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InfoPath Solution: Process Automation via Email for Flexible Work Arrangement Approval

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InfoPath Solution: Process Automation via Email for Flexible Work Arrangement Approval

Challenge

A large, local non-profit human resources team used a cumbersome approval process for employee flexible work arrangements [FWA] which included printed forms, hand-written notes passed back and forth, untracked email, and manual routing. The risk of missed input and duplicative effort was high. This resulted in confusion and inefficiently spent resources for the business. The team wanted to simplify and enhance the process with available technology so no employee requests were lost in unnecessary complexity and the company would remain legally protected.

Our client sought Plaster Group to develop a more efficient approval process that would save time and effort and to create the technical solution to support the new process.

Approach

Plaster Group consultants worked with the human resources team to map the organization’s current FWA approval review process and personnel. Plaster Group consultants determined where process efficiencies were possible and converted that into an InfoPath workflow that would help automate the process.

Since many of the personnel who need to review requests don’t use SharePoint consistently, Plaster Group consultants suggested an email-oriented solution. The body of the email would be the FWA form and submitted forms could be forwarded directly to the next reviewer. Rather than utilize workflow approval notes or email conversation notes, the form would capture all feedback so no data would be lost.

Solution

Plaster Group used out of box InfoPath functionality to create a solution in which all process steps except for final signatures occur electronically. Key features include:

• A Centralized Approval System - a SharePoint library is used to track form submissions and a central InfoPath interface routs forms via email until the final signature ensuring no data is lost
• Reduced Clutter and Confusion - conditional form fields show elements only when they pertain to the specific situation reducing confusion
• Improved Security - permissions restrict completed electronic forms to related parties and HR enhancing security

Results

Using the available technology, the customer’s existing process is now more efficient and easier to manage. Our client is able to maintain FWA legal compliance while providing employees and managers with a service that is both more timely and thorough. In addition:

• HR personnel may more easily search and access forms stored electronically
• The solution reduces printing volume and paper form storage requirements, and allows HR personnel to use time more effectively reducing costs across the department
• Additional capabilities for SharePoint 2010 may further enhance the process with electronic signatures and permissions restrictions allowing management reporting