By Chris Byers, CEO, Formstack

Automating laborious workflows and business processes can vastly improve the way your business functions. Digitizing repetitive tasks reduces paperwork, eliminates unnecessary human involvement, and cuts down on process bottlenecks—leading to increased efficiency and improved results.

It’s not quite that simple, though: you have to choose the right workflow automation software. Effective workflow management depends on the use of digital tools that truly streamline tasks through appropriate features and functionalities.

If you’re ready to create better workflows, make sure the automation software you choose offers these six features:

#1: Intuitive Builder

Workflow automation begins and ends with an easy-to-use form builder (or workflow design tool). An effective automation platform uses intuitive technology that anyone can master, such as a drag-and-drop form builder. It also includes agile features that allow for quick iterations, such as preview and edit tools.

#2: Access Controls

Increased data accuracy can be a big benefit of workflow automation. The best automation software helps keep your data accurate through access control functionality, which allows you to assign workflow steps to specific users and set who can view and edit each step.

#3: Workflow Tracking

The ability to monitor your workflow and quickly spot bottlenecks is valuable. Effective workflow automation software offers features that give your workflow visibility, such as a step timer to indicate how long each step is taking or a progress indicator to display which step is active at a given moment.

#4: Participant Alerts

To keep your workflow moving along smoothly, implement a tool that notifies or alerts users when it’s their turn to participate. Simple notification emails can be sent as soon as a workflow step is ready for a user, allowing the user to complete the step right away.

#5: Data Security

Data security breaches are becoming commonplace these days, so it’s important to ensure your workflow automation software provides key security features. To protect the data you collect, use software that has browser security, database encryption, password protections, and more.

#6: Relevant Integrations

Tools that can fully automate your workflow—beyond the workflow automation software itself—are the most effective. Find a tool that seamlessly connects to other platforms to send your data where it needs to go (such as a CRM, email marketing platform, or Google spreadsheet).

Chris Byers is the CEO of Formstack, an Indianapolis-based company offering an online form and data-collection platform. Prior to Formstack, Byers co-founded an international nonprofit that was built via remote relationships among partners in Europe, Africa, and the United States.