravity Forms and Gravity Flow to edit form entries, without having to create custom post types, custom fields and metaboxes and then map everything.
The user input step type allows you to “unlock” certain fields for editing at certain points in the workflow. You can also hide a field in the initial form, and allow that field to be filled at a later step. For instance, a notes field or products ordered might be editable but not an order #.
I mentioned how you can post to an external application from Gravity Forms once the form is submitted. If you want to post to a system at the end of a workflow, then you can use the outgoing webhook step type. This way you can post to your processing system at the end of your sales pipeline or post to your email marketing nurture campaign if the lead does not result in a sale.
The Zapier step type opens up all of the triggers available in Zapier to add to your workflow. This is how I send text messages to leads or send an email from my Office 365 account or schedule appointments on my calendar. This gives you a lot of flexibility. You’ll need the Zapier Add on for Gravity Forms to use this.
PDF Generator (Premium Extension Step)
If you don’t want to be able to generate documents but don’t want to map fields, the PDF generator paid extension is a great option. You’ll have less flexibility, but that may be a good thing if you have employees that don’t fill out things the way they should.
Form Connector (Premium Extension Step
The Form Connector extension allows you to hook into other forms on the same site or different sites. You can create new entries, update existing entries or complete an approval or user input step for an entry in a different form.
You can combine these steps in any order to create a workflow that delegates tasks to the right employee(s) at the right time and automates communication. You can also make certain steps conditional, so you can skip steps if they’re not necessary. Gravity Flow really excels when it comes to coordinating a lot of people on a time sensitive process, such as processing an order.
When an order comes in, it can go to all the different departments in order: billing, then order fulfillment, then shipping, and then to customer satisfaction. Each department will need to complete multiple tasks/steps. For instance shipping will need to do the following:
- print order
- gather all items
- different employee will verify that all items are packed
- enclose order form and seal box
- print shipping slip
In between, the customer can be notified automatically, your order is on the way or a manager can be notified that an important order has gone out.
Notifications are great, but tasks are better. To use Gravity Flow effectively, every employee should have a login for WordPress. Gravity Flow will create an inbox for every person so he or she can see all of their tasks in one place. If a manager has to approve vacation time, approve a proof from the design department and modify a letter before it goes out from an assistant, all of these tasks can appear in the workflow inbox and once the step is complete it will trigger the next step. No one having to CC other people and accidentally leaving someone out.
Once a design for new printed marketing campaign is approved by a manager, for instance, accounts payable can prepare a check for the printer while the design department converts the file to the right format. If the design is for web and not print, the notify accounts payable can be conditional so it will only inform design to prepare the final file, but not prepare a check for the printer since it will not be necessary.
You can also send notifications and reminders to the person the task is assigned to if they forget to check their inbox.
Reporting and Status
One of my favorite things about Gravity Flow is the built in reporting. You can see when steps are being completed and how long they’re taking on average. This helps me optimize the system because I can spot the problems. I can also see how long employees are taking to complete a task so that I can replace them or hire more staff if one person is overworked.
Managers can see what everyone is doing without having to ask. You can see the status of each form submission or see all the activity. This also helps to create an audit trail.
You can see how combining Gravity Flow with a plugin like WooCommerce will allow you to process orders and coordinate your team. As a manager, it also helps me visualize the process and see the problems that get in the way. You can see if you haven’t thought things through and you can keep people accountable. Plus people make fewer errors and don’t forget steps. They just check their inbox and do their part. New employees also get the hang of what they’re supposed to do much more quickly. It’s truly amazing how much less stressful managing a bunch of people can be once you incorporate standard workflows.